Simple Backup to Protect from Catastrophic Failure

Jim S

Honorable Member
Out of curiosity I checked the properties of my main folder under C:\Users and found that it contains about 55GB of data and 240,000 files. I back up most of my data files every day with Mozy, but I thought it might be good to have some sort of local backup in case of disaster. I'm not interested in a complete up-to-date backup or any time-consuming process that I would do frequently - more like a backup done once or twice a month.

I've noticed that small external hard drives have become very inexpensive. For example, a Seagate 3TB drive can be purchased for about $120. A disk that size would accommodate numerous copies of the files in my primary folder, although I don't know how long it would take to copy them or if such copying is even feasible.

I'd like some advice and suggestions regarding (1) should I buy one of these drives and (2) what sort of backup procedure should I use?

One additional thought: My wife's computer has a similar number of files in her main folder, and I'd want to include that in occasional backups to the same external drive as well.


Microsoft MVP
Staff member
Premium Supporter
Microsoft MVP
The whole business of what to back up or what not to backup is very subjective. There are three main groups of hard drive contents which you may wish to back up:

1. the system (including Windows, installed apps, drivers user settings etc)

This is typically done by imaging the system drive to an external drive. It will save the effort involved in having to reinstall Windows, updates, applications etc but unless you have a large system involving many apps etc you may not consider this worth the time and effort involved. It is also difficult to achieve if you have a single drive system in which all user data is embedded in user folders deep in the bowels of Windows.

2. installable applications

Typically purchased on optical drives or downloaded, secure copies should be maintained in case the originals become corrupted.

3. personal data (docs, audio, video, images etc)
As mentioned under 1 this is often embedded in the user folders on the system drive - totally contrary to industry data processing practice. User data should always be stored on a separate drive (logical or physical) making it easy to back them up en mass on a regular basis and also keeps the system drive to a minimal size and less fragmented.

The time and effort dedicated to backing up is directly related to the degree of suffering which would be experienced if the data were lost. I have three pc's all of which have images of their respective system drives stored on the other two and all of which contain exact copies of personal data which is also replicated on two external drives - I have data and work going back more than 30 years stored on them so I can't afford to lose it!

I reckon the minimum you should back up is personal data which may be irreplaceable and it is much easier to do this if it is stored on its own drive.

Joe S

Excellent Member
Another thing to keep in mind is it is a good idea to have more than one backup. I have 3 USB external drives and keep some system images on all of them. One drive is strictly images. The other 2 have manual backups and about 3 system images. I partition my HD with the system on one and data on the other. I use Acronis True Image.


Extraordinary Member
Premium Supporter
I recommend an external disk = USB, and automatic backups, weekly or so. You're able to choose what's saved.

Second, to "One additional thought", I would suggest you keep your computers apart. Just in case... sometimes separatism can be profitable. Like "don't put all eggs in one basket" Uh? :cool:

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