Almost every day I read where someone can no longer boot up their computer. It may be a fixable problem, but it may not be easy and will require a computer tech to repair it and even then all of the data may be lost. A lot of techs will not save the data, but will just re-install Windows and poof, all the photos, videos and documents are gone.

Backing up important files should be included in your computer maintenance schedule. Too many people fail to realize how important making a backup is until it is too late.

In the event of a hard drive failure, unless you have a good backup, all of your stuff is gone. If you have an extensive list of email addresses you really need, those email addresses are gone. If you have important email messages you need for business purposes, those email messages are gone. All of your files created for web sites, scrapbooking or other projects are gone. Paid programs and CD keys that were downloaded will be gone. All of your photos will be gone.

Sometimes files can be recovered using a data recovery service, but that can be quite expensive. There are some software programs that can retrieve data from a crashed hard drive, but the retrieval can be incomplete and many files may be too corrupted to use.

Your backup system depends on how you use your computer. If all the data you need to keep safe is your email and your everyday documents such as your web pages, money records, etc., then you may get away with just backing up your files to flash drives and/or CDs. Flash drives are getting bigger and less expensive all the time. I use about four of them to backup things I can't afford to lose and rotate them off site.

I also use a USB external hard drive and Macrium Reflect, an excellent backup program. I backup the entire drive using Macrium Reflect and in the event of a hard drive failure I could replace the drive and use my backup to completely restore everything.

I use a free backup program called 'Replicator' from Karen's Power Tools site to back up essential data files. You can configure it to back up your data files on a daily basis.

The question is not 'if your hard drive crashes, but when'. Hard drives are more reliable now than they used to be, but crashes still occur. Why take chances when you can avoid a huge data loss with a backup. Don't forget other things can occur to cause a data loss, like a virus infection, theft or fire.

Files that should be backed up include the following:

  • Paid programs with product keys that were downloaded. (Programs not on CDs)
  • Email addresses and messages.
  • Your Favorites/bookmarks
  • Word documents, Excel files, photos, videos and graphics files.
  • Financial data such as tax records, or Money/Quicken data.
  • All those precious photos of family members.

If your computer crashes, you still may be able to save your data as long as the hard drive is still ok.  The hard drive can be removed and inserted into an enclosure attached to a working computer.