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5 Tips to Help you Get More Out of Your Technology
Tip #3: Back Up.
Okay, you knew this was coming. Right? If you’ve been around Ask Leo! for any length of time, you know that sooner or later that I was going to talk about backing up. It’s something I talk about often; it’s something I talk about ad nauseam – probably to the point of irritation in some cases.
Remember, if there’s only one copy, it’s not backed up.
So, why is backing up so darned important? Why do I talk about it so often? We often think about data loss. I hear stories all the time – all the time about people who lose precious data: photographs, documents, I mean just emails, all sorts of digital stuff that they didn’t need to lose had they only had a backup in place.
One of the criticisms, if you will, of our digital world is that it is so easy to lose things. Well maybe, but counter balance that with the fact that it is so easy to copy things. It is so easy to make a backup. And that’s why I keep harping on backups, because it is just so easy to prevent these kinds of personal, really heartbreaking disasters that I hear from time to time.
A lot of people consider backups to be protection against hardware failure, and you know, that’s true, that’s absolutely true. Hardware can fail. Hard disks die, computers die and take information with them – all sorts of things can happen.
Another thing that people often don’t consider are things like theft or hacking or malware; all of which can destroy or remove access to data that is important to you. Backing up can prevent that data from being lost. No, it won’t get around the inconvenience of a hacked account, or it won’t get around the inconvenience of having your computer stolen, for example, but it will insure that when that happens, you won’t lose critical data because it happened to walk off with a stranger.
Similarly, a backup is often the fastest, the most reliable way to restore or recover from a malware infection.
So, these are the kinds of things that I talk about a lot and that I want to remind you of.
There’s another part to backing though that I consider in the vein of the topics we’ve been discussing so far in these five tips, to be as important, perhaps even more important in some ways, and that is that having a backup protects you from yourself.
That gives you two different kinds of confidence. Remember, we all make mistakes. It happens. Anybody who has used computers for any length of time has accidentally deleted a file or accidentally done something to actively destroy the data that they care about. It happens. I’ve done it myself; I’ve done it repeatedly.
It’s one of those things that you never really end up correcting. Maybe you do it less; hopefully you do it less, but you never really end up fixing in yourself. Mistake happen. We are human.
That means we can prepare, and a backup is wonderful preparation for those mistakes. If I delete a file, if for example, after recording this video, I delete the file that contains the video, it’s gone. If, before I even begin editing, I back it up first, I can delete it all I want because I know that I can get it back.
Those kinds of mistakes are easily recovered from, if you’ve backed things up.
The other part to this, though, and the part that I think a lot of people don’t quite comprehend, is that backup can be really, really “freeing”. By that I mean, a lot of people are scared of their computers.
They’re scared of trying new things. They’re scared of harming things. They’re afraid they’ll break it. Aside from the misconception that you’re not going to break the hardware – that’s just you’re not – hardware’s not going to break because of something you do to the software. You can’t type in a command and have your computer literally blow up. That’s not how things are designed, but you can type in a command and delete all your data.
You can type in a command and get Windows all confused. You can do all sorts of things that could basically, cause problems with your operating system. If you’ve got a backup, it doesn’t matter. You can restore to that backup before whatever it was you did happened. That gives you the power to experiment – the freedom to play.
And that is something that I consider fundamental to our ability to learn how to use the computer – to try things out. Yeah, maybe something will break; maybe some software configuration will get misconfigured somehow or software will start misbehaving. Like I said, that’s okay if you’ve go a backup in place, you will not have lost any data, and you’ll be able to restore whatever it was you did to the state that it was in before you did it.
I personally rely on that often, and I personally find it very, very freeing because it really does let me try things – let me play with things – let me learn about things by doing. So that’s another reason that I think that backups are so incredibly important.
So the next question people, of course, ask is, great, I’m all convinced about backups – how? How do I backup? People get really, really wrapped around this, and I will admit backup software, backup technologies, backup whatever can be intimidating and complex.
One of the reasons that I do what I do, and I’ll talk about some of those solutions in a minute, but they get so wrapped in the concepts and the fear of the concepts, the fear of the confusion, that they end up paralyzed. They’re paralyzed by this fear, and they end up backing up nothing and they end up losing everything.
Conceptually, backing up is super, super simple. Like I said, make a copy. If there’s only one copy, it’s not backed up. So, backing up means making a copy. My personal preference, my recommended strategy is almost always: use an image backup tool to create a periodic image of your entire machine so that you’ve got absolutely everything backed up.
Then, do something, I’ll call it relatively continuous for your work in progress. Tools like Dropbox or One Drive – those kinds of things. They can actually back up the work that you’re working on as you’re doing it. As I was preparing notes for this specific video, every time I hit “save” the document I was working on was being backed up to One Drive.
Instant backup. I could delete it on my machine. I could do all sorts of interesting things to that document and know that I could recover a copy either from One Drive or from any of the other machines on which I happen to also have the same One Drive account installed.
Desktop email. Use a desktop email program. You don’t have to use the desktop program, but you should consider using a desktop email program periodically to back up your email. It’s the best way to make a copy of all of your email that’s always in your control on your machine and as side effect, gets backed up when you backup your machine.
If you’ve got a smartphone and you take pictures, make sure you’ve got some software in there that does some sort of auto uploading. It’s the best way to make sure you that you’ve got copies of the photo that you just took – instant backup (almost) assuming your phone is connected to the internet at the time.
Basically, like I said, backing up is all about making a copy of your data. There are tools to automate, tools to simplify, tools to make it all make sense, but whatever works. The best backup program, and I’ve said this in one of my articles before, the best backup program is whichever backup program or strategy or technique you will actually use to back up your data.
Now, when I take a look at something like a PC, a Windows PC, I typically gravitate towards programs like Macrium Reflect or EaseUS Todo or AOMEI Backupper or tools of that ilk that create image backups and incremental backups and can do file and folder backups. I recommend that you get an external hard disk on which to place those backup images, those backed up files.
I also recommend that as I mentioned earlier, you use a tool like One Drive or Dropbox or any of a number of other tools that are similar that will do this more or less continuous backup of the data that you place in those folders. Backing up is so important. I just can’t overstress enough how important backing up is especially when it comes to losing pictures or data loss.
You may not think that you have anything important. Trust me. As soon as something happens, you will understand just how important some of the stuff you had was. It’s really, really worth your investment of time and in tools although, to be fair, many of the tools are in fact free. You don’t need to spend money on software, necessarily, to do that.
Sometime the paid versions do include features and functionality that you may care about, but those are decisions you can make once you’ve gone down the path of setting up backups.
Naturally, since it’s something that I’m so passionate about, something that I talk about a lot, I have books on backing up. If I wanted to start you somewhere with one of my books, it would be Backing Up 101. It’s an overview of different ways to back up your computer and some of your data that may not necessarily be on the computer and gives a wonderful, I think, outline of some of the options you have. Yes, absolutely, it guides you down a path that will hopefully convince you that periodic image backups that I’ve talked about already, are in fact, the thing you want to do, but even if not, along the way, it will discuss strategies that can get your most important, your most common, the data you really care about the most backed up and backed up well.
I have other books. There’s a Saved! series of books. These are the “how to” books that talk about specific backup programs. There’s one Saved! for Windows 7; there’s a Saved! for Windows 8; there’s Saved! for Macrium Reflect. The backup program that I’ve been recommending for several years now.
Its not… You know that I’ve got one in the wings. I’ve got another Saved! book that is currently in editing as I record this video. Happy to announce right now that it’s going to be Saved! Backing up with EaseUS Todo. EaseUS Todo turns out to be the one that I’ve selected to be the next product to do this in-depth “how to” book on.
It’s actually working out fairly well. As always backup programs have their pros and cons. It’s always a little bit of a tradeoff, but it’s a fundamentally sound backup program that I think a lot of people will be happy with, and someday, I’m not even going to say exactly when, just because it’s not… I’ve never been really happy with Windows’ included backup, but yes, someday, hopefully within a few months, there will be a Saved! Backing Up with Windows 10 Backup.
But as we’ve discussed in other places, Windows 10 isn’t necessarily something you want to be jumping on to right now.
So, why hasn’t, why didn’t I make backing up tip number one? Well, it’s interesting. I actually thought about this some as I was laying out these five tips. Tip number one and two are about coping with change and being willing to learn.
And in my experience, with the people that I talk to, the people that I hear from, fear of change and an unwillingness to learn are actually roadblocks to backing up. I call, not even an acceptance of change, but a willingness to at least choose what to do when change happens and embracing learning as a concept, to be “gateway attitudes”.
In other words, these are the attitudes that make your experience better, no matter what you do. If you don’t have those, then you are much less likely to care about tip number three – backing up. It just won’t be something that you’ll be willing to consider doing, because it represents change, and learn about doing, because it does require some amount of learning, so backing up by far is the most important thing you can do when it comes to having a better experience with technology, but in order to get to the doing, you need to be ready to at least decide about change and embrace some amount of learning.
If you haven’t been backing up, please start. I can’t say it enough, I can’t say it loud enough, I can’t say it often enough, please, please, please start backing up. Remember, if it’s only in one place, if there’s only one copy, if there’s only an original, it’s not backed up.
You want to back it up somehow because I guarantee you, sooner or later, something will happen that will cause that one copy to disappear in the blink of an eye and you’ll wish that you had a backup.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think. If you’re watching this anywhere but on askleo.com here’s a link. Go visit that link. You’ll find our moderated comments, and I’ll be reading through them as you post them, as always. I really, really appreciate it.
Do you back up? If you don’t, why don’t you back up? What’s the roadblock? Help me help you understand by understanding what gets in the way of backing up.
Until next week with tip number four, I’m Leo Notenboom, take care everyone!
47 comments on “Tip #3: Back Up!”
Leo: I agree with you about backing up. I am running Linux Mint 17.2, and Linux 14.04 on my laptops. Can you recommend a user friendly program for backing up these Linux operating systems ?
I’m actually not aware of one. I did go looking a while back.
I use rsnapshot to back up my Linux box. It doesn’t have a GUI, so you have to fiddle with a config script and either launch it from the command line or a cron job. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Backup_programs might assist you.
You prompted me to search this, as I am one who does not bother to backup.
opensuse has a backup facility in Yast, Backup Module; In KDE there is Kbackup,
and also found This; backintime:- http://backintime.le-web.org/
This one, also appeared; http://www.kornelix.com/ukopp.html
For Gnome; https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/DejaDup/HowItWorks
via. Ubuntu; https://www.howtoforge.com/tutorial/ubuntu-backup-deja-dup/
As I have noted elsewhere, the ‘problem’ in using a Linux based O.S., relates to
the range of options available.
I’m entirely a newbie in the ‘backing up’ thing, and you’re entirely right. I hesitate at using new things because I’m afraid to break the darned things. I have both an IT guy and a computer programmer in the family, but their solutions usually start with the word ‘just do this’. It makes me feel stupid.
So, I have Windows 8. What is the first step in backing up, and what do I start with? Thanks!
This article should help you get started. https://askleo.com/how_do_i_backup_my_computer
How does EasyUS Todo handle PCs that have a UEFI bios? I have been using Paragon’s Hard Drive Manager 14 Pro to make system images for backups. Recently, I needed to do a restore and found out that I can’t even boot up my back up software because it is no longer compatible with changes to the UEFI bios that Microsoft updates made (after one month). Trying to work around this issue is quite complicated and has not been generally successful. As a result, I have gone back to using the inherent Windows 7 back up system. No one seems to take into account problems caused by the UEFI bios when restoring from backups.
UEFI is not a function of Microsoft Updates – it’s part of your computer. What most people have problems with is getting their computer to boot from the rescue media. More here: https://askleo.com/how_do_i_boot_from_cddvdusb_in_windows_8/
EaseUS has an option to burn a UEFI recovery disk. I like them – see my comment below.
First off, I’m with you 100% on EASUS for backing up, and I consider a clone the best backup. EASUS does this easily, and it does it for Linux operating system as well as it’s a stand alone program (Andy Furlong’s inquiry). I know Leo loves the occasional reload of the OS CLEAN, to clean out the dust in the corners, but getting my machine back the way I want it after a clean install has become onerous. One thing I recommend, is to shrink your windows ‘C’ drive before cloning it, then you can expand it after. This will allow you to use an older smaller hard drive, or partition a newer drive to get multiple clones on a single drive. An added benefit is the clone goes faster. Windows 7 and later does this reasonably well.
This may seem a strange question but – since I have yet to suffer a disaster that requires a full system back-up, how do I know that my back ups, either with the Windows “Backup and Restore” in control panel (scheduled every day to an external hard drive) or the occasional Macrium back up, will work when that disaster strikes?
Do I have to risk using a backup that may not work, to test it on my only lap-top?
What happens if it doesn’t work?
Have I lost my operating system?
Is there a step by step checklist that we mere mortals can use to test the functionality of our back-up without actually overwriting the whole operating system?
I have had occasion to use a “Restore Point” but is this the same thing as backing up?
Sorry if it seems to be a lot of questions but, to be honest, I’m one of the scared ones – afraid to try what seems to be a leap in the dark.
I have used Macrium (free) to make an image back up of my system drive many times. Each time I did a verify and I checked if the file was accessible. However when I tried to restore, it did not work. So I have to find another program. Of course I copy my data regularly to another drive. Thanks a lot anyway, Leo, for all your good advice.
Not a strange question at all. Have a look here: https://askleo.com/how-do-i-test-my-backups/
“I have had occasion to use a “Restore Point” but is this the same thing as backing up?” – No, it isn’t. System Restore is more like an undo option: it rolls your system settings and system files back to an earlier point in time without affecting your personal files (documents, photos, etc.). While it may be useful in some situations, it will not help if your computer has died or experiences an issue that System Restore cannot fix. This is where a backup comes into play.
I bought a Western Digital My Book external hard drive to back up my PC and store photos. The program that came with the hard drive is very confusing and because of this the drive is sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Some kind of step by step instructions would definitely be helpful.
I rarely recommend using the software that comes with the drive. Try a program like EaseUS Todo or Macrium Reflect, the two that I recommend. Sign up at http://todo.askleo.com for a few videos that show you Todo works.
I have been using EaseUS Todo Backup for 2-1/2 years now, and I am very pleased with it. Right now I am using their Workstation version 8.8. I chose the Workstation edition because of the ability to restore to dissimilar hardware. I have tested that out and it works perfectly. Another factor to consider is support. I have emailed EaseUS many times over the 2-1/2 years and have always received a fast response. I also stumbled onto several undocumented features because I like to play around. One that I think is useful I will mention here. You can actually start two backups and when the first one completes, the second one will run without you having to do anything. I have used this feature to first make an image of my C: drive, then make a backup of one of my USB drives. I set the first backup to “Do nothing” when completed, and to “Shut down” after the second backup.
Oh, and to Phil Lense’s question, EaseUS has an option for burning a UEFI rescue disk.
I have been using EaseUS backup. I use the full back button is that the same as a image back up?
A full backup in this case is synonymous with an image backup.
I have been using Cobian Backup by Cobiansoft for at least 10 years now. Ever since my first computer hard drive crash. At lot of data loss and grief over not having a backup. A hard lesson to learn, but a big wake up call on having everything backed up to a secondary drive.
What is your view on Cobian Backup. I find it exteamly easy to use and set up.
Cobian Backup is no longer being supported or updated. I’d switch to another app. Veeam Endpoint FREE, Macrium and even the tools built into Windows would all be better options.
When I was a programmer, the first program I installed on any system was a backup program which I had to write myself in those days. And I ran it every day. It would have been foolhardy to do otherwise. Imagine what would happen if there was a head crash (damaged hard drive) after all the work I’d put into the system. This still applies to any computer. Aren’t you glad Macrium and Easeus etc. do the work for you?
I think that there is sometimes (often) confusion w.r.t. Backup.
By this, I mean that there are several options available; Typically,
There is Full Disk Backup, where you may want to swap out your HDD;
Backing up Home files etc., if you need/want, to carry out a fresh Re-install;
There is Incremental Backup, where only the Alteration, is Loaded;
And there is a Backup, where you may wish to save any Other programmes,
software or Downloads, to re-install.
I think that the ‘problem’ for MOST people, is that you may need to know Where
these Files reside, as if you miss them, they are lost, forever.
Maybe, an Article w.r.t. to where your Information resides, would be of use, so that
one may NOT leave behind, say, your Firefox or Thunderbird files, etc., etc.
On the contrary – any such article would almost immediately be wrong – either for someone right now, or for someone else in a day or two as things change.
That’s why I so strongly recommend image backups. An image backup includes everything on your hard drive.
I have many articles on the topic here on Ask Leo!.
Leo, yesterday I emailed this to EaseUS TODO Customer Service:
“I see TODO Backup Workstation includes “Transfer system to different PC.”
Does this mean that when my 8-year-old computer finally dies and gets
replaced, I can restore the image from my current computer to it?
That doesn’t seem possible. Different drivers, 64-bit not 32, etc.
Otherwise, I’ll use the free version … with much gratitude.
But I’d be glad to pay $39 if the image can somehow be put onto a new
This is their reply:
“EaseUS Todo Backup Workstation can do this job. When running the ‘System Transfer’, you will get prompted to manually add the drivers of hardware on the target machine. Hence if you purchased the Workstation edition, you need to prepare the drivers.”
Leo, what do you think? It would be well worth $39 to not spend a full day or more setting up a new computer. But is the reply from EaseUS the whole story? If not, what’s the rest of it?
Isn’t this process, a bit like Dropbox, etc., where you basically use ‘the Cloud’
(someone else’s computer) to store your files?
This doesn’t use the cloud. The backup is to an external hard drive.
“I think it’s much better to start fresh: reinstall your programs and then restore your files from a backup.”
Ray, I agree completely. But it takes SO MUCH TIME to reinstall all my applications. And then the settings, plug ins, extensions, etc, that no one can remember. And the Favorites and Bookmarks. Importing them is easy; remembering to back them up, sometimes not. Data backup takes time, but is basically just copying to the new drive, something that can be started and left to run. It’s everything else that takes forever, and rarely is everything remembered or set correctly in the new PC.
I’d be glad to pay for the ability to “transplant” my old computer into my new one. I understand the technical reasons it’s hard, but I’m looking forward to the day it’s possible.
And EaseUS Customer Support says, if I read them correctly, that it is possible (less drivers). I’m asking Leo to confirm that.
“And EaseUS Customer Support says, if I read them correctly, that it is possible (less drivers).” – You did indeed read them correctly and it does work….sometimes. What EaseUS Todo Backup Workstation and similar programs do is to enable the Windows Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL.dll) to be altered so that the new system’s mass storage boot device and NIC drivers are installed during the recovery process. Other device drivers are then either added manually or automatically installed by Windows post-recovery.
In my experience, restores to dissimilar hardware work about 75% of the time. When it doesn’t work, running a repair installation sometimes fixes things but, if that doesn’t help, it can be a real challenge to get the system up and running.
Another issue to consider is Windows licensing. If you have an OEM version of Windows or upgraded to Windows 10 for free then your Windows’ license is likely tied to your current PC’s hardware. Obviously, this would create problems if you tried to migrate your installation to a new PC. Whether there’s a workaround for this, I don’t know. Maybe Leo or somebody else can confirm.
I suspect that locating the drivers would be a bit of work and perhaps even beyond some folks, but not having run their solution I can’t say for certain. Ultimately solutions like this make me uneasy. What I know is that a clean install is always the most stable.
Yup, cleaning installing and reloading/resetting your programs and preferences is a time-consuming job, but it’s the best way to ensure a new PC is stable and performs optimally.
Ray Smith — Thanks. Believe I’ll keep making images with Reflect and then, when I replace my computer eventually, use TODO to make images for it. Appreciate your input, especially on the ability to (sometimes) put an image on a different computer. That was definitely new to me.
This is a great topic Leo. With your recommendation yesterday I downloaded and tried EasusToDo backup. It is excellent in my view. However, I want to make some recommendations that, I am sure you have thought about, but I will make them anyway. When I read the postings re your article yesterday it became very apparent that there are many naysayers out there…and many computer users who are not sure of what they are doing. My recommendation for your next video is to let people know they should make the image, and then check the image…this is possible with this backup program. Secondly, once they do this, they should do a recovery of the image in order to gain experience with how all of this works. Once the image is successfully recovered you will have accomplished your mission. I did the above described sequence today and it works perfectly. All too often, people do not trust that it will work and it is very easy to lose interest in the whole process. Thanks once again Leo for your very helpful articles and keep up the good work.
Addendum: In your remarks to the readership it would be best to advise them to do the following:
1) if it is their main computer…tread very carefully…as a matter of fact they should make sure they have backed up manually all of their data before they try to recover the image
2) secondly, it would be best if they go through this process on a second computer where all of their data and programs are not at risk
I did what Richard suggested in order to test out EaseUS. I don’t know how dissimilar two PS’s have to be before restoring to dissimilar hardware does not work, but I “restored” my Dell Optiplex 755 image to a Dell Dimension 5150 with no problems at all. My backup strategy is to take an image about once a week, after getting updates from Microsoft. I backup all of my data files daily. This way, all I have to do in am emergency is restore the image, then restore the latest data backup and I am current. I had to do this for real and it worked great!
In making an image backup, does the second one over ride the first or does it keep making new image backups? Also once the external drive if full, do you just delete the first ones? Thanks for all the help you give us, Leo
Backups don’t automatically get overwritten. Unless you schedule the backup to remove a previous backup in the scheduling options, you would have to manually remove it.
“In making an image backup, does the second one over ride the first or does it keep making new image backups?” – It keeps making new ones. Some backup programs allow you to automatically delete older images; some do not. If the program you’re using doesn’t support automatic deletion, you’ll need to do it manually.
All of these options are available depending on what backup software you use and how you configure it. :-)
I have made the image of my windows 7 system using Easus Todo Backup as you suggested in your article. Now I am wondering if it is essential to make an emergency disk using Easus Todo Backup and if so how does one use this emergency repair disk?
The emergency disc is for a restore. You can actually make one later, but it may be handy to have it, but not critical.
It’s a good idea, but you can make them as and when needed. However I’ll be covering that in upcoming video, and in the EaseUS Todo book when it’s published.
Confused!! I have your Macrium book. Now your showing us EaseU TODO. Which should I use Macrium or Ease TODO ?
Which ever is working for you. Both are good / recommended.
Not sure if the following, should be posted here, or, in the Stay Safe article; But, if you read the attached article
you may then perceive of another (security) reason, to Back-up.
I’d advisable reading the Letter Section, as well, as will be obvious.
Having recent system image backups on both my computers has been a life saver for me again just in the past week, not only to not lose files, folders, programs, etc. but to save hours it would take to start from scratch to reinstall windows , service patches, etc. just to get my computers back up and running. After getting my old vista machine running great again with a backup, I ran into trouble trying to download and install Windows updates, though. I even went back to an earlier system image hoping that would automatically fix the update problem. It didn’t. But I did learn that my backups were working. Eventually, I did get all the Win backups (long story) and everything was great again on that computer.
A day later my newest machine wouldn’t shut down after downloading the patch Tuesday Win updates. Much wasted time later looking for shut down solutions, I tried going back to a previous restore point–something that always worked on my Vista machine. Great shock when, instead of going into a normal restore, Dell Backup and Recovery took control of my machine, said it was doing a repair and if that didn’t work it was going to set my computer back to factory state!! I did try Dell BR program early on, hated it, uninstalled it from my computer and switched to AOMEI Backupper–how in the heck did dell get there now…still don’t know…but there was no other option given and no backing out.
Then the ‘lightbulb’ went off and I grabbed my trusty Passport external drive (yet again), popped it in, started a restore from my latest AOMEI system image. Watched TV for an hour and came back to a fully restored computer. Got the Win updates downloaded and installed finally, too.
So all is well…until the next time. *sigh* lol Not fun, but it could have been so very much worse!
Hi, Leo. I just watched your Tip #3 video and found it helpful. I purchased an external hard drive for backup. My question is: If I use the hard drive to backup without a program, just set it to automatically backup, will everything on my laptop be copied to the external hard drive each time I backup? And if so, how do I delete the earlier backups from the hard drive–before I run out of “space”? Thanks!
“Without a program” – no such thing. There IS a program, even if it’s Windows own backup program. Unfortunately I can’t answer your question since it depends on exactly HOW you configure your backup.