Windows Backup Software. The backup software included with Windows 7 will backup your data files as well as making an initial image backup of the computer if you need to restore from a complete system crash. Purchase one of the hard drives listed below, connect it to your computer, then start the backup software by going to the start menu and searching for backup. If this is the first time you’ve run the software, you’ll be guided through the setup. If you’ve already configured the backup previously to another drive, click on the link to change settings, and choose your new external drive as the backup drive. If your computer crashes, you can restore your programs, settings, and files with a full Windows backup.
Cloud Backup Services. An inexpensive alternative to running your own backups is to pay about $60 per year for Carbonite backup service. This will backup all of your data files over the Internet to an off-site remote service. They can be retrieved on another computer if yours crashes. This isn’t a full image backup, so restoring your computer and software will take more time if you only have a data backup.
Cloud File Services. If you’re primarily concerned about having your critical data files backed up, a service like Box.com can synchronize a folder on your computer and store it in the cloud. They can then be accessible from multiple computers, including mobile devices. The cost ranges from $60 a year (100GB) up to $180 a year (1000GB) or more depending on how much data you want stored in the cloud.
Third Party Backup Software. Many hard drive manufacturers offer backup software such as Western Digital Smartware or Seagate Backup Plus. It’s also possible to purchase backup software such as Acronis or download free software such as EaseUS Todo Backup.
Apple Computer. For anyone using an Apple computer, setting up a backup system is fairly easy. Simply purchase an external drive, plug it in, and respond “Yes” when prompted if you’d like to use the drive for backups. If needed, the drive will be formatted (erased) to be optimized for working with Apple. The included Apple Time Machine backup software automatically configures itself.
The following drives are good choices for backing up computers. Choosing a drive that doesn’t require an external power supply (power cord) is wise because this reduces the chances of a component failure. The Western Digital drives come with backup software. However, you may choose to use the Windows software instead. The prices listed are current as of the time of this article.
- Seagate 1TB (about $75)
- Seagate 4TB (about $149 normally $300)
- Western Digital 1TB (about $80)
- Western Digital 2TB (about $130)