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

This week, I’ll post my updated suggestions for three holiday activities that will get your computers and technology 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

For regular readers of WordDreams, these are yearly reminders. For my new readers, these are like body armor in the tech battle. They allow you to jubilantly overcome or dramatically succumb. Your choice.

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 19 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, and 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 if you run Windows (instructions vary depending upon your platform):

  • 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 Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

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

  1. I’ve never heard of imaging the computer. Thanks for the tip. Another tip I have is to check your external hard drive to make sure it actually has the computer backed up files on it. Unfortunately we backed up to it, but all of the files weren’t getting backed up. We’d had the back-up a long time, so when the tech checked it, he heard something rattling inside. It was broken! sigh. Luckily we didn’t need it to back up at that time, Now we have a shiny new one that is purring along just fine. Do you ever use Dropbox as a back-up for the entire computer? We have 7 GB free storage on it. Thanks.
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be like copying everything on your computer to a dedicated drive but most systems have it automated.

      I don’t use a cloud drive for backup. I have Carbonite that backs everything up constantly and I can access the files in their cloud but I don’t save to Dropbox or Google Drive. I’m not terribly trusting yet!


  2. Anything that would make me go insane if I lost it is always in a cloud: Dropbox, Onedrive, and Google Drive. The thought of reformation makes me shutter. I do know someone in my community however who will do it for me at a reasonable price.

    I do think about buying a flash drive just for my writing so I don’t have to blindly depend on clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All very interesting and informative. One of the things I keep thinking about and not doing. You know when you think to yourself “I must text so-and-so…” and then don’t, but the fact that you’ve thought it somehow convinces you you’ve DONE it!? So thanks for the memory jog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yet more new information for me to absorb – I’ve not heard of imaging your computer before, but it makes a lot of sense.
    At least I’m sorted on the back up situation – I’ve paid for a cloud backup service for years, because back in the bad old days before such things were available, I’d rarely remember to back up to disc until it was too late, and I’d lost a large chunk of work. Hooray for continuous back up, and the availability of your files on an computer with an internet connection!

    Liked by 1 person

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