A common problem with Windows computers is operating system crashes. Because of minor system issues, the registry files of the OS can get corrupt. This usually happens when windows is starting or stopping, and many a times the corrupt files in the kernel prevent the computer from starting normally. This causes significant loss of time and data, as formatting and re-installing Windows on a computer can not only take hours of vital time, but also involve significant problems because of loss of files or software. Hence, most serious users rely on backing up and restoring files to the computer in the event of crashes.
While windows itself comes up with a system for backup, it is not useful in extreme cases when hardware flaws are responsible for the crash. In such events, it is a good idea for users to rely on external sources of backups such as bootable disks or external flash drives. It is here that free backup software packages come into play: you can use them to save an image of your operating system in external media storage devices. Here are two ways the backup can be done and their uses:
Backing up to a disk
This is a common way of ensuring that your files, folders, and software settings remain intact. You can create a backup image and burn it onto a bootable disk. Once windows crashes, you can simply start your computer from the bootable disk in the CD/ROM drive of your computer and proceed to restore your system to the point at which you created the backup. This kind of backups has advantages and disadvantages:
- The advantage is that the CD that you back up your files to is dedicated and will always be available. Because a CD is cheap and only usable once, you will have a definite way of ensuring that your files and folders are safe.
- The disadvantage is that unless you want to use a new disk to create the image frequently, any recent files and folders you add or software you install will not be present in the image, so there is always a possibility that you will lose some information.
Backing Up to an External Drive
This is the second way of saving your settings and data. It is pretty much the same as the first point, except that instead of using a CD, you back up your system to an external hard drive, solid state drive, or USB flash drive. This drive is then made bootable and is kept to make sure that your data is backed up.
- Key advantage of this method is that because the drive is re-writeable, you can frequently back up your data adding new information to the saved image anytime you like.
- Key disadvantage server backup software to external drives is that drives are expensive, and the device you back up your files to will pretty much be dedicated to storing your image.