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How To Backup Your Computer

Here's part one of a good overview of the many backup options, as well as part two. (This recently became part of a paid web site, and is no longer free.)
One of the first decisions you'll need to make is whether you want to perform image backups or file by file backups.  If you choose image backups, Acronis True Image 2016 and ToDo Backup Free are good choices.  Another image backup software choice is Macrium Reflect, which is free.  Next you'll need to decide what hardware you'll use to store your image based backup.  You can choose CDs, DVDs, flash drives and hard drvies.  If you are interested in an external hard drive for your image backup, the Western Digital Elements Desktop or Western Digital Portable are both good choices.

Western Digital also sells a My Book which has automatic backup software on an external hard drive.
If you choose a file by file approach to backup, you have many choices including the following:
Another alternative is to backup your data to the web.  This has the advantage of providing you with protection should a fire or other disaster happen in your home.  There are several products in this category.  Mozy provides 2 GB of space for free or 50 GB for $6/month.  Idrive is virtually identical to Mozy but it gives you 5 GB of space for free or 1 TB for $45/year.  Carbonite offers unlimited storage for about $59/year.  MediaFire offers 10 GB of space for free and 1 TB for $3.79/month.  Here's an article that reviews 5 online backup services and another that reviews 10 online backup services.
Backing up to a flash drive is one of the least expensive solutions.  Flash drives come in a variety of sizes.  Microcenter in Rockville sells very inexpensive flash drives.

If you are going to use the software on Windows XP to perform your backup and you have the home edition of XP, you will need to install the backup software from your Windows XP CD.  Here are directions for performing that process.
Here's an excellent article that provides step-by-step directions for performing a backup using the software that comes with Windows 7.

After you've created a backup for the first time, you should test the backup to ensure that you can restore the data.  Here are directions for testing your backup.

Acronis backup is reviewed here.
Windows 8  and Win 8.1 both contain two types of backup.  One is a brand new approach to backing up your computer and is called File History.  Here's a brief explanation of how to implement the File History backup.  This article provides additional information about the File History backup.  The second type creates an image backup and is similar to the image backup in Windows 7.  You can also backup Win 8 to the cloud.  Here's an overview of the Windows 8 backup offering and here's the comparable version for Win 8.1.

There are 3 types of backup available in Win 10.  (The article describes Win 8 backup, but Win 10 backup types are largely unchanged from Win 8.) File History is the easiest of the 3 methods to setup.  You can also find instructions for image based backups in Windows 10.  Here are explicit instructions for setting up and using File History and Image backups in Windows 10. Here are directions for creating an image backup in Windows 10 and restoring it to your computer.
If you have a wireless network at home with two or more computers connected to it, you may wish to install a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, which can backup all the computers on your network.  There are many of these available including a Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Ultra

I no longer recommend the Seagate external hard drives because of terrible customer service that Seagate provided me. 

PC World wrote an article that rated free services that backup your computer to the Cloud as well as services that backup your computer to an external drive.
Locating the folder where your email is stored can be difficult.  Outlook Express, Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Mail, and Thunderbird all store your email in peculiar folders.  Some of these programs store your mail in one folder if you use Windows XP and a different folder if you use Windows 7.  For help finding where your email is stored, take a look at each of these 2 websites:
There is some anecdotal information that CDs and DVDs can last a comparatively short period of time and that they may not be good for archival purposes.  It is very difficult to test the lifetime of CDs and DVDs because temperature, humidity and other factors can affect the results.  For more information see: