With today's tools and technologies, keeping regular backups of your computer files is neither expensive nor time consuming. Whether you realize it or not, your computer already has the tools you need. All you have to do is decide what kind of storage method you use. Pick from several cloud-storage services, for example, many of which are free. External storage drives, flash USB drives and even microSD cards available at your camera store are all good ways to keep extra copies of your files.
Knowing Your Options
Scan the apps on your desktop to find storage options already loaded on your computer. Windows comes installed with a complete back-up system. Your computer's manufacturer probably has additional options as well, ranging from backup software to a free cloud-storage solution. If you purchased an external drive, it probably came with backup software as well. Whether you choose an external hard drive, flash memory card, a cloud service or a combination of all three, make sure you get more than what you currently need, since you will likely need to back up the photos, videos or other files you accumulate over the next year.
Keep Redundancy in Mind
Keeping a second, redundant backup in addition to your main back up is an important consideration for files that are essential to you. For example, having your data backed up to an external drive is useful if your computer's hard drive fails. However, if it's connected to your computer, it won't help you much if your computer is stolen or damaged in an accident. Using cloud storage works well, unless you need your backup files at a time when you can't access the Internet. To protect files that are absolutely vital, consider using more than one backup method. For example, use an external drive and cloud storage for important files, or keep an extra copy of your files on a storage device stored in a safety deposit box or another secure location outside of your home or office.
Turn On File History
Microsoft's File History utility comes with every Windows 8 computer, but isn't visible on the desktop. When you first connect an external storage device to your computer, you are given the option to use File History, but if you miss this prompt, you can find it by typing "file history" in the Windows Search charm. Select "Settings" and then click "File History." You can also find it by launching the Control Panel by selecting "System and Security." After it's open and your external storage device is connected to the computer, click the "Turn On" button. File History automatically backs up your files to the external storage device.
Exclude Folders from Backups
Unless you need a copy of every single file on your computer, it often makes sense to exclude certain folders from your backups. For example, if all of your music or video files are already backed up on CDs or DVDs, you may not want to waste time and space by backing them up to an external drive as well. To exclude folders from File History backups, click the "Exclude Folders" option in the left menu. You can then click the "+" button and select each folder you want excluded.
Provided your external drive is regularly connected to your computer, you can schedule backups in the File History utility. To do this, launch File History and then click the "Advanced Settings" option in the left menu. You can then specify how often changed files should be saved in File History and how much of the drive they can occupy. The third option is to specify how long you want files to be saved. You can specify how many months or years you want files to be saved, save them indefinitely, or save them until the external drive needs the space for newer files.
Back Up Other Computers
If you have more than one computer in your home, you can back them all up using the same external storage device without having to connect it to a network or move the device from computer to computer. Create a HomeGroup on your home network by opening "Settings" on your computer and then clicking "Change PC Settings." Select "Create HomeGroup" and then click "Create." After the HomeGroup is created, open File History and click the "Recommend This Drive" option in the Advanced Settings menu. File History automatically directs the user of each computer to back up their files to the drive on your computer.
Check for Problems in Event Viewer
No system is ever completely foolproof. Even if you don't seem to be experiencing problems with your backup system, it's always a good idea to check on it from time to time to make sure everything is being backed up smoothly. You can do this in File History by clicking the "Advanced Settings" option and then clicking the link at the bottom: "Open File History event logs to view recent events or errors." Click on any errors you see to find out what may have gone wrong with a backup. It's important to do this periodically. If you wait until there's an emergency to check the event logs, you may find you don't have the backups you need.
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