How to secure your computer

Updated 8/31/2020

Backing up your computer is an important step that every computer user should take if they don’t want to lose their valuable information. This page explains how to protect your computer in the event of a breakdown, theft or fire.

Should I row back?

Yes. Everyone has information on their computer that they may not realize is important until it is lost. Examples of important information are Internet bookmarks, documents, financial information, saved email, saved music, pictures and games. Also, there may be times when your computer appears to be working normally, but it or the hard drive may crash at any time without warning.

What should I back up?

For almost all computer users, the most important piece of information to back up is anything that cannot be replaced or reinstalled. This typically includes personal document files, letters, photos, financial information, images, and saved games. Microsoft Windows users will find most of this information in their My Documents folder.

hedging strategies

Return to another medium – Saving your information on another medium, e.g. A blank CD-R, blank DVD-R, or USB flash drive is one of the easiest ways to back up your information. Copying files to another medium is the minimum way to back up your information.

Store backups online or elsewhere – If your home or office is destroyed or someone steals your computer and backups, all would be lost. Creating backups that are stored at a friend’s house or storing backups online is the best way to protect your information.

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Permanent backup – A computer with RAID or software that creates backups when data changes will help ensure that data is protected as it is updated. Continuous backup is the best solution for sensitive information that is frequently updated. For example, if you’re writing a book, a backup that’s a week old can result in lost work.

Clone your system disks – You can use disk cloning software to backup an entire physical disk or an entire partition on that disk. To do this, you need an external hard drive with a capacity at least equal to that of the hard drive you are cloning. You can also clone a partition to another partition of the same size, on the same internal hard drive or on another one. For example, if you have a 500GB hard drive with two 250GB partitions, you can clone the first partition to the second. The second partition contains a byte-by-byte copy of the original that can later be restored.

Saving information on another medium

USB stick

Copying data to another medium, e.g. Such as a CD-R, DVD-R, external hard drive, tape, or USB flash drive is one of the easiest ways to back up.

Before backing up your information, decide which medium is best for you. In the past, floppy disks, Zip drives, and tape drives were very popular. But today they have all been replaced by CD-Rs, external drives and USB sticks. The table below ranks each of these media, with 3 being the best rating and 1 being the worst. Overall, the best solution is to back up all your information to a USB drive.

Costs Vitesse ease Capability compatibility portability In total
CD-R and DVD-R discs 3 1 1 1 3 2 11
External hard drive 1 3 3 3 2 1 13
USB stick 2 2 2 2 3 3 14
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Backup to CD-R or DVD-R

Backing up to a blank CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, or other writable disc is easy, but requires CD/DVD burning software that can write data to the discs. This type of backup also requires the disc to be inserted into the computer each time you want to backup.

Backup to an external hard drive

Backing up to an external hard drive is the best solution for anyone who needs to back up large amounts of data and make frequent backups. If you work with media like video, you might also consider a NAS or a product like a Drobo for media backup or storage.

Backup to a USB flash drive

To back up to a USB drive, copy and paste the files you want to back up to the drive.

Store backups online or elsewhere

Backing up data to another medium is a great way to protect your data. If your home or office is destroyed by fire or flood, all backups could be lost if not backed up elsewhere or online. These days there are many places online where you can store your files. Below is a list of these online sites.


If you don’t feel comfortable storing information online, consider leaving a floppy disk or flash drive at a family member’s or friend’s house, in a safe, or even in your car.

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Automatic online backup services

  • BackBlaze – Automatic unlimited data backup for $60 per year.
  • Carbonite – Automatic backup of all data with unlimited backup space for $24 per month.
  • CrashPlan – Automatic backups for unlimited backup space for $10 per month.

Copy information to the cloud

Several cloud services can store your backups. See our definition of cloud for a full list of cloud services and other ideas on where to copy your files to. Additionally, many of these cloud services have free accounts that give you a few gigabytes of storage space.

How do I restore backed up information?

When it comes time to recover your information, you can copy the files again from the media you used to back up the information. If you used an online backup service to back up your data, reinstall this program and use it to restore some or all of your data.