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File Maintenance & Backup

Follow these steps to maintain and backup your files:

  1. Organize Your Files
    Keeping your information organized should be one of your first priorities. This will make things much easier when the time comes to back up. Because the "My Documents" folder is the default location for many programs to store their files, it is also the most logical location to store your files. Make sub-folders in your documents folder to keep your data organized. Windows XP has already set up some for your use. It includes sub-folders such as "My Music," "My eBooks" and "My Pictures." Add sub-folders as you need them. One of the most important sub-folders to use is a "My Downloads" folder. This is where you should store and categorize all of your Internet downloads. If you ever need to reinstall a downloaded program, you will be glad you have this folder.
    Remember, some programs do not save data to "My Documents." In this case, you should locate and note for backup the folders that these programs do use. In some cases, you may need to copy that information to your "My Documents" folder.

  2. What do I Backup?
    Just about anything your media will allow you to store. This means you can make copies of all your personal data, such as documents, image and media files, email, financial data, saved games, and anything else that may be important. Try to avoid having to back up the entire operating system unless you have the media that will support this type of backup.

  3. Types of Backup Media
    There are many types of backup media. You can use tape drives, CD-R and CD-RW drives, DVD -ROM drives, flash drives or hard drives. You can also use older types of media like Iomega's Zip or Jazz drives. These are all available in both internal and external versions. Be sure to choose the right one based on how much information you would like to save.
    Tip: Tape drives, hard drives as well as Zip and Jazz drives store data magnetically. This type of storage will degrade with time and is subject to outside magnetic influences. CD-R/RW and DVD -ROM drives store data using a laser imprint on the CD/ DVD media. This is far less likely to degrade over time and, as long as the disc's are not damaged, will last for many years.

  4. Types of Backup Methods
    There are two main types of backup methods. You can do an "incremental backup." This is where you back up specifically selected folders and data. Windows includes a fairly decent back up program or you may choose to use the program that comes with you backup hardware. You can also do a full-system or complete backup. This is where an "image" of your entire hard drive is made.

  5. Backup Email
    Move all of your important email messages to your local folders on your hard drive. These files will be saved with a .pst extension.

  6. Delete temporary files from your hard drive.
    Temporary files are usually the files left over after installing a program and can be safely deleted.

  7. How Often Should I Perform a Backup?
    In general, it is best to schedule your backup on a consistent and regular basis. Depending on how much information you add or change to your system will help you determine if this should be on a monthly, weekly or even a daily schedule. Most backup software programs allow for automatic scheduling.

  8. Defrag the files on your hard drive.
    Defrag arranges the files on your hard drive so that they can be accessed more efficiently. This has two advantages. One, your system operates more efficiently. Two, your hard drive will last longer because it will not have to work as hard to access files.