Backing up your PC on a regular basis is the only sure-fire way to protect both your system software and your data.
There are many backup options; here’s why separating system backup from data backup can make your computing life a bit easier.
Full-system backups verses file backups
What on your hard drive or SSD most needs to be backed up? Not Windows, nor your applications. Both can always be reinstalled, but it will take time and work. So keeping them backed up is always a good idea — but it’s not essential.
What absolutely must be backed up are your data files — the documents, spreadsheets, photos, songs, and other stuff stored in your various Windows libraries. Without a backup, you can’t simply reinstall that report you worked on all month, your children’s baby pictures, or your tax information. These files need to be backed up — and backed up again every time they change.
There are various ways to archive data files, but for this article I’ve focused on local backups to an external hard drive — the fastest and, in the long run, cheapest technique for protecting your precious information. I also talk about three free file-backup utilities.
Leave your system backups to Windows’ built-in tools (or to better system-backup programs). A file-backup program doesn’t care about the Windows Registry, the Master Boot Record, or other Windows components. But it’s the perfect tool for the daily chore of backing up your work.