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Simple ways to handle backups

It is often said that a hard drive crash is a matter of when, not if. While that may be true, many of us don't do anything about it, since a catastrophic failure seems so unlikely to occur and a backup system appears difficult to set up.

While a backup system can help you if your computer crashes, it can also be a big help for minor disasters and from one's own mistakes. I think of my backups as a big undo button. Whenever I delete a file by accident or make changes to the wrong file, I go to my backups to recover the original file.

An ideal backup system:

  • backs up files automatically, without any input from you;
  • keeps a history of each file;
  • enables you to easily recover a particular version of a file.

Windows 8 comes with the File History tool (for Windows 7 and earlier, use Windows Backup and Restore) and Mac OS comes with Time Machine. These backup systems are easy to set up, make versioned backups automatically in the background, and have a simple method of restoring files when needed. Both tools use an external USB drive to store the backups, which can be purchased for less than $80.

But what about a free alternative if your backup needs are relatively small? Dropbox, a service with 2 GB of free storage space is used primarily as a way to share files and images between multiple people. But Dropbox also keeps a history of changes for every file you add to Dropbox.

Read about Finding Files