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End of Year Tech for Writers: Image and Backup Your Computer

online presenceThis 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:

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

I post this every year and have included several great suggestions from readers.

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 cleanup items suggested in 20 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 backup 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 (instructions vary some for Windows 10):

  • 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 options 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 data files 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 LifeHacker, 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, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. 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.

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51 thoughts on “End of Year Tech for Writers: Image and Backup Your Computer

  1. My son the tech genius backs up my computer to a little red box at my house (this is the thing I’m told to grab should we have to evacuate) and to an off site computer. I’m going to ask him to help me image it – such a funny term, BTW. But totally accurate.
    Thank you for all the computer skills advice, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

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