Using XP’s Microsoft Backup
Microsoft Backup is a utility that is available on Windows XP Professional. However, it can be installed on previous versions of Windows quite easily. With this utility, you can create backups of data that you choose, including entire drives, parts of drives, specific folders, and folders you’ve created. You can also back up data that would otherwise be difficult to find or create, such as the system state. You can even run the utility on a schedule! Being able to schedule the backup is a definite plus and takes the pressure off of you to remember to do it on your own.
As with the other options, this backup option does have its disadvantages:
The files created can be read only by PCs running the same version of Windows. If you decide to move to a Mac, you won’t be able to use the backups.
If your Windows Me hard drive crashes and you decide to purchase a new Windows XP PC, you won’t be able to use the backups you’ve created. You must use the backups on the same operating system.
The backups must be saved to a network place, external hard drive, or internal hard drive. They cannot be burned directly to a CD or DVD. However, you can create the backups first and then transfer them to the chosen hardware later.
If you’ve purchased an OEM version of Windows XP Home, it may not include the files necessary to install Microsoft Backup. You’ll have to install it from someone else’s XP CD.
There are a lot of articles on the Internet that detail horror stories about this utility failing to restore a PC after a hard drive crash. There are no similar stories (that we’re aware of) of CDs or DVDs failing to work after a hard drive crash. Keep this in mind when deciding on a strategy.
Most of the backups created by Microsoft Backup will be too large to fit on a CD. You’ll really need a DVD burner if you choose this option.
Vista’s Backup and Restore Center
Vista’s Backup and Restore Center works a lot like Microsoft Backup, only with a different interface. To open the Backup and Restore Center, from the Start Search dialog box, type Backup. Then, select Backup and Restore Center. It’s easy to use this application, just click Back Up Files to get started.
Purchasing Third-Party Hardware and Software
Finally, you can choose third-party options such as tape drives, optical disks, or online storage. Tapes drives and optical disks can be quite expensive and difficult to use properly. You have to know quite a bit about backups and backup types, and you really need to run a backup every day. For the home user, both are likely going a little overboard.
Another option is online storage. If you travel a lot, share data with others across the globe, or really want to protect your data from fire, flood, or theft, online storage is a great choice. With online storage, you upload your data to a storage site, where it is protected 24 hours a day by professionals who get paid to take care of it. Storage owners create daily backups to protect your data. That’s their job. You can also share your data on the site with others or access it from a laptop when you’re out of town.