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How To Back Up Your Hard Drive

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 9/17/2008

At any time, you computer hard drive could fail. If you do not have your data backed up, you risk losing important documents, photos, and various other data. How do you back up your hard drive? Read on to find out how to back up your data to make sure that crisis never hits you!

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    About

    All hard drives will eventually fail. As a society, we have become dependent on the fact that hard drives must always work. We store valuable information about the lives we lead, and nearly everything about them on hard drives... and probably across a few of them if we use a computer both at home and work. The lesson of keeping backups is usually learned the hard way, only after a devastating loss of information do we realize how important it is. So, let this not be the case anymore, and back up your hard drive!

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    Things You'll Need

    • Windows XP Professional or Back-up Software (Required for Full Drive Back Ups)
    • Back Up Media: DVD's, CD's, or an External Hard Drive
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    Step One

    Before you begin any sort of actual data back-up, you should first determine what data you want to back up. Make sure that you scour the computer to get all the files you can think of: documents, photos, videos, etc. Anything that you can get easily with a download, besides your computer's hardware drivers, of course; you can leave off of your hard drive back up.

    Note: I suggest choosing files to back up because sometimes you can end up backing up spyware, adware, and viruses if you perform a back up of your entire drive at the wrong time. Choosing the files and folders to back up will also reduce the amount of space your back up takes, and the amount of files you must sort through when it comes time to use said back up should you ever need it.

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    Step Two

    Now you're going to want to scan the files and folders for viruses, and other malware. This will act as an extra insurance policy in the event that a virus becomes the cause of a restoration from these backed up files. To ensure that you are not going to re-infect your hard drive with anything malicious. Be sure that you use a thorough scan option, rather than a quick scan. You can use whatever virus and malware scanner you prefer for this task.

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    Step Three

    If you are going to use Windows XP Professional to back up your files, you need to go to: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Backup. This feature is not available in Home Edition. The wizard will walk you through your options, as far as choosing the files for back up, and the backup method are concerned. Be sure to choose the "Back Up Files and Settings" option, and "Let me choose what to back up" for the most control over the backup settings and options. After you choose these options, choose the save location and the name for your back up file. When you need to use it, you can repeat this wizard, except you should use the "Restore Files and Settings" options, and select your back up from the location.

    If you are going to be burning media back up discs, then you should select all the files and folders that you need, add them to the disc and burn it. You can use your preferred software to do this as well.

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    Tips, Warnings, and Other Information

    • Check, and double check again to make sure you back up everything you need.
    • Do not forget to run the virus scan on the files you want to back up.
    • Protect your back up disc immediately in a case or sleeve, and put away for safe keeping.
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