Ask a Geek: What’s the Safest and Cheapest Way to Back Up My Computer?
By Rick Broida
February 25, 2010
When it comes to preserving your data, there's no such thing as overkill. Your safest bet is actually to employ multiple methods. Fortunately, most of them are cheap—or free.
Start by leveraging the other computers in your house. Microsoft's free Windows Live Sync tool will sync selected folders on your system, automatically or on-demand, with any other computer(s) you own. Next, give that same data a safe haven online. Backup services like Carbonite and MozyHome provide secure, unlimited storage space for around $55 per year. Just choose the data you want to protect, and get on with your life; the software works in the background to continually keep your backup version up to date.
Finally, you should invest in an external hard drive that's at least as large as the drive inside your PC. (We've seen one-terabyte models for less than $100.) Then pair it with a backup utility like Macrium Reflect Free Edition, which will make a full-system backup that you can restore in the event of a meltdown. You can schedule the program to run at regular times you designate or, if you're constantly updating your data, you can even run it manually anytime.