As a long-time personal computer user, I learned the importance of backing up my data long, long ago.
There are just too many things that can go wrong when you’re working on your computer. Whether it is a hard drive that goes bad (or a floppy, in the old days), or a mental lapse on the part of the user, it is easy to lose the critical file on which you’re working. Or, maybe your computer has gotten infected with a virus or a rootkit, such that you decide that reinstalling Windows is the easiest thing to do.
How many times have you opened a file with the intent to make a new version of it, then edited it, and accidentally saved it again with the original name? I have, so I doubt that you’ve missed that thrill. Fortunately, I make daily backups of my data, so that I can recover from those brain failures.
I’ve heard friends and others say “I don’t back up because I don’t have anything important on my computer.” Ask a few questions, though, and it’s easy to find that they use their web browser all the time and have hundreds of Favorites. They use their email program routinely and don’t have backup copies of their address book — and many people keep most of the emails they receive.
Sometimes those emails are just kept out of habit. Other times, they are instructions, passwords, and registration codes for software they’ve purchased. Do we print these things to keep in a paper folder? Not likely — we store them in an email folder so we can find them quickly.
What about the system itself? You can always reinstall Windows on the same hard drive, or even reinstall Windows on a replacement hard drive. The only problem is that it takes a long time… First you install Windows, then you install the drivers for your hardware that Windows didn’t recognize (usually you receive a CD of drivers with your motherboard or computer). And, then, you have to reinstall all your software again.
What’s the alternative? For data, you can use Replicator (free for non-business use) to copy your files to external drives, second (or third) hard drives, or even across a home network. For the whole system, I use Acronis True Image to make image backups of the hard drive partitions. You can make the True Image backups directly to DVD, although it’s a lot easier to make the backup to an external drive or to another computer on your home network. Then, if I have a problem, I can either restore the Windows partition from its backup image, complete with all software and data, or I can restore individual files from the image.
All this brings us to a conclusion — we need to back up. For a semi-humorous look at the need for backing up, take a look at The TAO or Backup.