A back-up is a copy of all the files on your computer. If you have a back-up, you’re protected if, for example, you delete a precious photograph by mistake.

It’s normal to back up your files on to a different storage device from your computer’s hard drive – its main memory store. That way, if your hard drive gets damaged you can still restore all the information on your computer and be up and running quickly.

There are basically two types of data that need to be backed up:

  • the files that you create and update frequently
  • the programs, applications, etc. that make up the ‘system’ that your computer depends on to run and which are updated only occasionally.

You can back up as often as you like – monthly, weekly or daily. But it’s common to make a large back-up of the entire system and your folders at the start and, after that, only back up those items that have changed since the last back-up.

Some computers have a second hard drive built in for back-ups. However, you’ll be more secure if you store your copies on a free-standing external hard drive with a very large storage capacity. These can be bought relatively cheaply. You can then remove this hard drive from your computer and keep it safe in case of fire or burglary.

Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to back up your computer

This article assumes that you’re using a PC with Windows 7 and have set up an external drive or similar. Windows 7 has its own back-up program built in.

Step 1: First, you have to find the Windows 7 back-up program. Press the ‘Windows’ button on the left-hand side of the taskbar and type in ‘backup’ in the search box that appears.

On the results you now see, click Backup and Restore:

Backup and restore

Alternatively, press the ‘Windows’ button and click Control Panel in the right-hand column:

Control panel

Then click Back up your computer on the ‘System and Security’ menu

System and security menu


Step 2: No matter which route you took to get there, you should now have arrived on a page headed ‘Back up or restore your files’. On this, click Set up backup:

Set up backup

This will open a series of pages.

Step 3: The first page is ‘Select where you want to save your backup’. This is where you’ll tell the computer to send copies of all your files and programs/applications.

You’re given a number of choices, depending on which back-up method you’ve set up. Here the choices are: to send copies to a DVD in the DVD drive; or, as Microsoft recommends, to send them to an external hard drive.

Select where you want to save your backup

Click on the option that suits you and then click Next.

Step 6: You’ll now see the ‘What do you want to back up?’ page. Here you can choose what Windows recommends – that is, a combination of a system copy and back-ups of all your data files – or you can opt for ‘Let me choose’ and pick only those items you want Windows to copy:

What do you want to back up window

Make your choice and then click Next.

Step 7: You’ve now reached the ‘How often do you want to back up?’ page, where you can set up a schedule for regular back-ups. This is highly recommended – it’s very easy to forget to do a back-up!

How often do you want to backup window

Make your choices and then click OK.


Stephen Baird-Parker is a qualified ICT teacher.