Too many times I've heard it said: “I just lost this file and that program because I did not back up”. There are many reasons that you can lose files, emails or programs. It can be due to a computer crash, overwriting a file, deleting a program when you're not sure what it does or simply being in the middle of doing something when there is a power loss.

GOT YOUR BACK: Saving data to CDs or DVDs is a simple way of backing up. PICTURE: Elvis Santana (

You should back up your data as much as possible. There are a number of ways to avoid losing data. Here are just a few:

Replace your hard disk drive before it expires. What a lot of people don’t know is that every hard drive has a use-by date - this means that from the time of installation, depending on how often you use it, your hard drive will eventually crash seemingly without cause or warning after a few years. Hard drives are relatively cheap at the moment - last year I bought a 160 gigabyte portable hard drive for around $100. It connects via my USB port, which almost every PC has. I was able to put all my relevant information - including music mp3’s, movie files, important data files and programs - onto this drive as a backup. You might not think that you need to back up much at all, but it is only when your computer fails and you have to re-install everything that you realise how much you could lose.

Use a portable media or “flash” drive. These come in the form of a USB stick that connects to computer via the USB port. They are about as small as your thumb and come in various sizes from 128 megabytes to two gigabytes. A great way transport data to and from places and they work as a backup for personal documents but be warned they are not fool proof and can fail which means all the data will be lost. Use them but do not rely on them.

Partition your hard drive. When buying a new computer you can ask whoever is building your computer to “partition” your hard drive, which means that it is divided into sections. I recommend that it be divided into at least three sections; the first section for your operating system, the second section for your files, documents and downloaded internet material; and the last for all your programs and games to run from.

Use Windows Backup Utility. Windows itself also comes with a backup utility although it is not installed by default. It can be found by browsing the Windows installation CD.

Install a second hard drive to your computer. Installing a second hard drive will mean even if your computer fails, and you have to reinstall your computer, none of your files will be lost. An easy way to do this is right click on the “My Documents” menu in your computer and click on properties. Under the “Target” box change it from “C:\My Documents” to “E:\My Documents” where E is, put your new drive letter.

Organise your file. Arrange your files like you would a filing cabinet, as in a-z folder. It is very important to know and remember where you put things; it's no good if you need a file now and find it next week. When saving files, try not to overwrite important files, instead use the “save as” feature under the file menu of most programs and number your saves, ie. Example1.doc Example2.doc Example3.doc.

Use CD or DVD writer for backup. Backing up on this kind of medium is a great way for saving space and backing up data. Once you have got it on CD you can then delete the files from your computer if you are pressed for space.

As far as emails are concerned many email programs have an import/export feature that allows a person to back up their emails and address book. That's fine but for the last few years, I have opted to use a public email account, such as those offered by Hotmail, for several reasons including that it currently gives me one gigabyte of space for backing up emails and that if I need to keep something important, I just email it to myself. Every email is scanned going in and going out by a virus scanner which dramatically decreases the chance of a virus. Not only that but if you change internet service providers, you don’t have to change email addresses and if every email address you have is kept on the internet, they remain in the event of a computer failure.


• For information on Windows backup:

• For information on email backup: