So you want to back up: Software


So you want to back up: Software


In the previous article, we talked about the three main options for backup: setting up software to automatically back up to an external device, such as a hard drive; backing up manually to CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays following a set schedule; or using a cloud service.

In this article, we’ll talk about a couple of software based solutions to back up all of your important files from a windows-based PC, and one solution if you use a Mac.


Windows Backup:


The first one, and the simplest one to set up if you are on Windows, is the built-in ‘Back-up and Restore’. It comes bundled with Windows 7, and there is no additional cost. There is also a similar utility in Windows 8 called ‘File History’.

With it, you can have Windows automatically perform the backup for you or you can select individual file libraries or folders for backup. Keep in mind that certain file types are excluded by default from the backup, so double-check the excluded extensions against what you want to backup, to avoid forgetting important files.

Another interesting feature is the ability to create system images. With a system image, you can restore your computer to the exact state it was in, including all installed programs and files. Whenever I perform a clean Windows install on my computer, I make a system image after I install my software but before I start actually using it and saving files. That way, if anything bad happens, I can restore directly from that image and save a ton of time reinstalling software.


Acronis Backup & Recovery:


If you prefer a trusted solution, one the most well-known names in the backup and imaging world is Acronis. Many corporations use their TrueImage software to create exact copies of hard drives for deployment and data backup.

However, odds are you don’t want to back up your entire hard drive every week, only certain files. Acronis Backup & Recovery gives you that capability, and more. You can back up to internet locations in addition to local disks. That can be useful if you already own storage space on a server. It also comes with a free 60-day trial for its own online backup service, available afterwards for a monthly fee.

One interesting option is the incremental backup: it only backs up files that were changed since the last backup. That way, you save time and space by not backing up every single file again.


Whichever backup software you choose on Windows, don’t save it on the same hard drive as your operating system. Many people ask consultants to create a ‘backup partition’ when installing Windows. If the hard drive fails, your backup is going with it. Always keep it on a separate storage device.


For Mac users:


If you’re using an Apple iMac or a MacBook, I can recommend one solution for backup that is the absolute most popular with our clients: the built-in Time Machine utility.

It’s by far the easiest backup solution to use; simply plug in an external hard drive, and the following image will pop up:


Select “Use as Backup Disk”, and it will automatically perform daily backups of your files. Another nice feature is that you can browse your older backups according to dates; if you need to search for a file that you know you last saw on August 12, 2012, you can go back and check. It’s pretty cool!

No fuss, no complication. If you use a Mac, you should use Time Machine.


Join us for the next article in this series, where we talk about cloud-based backups.