You're here because you have data that you want to save. If this is data you helped create, you are an end-user. If you have data that you want to save that you did not create, then you are an archivist. Archivists should go to the tools page. Otherwise, read on for information, tips and links.
The Most Important Data You Have To Backup
- The most important data to back up and the least likely to be backed up is non-web-browsable information you created yourself and which nobody else has access to. This is your primary and most precious data: documents you've written, photos you've taken digitally, business and personal files that exist in only a single location on a single computer. Currently, this data is located on a metal platter spinning thousands of times a second, days or weeks at a time, dependent on a wide variety of factors to not be spontaneously lost. You should rectify this situation immediately.
- Once you realize this, however, you are likely going to freeze up because this is some scary crap to hear about. There's no need to do so; if the data has been fine up to this point, spending an hour or two to come up with a good backup strategy is time well spent. Play this simple mind game to visualize a priority path: what files, if you lost them, would represent the most pain to get back? For most people, it'll be financial data (spreadsheets, receipts, Quicken files) and photos. After that, it's likely going to be writings (essays, school reports, resume). And after that, it's going to likely be media (movies, music, porn).
- Unless you're doing so professionally or as a major hobby, the non-media files in this list will likely not end up being too large. If your computer is a modern machine (less than ten years old), you will have a USB port. Go out to the store (drug stores and supermarkets count) and find a USB flash drive. Try to have it be multiple gigabytes. It will cost you less than $100. Bring it back, plug it into a USB port, copy over your financials, writings, and photos onto it.
- Once these files are copied over, unplug the USB key and store it away from the room the computer is in. You are by no means done, but you've now decreased your potential for pain by an incredible degree.