blogs / tech tips for writers

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

2016This 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

Computers 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 19 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer helps, but eventually not enough. The only way to return your computer to its original zippy youthful self is by reformatting.Laptop With Copyspace Showing Browsing And Surfing Web Online

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 added 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.

Then 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. 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 upBack up Your Documents

Every teacher I know has lost critical clsswork 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 options:

  • 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 work 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 has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.


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

  1. I have a really bad habit of backing up to several different sources and I get myself confused! I think, while I’m having a good old clean out during the holidays, I’m going to pick one and stick to it! Thanks for the tips, Jacqui 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The more I read of your great computer tips, the more I learn how badly I neglect my computer. I never clean it up. Hadn’t even heard of ‘imaging.’

    I use Dropbox as a back-up for my most important documents, but I’d love a way to back-up all my folders at once without having to drag them over. Does Carbonite let you do that?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love the image idea – how brilliant is that?!! And I love the new year reveal – 2016 is creeping ever nearer. And those puppies – aw, puppies all pooped out – what could be cuter? (Don’t tell Casey I said that.) Thanks, Jacqui, this is really useful info. I’m going to share it with my techie son.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this timely reminder Jacqui. I think most of us are so busy that this housekeeping of the computer often gets put off until it’s too late – so this gentle nudge is very welcome. I was confused about imaging but then gathered with thought and confirmation from Chris in his comment that the Time Machine carries out this function on Macs. Great idea to kick us all in to back up and I’m now sending email of work completed every day – just in case Time Machine doesn’t work! I’m paranoid, which is probably a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Backing up data files is so important. The programs–those you can reinstall, but all your writing docs are gone if you don’t back-up. The pain is intense, as I’ve heard from a number of efriends.


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