tech tips for writers / writing

End-of-year Tech Tips: Image and Back Up Your Computer

This week, I’m providing tips for end-of-year technology maintenance. These are activities that could (or should) be done once a month if you’re active on your computer, but AT LEAST do them yearly.

Like today.

Two critical maintenance tasks that lots of people skip are:

  • image your computer
  • back up your documents

Image your computer

Every computer must be reformatted eventually. Every time you download from a website or open an email attachment or update one of your online tools or software, you collect digital dust and grunge that affects the speed and efficiency of your computer.  Performing the clean up items suggested in 13 Ways To Speed Up Your Computer helps, but eventually not enough. The only way to return your computer to its original speedy youthful self is by reformatting.

I hate reformatting my computer. I lose all the extras I’ve added (like Jing, cookies, Printkey 2000 which is out of production). I forget which software I have (sure, I remember MS Office, but what about Google Earth and Celestia?) And then there are all the personalizations I’ve put on that get lost with the reformat. It takes me hours–days?–to return my computer to its prior user-friendly state. As a result, I resist reformatting for as long as I can. Usually, until a virus has made my computer unusable. Then, I have no choice.

A few years ago, I discovered imaging. When you image your computer, you take a picture of what your hard drive looks like, including all the programs and extras, and save in a secure back-up area (I have Carbonite do it for me on a regular basis). When you reformat, all you have to do is copy the image back to the computer. Mine is on a terabyte external drive. Even if my two internal drives explode, I’m good.

Here’s what you do:

  • Click the start button.
  • Go to Control Panel
  • Select ‘Backup and Restore’
  • On the left sidebar, you’ll see an option for ‘create a system image’. Select that.
  • Follow directions (it’ll ask which drive to use for the image–stuff like that)

Select a dedicated drive with sufficient space. Be forewarned: If you have a lot of data, it takes a while. You can work on your computer while it’s imaging; it’ll just be slower.

Back up Your Documents

Every writer I know has lost critical work because they didn’t back up on a regular basis. There’s no reason for that. Backing up is easy, fairly quick, and usually free.

Here are some option for backing up your computer:

  • you can back up from the same spot you imaged (see above) on your Windows accessories.
  • use a back-up service like Carbonite. They automatically and continuously backup to the cloud so even if you forget to do this, they don’t. Even better, you can access your work through Carbonite from anywhere with an internet connection. I love that.
  • email copies of your most important writing to yourself. For my WIP, I do it constantly. Every day. If you use Gmail, you can email up to 20 MB (or more through your Google Drive).

For details on backing up your computer, check out LifeHack, PC World, and Windows online help. They make it even easier to understand.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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19 thoughts on “End-of-year Tech Tips: Image and Back Up Your Computer

  1. Thanks to your suggestions, I started using Carbonite last year. It gives me so much peace of mind knowing I won’t lose any data. I might lose my car keys but my words will always be there.


    • I think your visceral reaction to fixing computer problems is part of what drives Chromebook sales. Because you can’t download to them, there’s so much less that can go wrong–no viruses, downloads that mess up the current programs. And when there is a problem, they reset in a snap.


  2. I hadn’t heard of Carbonite. As for documents I keep them on Dropbox. Even if the PC and external drive get melted in fire, the docs will still be available.


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