Vail Tech Bytes: External drives can protect your files |

Vail Tech Bytes: External drives can protect your files

Jessie Williams
Tech Bytes
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –In last week’s Tech Bytes, we started the first of our short series on the importance of backing up your computer data by going over some points to consider when buying an external hard drive. In this week’s Tech Bytes, we’ll talk about what steps you’ll need to take once you have picked out and purchased the hard drive.

To get started with your new drive, you will want to follow the instructions that come with the drive to set it up and connect it to your computer. You may also want to consider partitioning your hard drive if you plan on using it to back up more than one computer.

The most basic way of backing up your data is to drag and drop the files and folders you wish to protect from your computer finder to the hard drive icon on your desktop or in your “My Computer” folder. This method allows you to choose which files to make copies of, and will exclude everything else, including your system preferences and applications.

This method is good if you are only interested in backing up a few files or folders, but can be very time-consuming, as it is a manual process. If you make any changes to the files, you’ll need to manually drag and drop the new files onto your hard drive to keep the backup current.

Better yet though is to use a backup program to help you automate the copying process. Depending on what operating system you use, you may already have a backup utility installed on your computer.


If you use an Apple computer that runs Leopard or Snow Leopard (OS X 10.5 or 10.6), your operating system includes a program called Time Machine that makes backing up your files simple. To use Time Machine, open up your System Preferences on your computer (found in the apple icon menu). From the system preferences, choose the Time Machine icon, and then hit the “Select Disk…” button. Choose your external hard drive from the list, and then flip the on switch. That’s all there is to it.

If you have certain files or folders that you don’t want backed up, you can exclude them in the options section. Otherwise, your computer will now backup all of your computer files and system preferences, and will run automatic backups at certain intervals.


If you have a Windows PC that is currently running XP or Vista, you can use an included program called Backup. If using Windows XP Home, you’ll need to install the Backup utility from your original Windows XP CD.

Once it’s installed, click on the start menu, and then all programs. From there, go to the accessories folder, and then system tools. Here you’ll find Backup. From there, you’ll be guided through a wizard to help you choose which files to backup, where to store the backups (your external drive), and then you’re able to also set up a schedule to perform automatic backups (located under the advanced button when you reach the end of the wizard).

In Vista, go to the start menu, then control panel. Under “system and maintenance,” you’ll have an option to “back up your computer.” Here you can choose to back up certain files and data or do a complete PC backup.

In Windows 7, you’ll also find the backup helper under the control panel, but this time under “system and security” and then “backup and restore.”

If you’re not running any of these operating systems, or want a different option on backing up your data, consider buying a hard drive that comes with backup software included. One that I have used and would recommend is the Maxtor One Touch drive. Once you set up the drive and install the software on your computer, you simply have to push the button on the front of the drive, and it will run the backup program and make current copies of all your files.

That’s all for this week, but stay tuned to next week’s article where we’ll go over some alternatives to using an external hard drive for backing up your data.

Jessie Williams is the owner of Second October Media,, a Web development and graphic design firm in Edwards. Have a tech question you’d like answered? E-mail her at

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