tech tips for writers / writers tips / writing

End-of-year Maintenance: Image and Backup Your Computer

computer backupThis week, I’ll post three holiday activities that will get your digital devices ready for the blitz of writing you’ll swear to accomplish in New Year resolutions. Here’s what you’ll get (the links won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. Update Your Online Presence
  2. Speed Up Your Computer
  3. Backup and Image your computer

Today: Image and Backup Your Computer

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 22 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. 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 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.

backup via emailBackup Your Data Files

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:

  • backup from the same spot you imaged (see above) on your Windows accessories.
  • use a 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, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for Summer, 2017.

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36 thoughts on “End-of-year Maintenance: Image and Backup Your Computer

  1. Hey Jacqui – depending on which version of Windows you run you can set your computer to create / update image back ups automatically. I do this to an external hard drive (I also have used Norton Ghost forever which does the same thing to two separate hard drives – one a daily back up and one a weekly back up). I don’t back up to an Internet service such as Carbonite because a full back up and restore takes a long time because, as you know, the data has to travel over the Internet. Also, no matter what anyone says online back up services aren’t as secure as my hard drives which cannot be accessed from a remote computer.

    Finally I just wanted to say – and you might have covered this – people need a Windows system restore disk to do a full system restore from a Windows back up image. These can be created, as you know, on a CD/DVD and sometimes a USB memory stick which is a bit trickier. New computers haven’t come with these disks in awhile.

    I’ve built and fixed computers for a long time so I’m compulsive about back ups. I’ve found recently that the Windows image back up is just as good/easy to use as
    Norton Ghost – and it’s free. [I’m pretty sure Norton no longer makes Ghost for Windows.]

    Have a great holiday and sorry for being such a nerd!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tips!!! We did images all the time when I worked in I.T. I have a Mac now for that very reason. I got tired of the way PCs slow down or crash suddenly…SO frustrating! I do back up to a flash drive occasionally, though. I had the Microsoft automatic backups (that come with Office 365) set up, but they never worked right, so I gave up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the way you make it seem simple and almost fun – usually I give up on reading tech advice because it instantly stresses me out. Also I can’t find where the appropriate place is to comment on ‘To Hunt a Sub’ (I downloaded the Kindle edition) so I’ll just place a comment here. I am 46% through the book and resent having to put it down to sleep, eat, or converse. So believable. I am enjoying To Hunt a Sub on many levels. Great story Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Believe it or not, I don’t backup my computer. Almost everything I have that’s either a document or image is on a cloud. I use three of them: OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive. The software can be replaced without doing any damage to what I’ve used it for so I see no point in backing that stuff up.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Would you put a skosh more info on email backup for me? Because, here’s what I see happening in my email in-box…about 10 emails coming in for the same chapter, piled on top of more emails for earlier chapters. Do you go back through and delete the oldest emails and only keep the latest editions? Are you moving them all out into files on your email’s server? I’d have such a mess in my inbox most of the time.
        Would you mind sharing your organizing system? Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

      • I created a file in my email program (I use Outlook) called Backups. When the daily backup for my writing arrives in my box, I simply move it to the Backup folder. I don’t look at it and I don’t even delete the old backups. Outlook saves to my computer harddrive (not the Cloud) so I don’t have a problem with space.

        If I was saving to Gmail, I’d do the same thing, but probably delete old backups every month so it didn’t take too much space.

        Here’s an image that might make it clearer:

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My favourite one of your back-up tips is the email. I’ve been doing that since you talked about the benefits, and it’s saved my life more than once! I exaggerate, of course, but seriously – I lost a really important file that just so happened to be in my email. Happy time! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jacqui, this has given me such a great hint at to the problem with my son’s computer. So slow it will barely run…it is has never been reformatted or any sort of ‘cleaning’ since he got it. We will try this and see how it works…better take that image as I can hear the moans already when things start disappearing!

    Liked by 1 person

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