There are a lot of things that can make your computer slow. Some of them are pretty harmless, but some have the potential to ruin your PC. I’m talking about things like hardware faults and virus attacks. And some of the incorrectly applied speed-up techniques, especially registry hacks, can also kill your PC. I bet you’re thinking that it won’t happen to you because you have good hardware, the “right” drivers, and a good anti-virus. And I bet you are careful when it comes to tweaking. It’s good that you are so confident, but I can tell you that the “Nah, it won’t happen to me” attitude is no good. Because one day it will. Are you comfortable about losing all your files, photos, music, videos and all your programs, including the ones you paid for? No? Well, then you should start backing up your computer today.
Backing up is something we know we should do, but never actually get round to. There are always more important and more exciting things we want to do. And one day disaster comes.
I was in my last year at college when it happened to me. One day my computer simply failed to boot. All my papers and PDF books, all my software, all my photos, and all my financial documents were gone. That’s what I call a disaster and it took me ages to sort everything out. You see, I never bothered to create a backup. It happened to me, and one day it will happen to you.
So, what are the best ways to back up your data? The answer is it doesn’t really matter as long as you diversify. The more backups you have, the better. Here is a backup plan for you to follow:
- Configure System Restore
- Create a disk image
- Use an external hard drive
- Create automatic online backups
Let’s have a closer look at these options and create some backups before we proceed with optimizing and tweaking your PC.
Configure System Restore
System Restore is a handy Windows feature that will help you roll back your computer to a previous state. It’s very useful in case of minor faults like incorrect software installations and driver conflicts. However, you must understand that System Restore does not actually back up your computer and doesn’t monitor your personal files. This means that you should never rely on it alone.
Now, some people claim that disabling System Restore will boost computer performance. That’s not true. System Restore only kicks in when your system is idle, which means it can’t slow you down. However, System Restore can and does waste disk space. Like a lot of things in Windows, the default System Restore configuration is not ideal for most users and takes up too much space. So, if you have better plans for your gigabytes, you should configure System Restore to eat up less space.
Windows XP users:
The XP version of System Restore is pretty basic and quite often pretty useless. For a start, it’s slow (big surprise) and it often doesn’t do what you want it to do. It’s still worth having it enabled, though, just in case. To check whether System Restore is enabled, press the Windows key + the Pause/Break key to open the System Properties window and go to the System Restore tab. There you’ll see the list of your disks and partitions, as well as System Restore status.
Now let’s tune it up a bit!
If you use a third-party restore program, you can disable the Windows one altogether. This will free up heaps of space without putting you at risk. You can disable System Restore by checking the relevant checkbox.
If you have more than one disk or a couple of partitions on your computer, then you don’t need System Restore to be monitoring all of them; it’s enough to monitor the drive or partition where the OS is installed. Usually it’s drive (C:). To disable System Restore on all other drives, highlight them one by one, click on Settings and check the relevant checkbox.
And now let’s free up even more space. Do you really want your system restore points to multiply like rabbits and use up your disk space? I guess not. That’s why it’s a good idea to restrict the amount of space System Restore can use for its purposes. To do this, simply go to the System Restore tab, click on Settings, and adjust the slider.
Set it to something like 5% and you’ll be fine.
Sometimes you might want to create a restore point manually, especially before tweaking or installing unknown applications. It might prove handy – you never know. Creating a restore point is dead easy:
Click on Start – All Programs – Accessories – System tools and then click on System Restore
Select Create a restore point and click Next
Describe your restore point, so that you can easily find it in case you need it
- Click on Create to create the restore point.
Windows 7 users:
Guys, you’re in luck. The Windows System Restore function got immensely improved since the days of XP. The Windows 7 version of System Restore is filed under System Protection and does a lot more thorough job at protecting you from data loss by using Shadow Copy features. Basically, this means that Windows can create snapshots of your drive and backs up your files even when they are in use. This makes the Windows 7 System Restore a lot more effective and improves your chances of successful recovery.
All the configuration tips that I recommend for XP apply to Windows 7 as well. To configure System Restore in Windows 7 do the following:
Go to Start and right-click on Computer. Go to Properties
Click on the System Protection link on the left-hand side
Click on Configure to manage System Restore settings and the amount of disk space it uses
Now let me show you how to manually create restore points in Windows 7:
Click on Start and right-click on Computer. Go to Properties
Now click on the System Protection link on the left-hand side
Click on the Create button to set a new restore point
Type in a description that will help you identify this restore point
- Click Create and you’re done!
Right, now you know how to use and configure System Restore. So let’s get serious about backup and discuss my favorite backup method – disk imaging.
Create a disk image
The reason why disk imaging is my favorite backup method is simple – if you have a disk image, you can be sure your data is safe. With a disk image you can restore literally everything, including your operating system and all your programs, in a quick and easy way.
Windows 7 has a built-in feature that allows you to create disk images in just a couple of clicks. Here is how it’s done:
Click on Start, go to Getting Started and click on Back up your files
Now click on the Create a system image link
Select where you want to save the image. I recommend using an external hard drive to store your backup
Select which drives you want to back up
- Confirm and let Windows Backup do the job. Aren’t you glad you have Windows 7?
Those of you who are still on XP or worse – Vista Home can create disk images with the help of third-party utilities. There are plenty of great programs to help you create disk images. Auslogics File Recovery Pro is a particularly good one because it can also recover accidentally deleted files, which is something Windows can’t do. I’m now going to show you how to create a disk image using this software:
Launch Auslogics File Recovery, go to Tools and select Create Disk Image
- Select where you want to save the disk image. I recommend saving it to an external hard drive or burning it to a DVD. This way it won’t be lost even if everything else on your computer gets wiped out
- Name the disk image and click on Save
- Let the program do the work.
Make sure you create disk images on a regular basis. This way your backup will always be up-to-date.
More backup advice in our ebook “Turbo Windows – the Ultimate PC Speed Up Guide”. Download it for FREE now!