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Backup Tips: Keep Your Data Backups Safe, Simple, and Fast
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Someday, you will lose an important file that you haven't backed up. Many users continue to play Russian roulette with their valuable information and digital creations, but you don't have to. These simple instructions will help you develop a backup regimen that suits your needs.
Back Up a Little or a Lot

In Windows XP and 2000, you need to back up only your C:\Documents and Settings folder (or whichever folder you've set as your default). For Windows 98 or Me, Lincoln Spector's October 2003 Answer Line column lists the folders you need to back up (scroll down to the list). Forgo a grandiose backup routine in favor of a plan that you know you will perform regularly, or one that's easy to automate via the tips in that Answer Line column.

Make at least one extra copy of all your business, tax, and other financial records; important text documents and e-mail messages; and photos and video you've transferred from your digital cameras.

A complete system backup, such as a disk image, will help you recover quickly from a drive failure or other catastrophe, but it adds the expense of a second hard drive (or potentially extensive disc swapping if you use your optical drive). The best time to create a drive image is immediately after you reinstall Windows and get your applications running again. An image containing a patched copy of Windows and all your favorite programs configured the way you want them is a very useful thing to have at hand.

Nevertheless, you may get by just fine with backing up only your data files and folders. Though it takes time, you can re

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