Jack "Straight Talk" Sarlo

"The Info Marketer's Complete Website And Computer Backup Guide!"

computer backup guide

The purpose of this guide is to show you several ways to secure your important data.

This is really important and I’ve understood that the hard way.

One time I was writing a blog post, and after 3 hours I accidentally close the browser tab. Elementor, the page building tool I use “should” perform auto saves often, but I couldn’t restore my post in no way shape or form.

So now I’m much more serious about backups.

I’ll reveal all the tools and the strategy I’ve learned and use. I’ve learned a lot from Leo Notenboom of AskLeo.com. He has worked with Microsoft and has at least 18 years experience. I trust him as an expert. I highly recommend you read his backup guide before or after you read this one.

This backup strategy is probably more difficult to explain than to actually do it.

Let’s begin…

The KEY To Secure File Backups

To perform a backup of any file means to copy it. But the most important part about backups is that the copy has to be on a different storage medium. Therefore if the original file is on your hard drive the backup copy shouldn’t be on the same hard drive. If the hard drive fails you’ll lose both files.

Typically we use an external drive for backups because they offer a large amount of space, higher transfer speeds and they’re cheap. The files will be copied to that drive.

Your data can still be damaged from a malware that affects both your hard drive and the external drive since they’re attached to the same computer. And although it’s rare, fire, theft or other dangerous events can happen too.

Therefore we make a second backup of our files on a different location. A good option is Cloud Storage because your backup will be located on Google’s server. Pen drives, Blu-Ray’s or another computer are any other medium that can be detached from your computer is a good option.

File Backup Storage Mediums

Here’s a list of different storage mediums:

  • External drive - this is a hard drive that attaches to your computer or laptop via a usb cable. High storage capacity. You can find 2 TB external drives for about $60 - $70.
  • Cloud storage – You can also store files online. These services usually offer some GB of free storage, but it's typically not enough unless you use their paid service. It’s a good idea to compare them. Some of these are DropBox, Box, iCloud, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, OneDrive and MediaFire.

    Google Drive offers 200GB of total storage for about $3 per month. and a very easy to use software to do the backups.
  • USB flash drive - You can find 128GB pen drives for about $10 from AliExpress.com. They're cheap but the downside is backup speed will be very slow because the read/write speeds are low. A 40GB folder can take up to 6 hours to be transfered from PC to USB flash drive...

    Flash drives with higher speeds cost almost as much as an external drive even though they'll have much less storage capacity. That's why an external drive is the ideal medium to backup large files.
  • SD card – these are portable just like a pen drive. You can find SD cards with 128GB for about $16 on AliExpress. Their storage capacity goes up to 1TB. But just like flash drives backup speeds will be low for large files.

    Faster SD cards will be more expensive. For almost the same price you can get an external drive with same or faster speed and much more storage capacity.
  • CD-Rom, DVD’s or Blu-Ray – These offer the least storage capacity. Blu-ray discs hold the most, up to 25GB.
  • Another computer - if you have another desktop/laptop you can use that for backups too, using a file transfer cable.

Now let’s see which files need to be backed up.

What To Backup?

Here’s a list of important files to backup.

  • Computer files – Your computer contains important files created by programs you use like Camtasia, Audacity... It also contains files related to your business like website images, ebooks you’ve purchased, etc. It contains important system files too.
  • Website files – These are all the files that make up your website. They’re stored with your web hosting. If you use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress.org these files include all your posts, pages, images, videos, other uploads and so on...
  • Web Based Files – If you use web based tools like an autoresponder these may contain important data (such as your email follow up series) that you may wish to backup.
  • Apps – If you use a smartphone chances are you have apps like Google Keep or Money Manager and these too should be backed up.
  • Lastpass – This is a browser extension that saves passwords. Because it contains all your passwords we backup this one using a different method.
  • Current files – These are files you’re working on right now, for example an ebook that you're writing. We back these up differently too.

How Often Should You Backup

Once a month I backup all those files to an external hard drive. That’s the first backup.

Once a month I backup just the most important files onto another storage medium, for example cloud storage. That’s the second backup.

You can do these backups manually or automatically using software. Let’s see how to do the first backup automatically.

How To Backup Computer Files
Automatically Using EaseUS

With EaseUS (free version) you can automatically backup all your computer files to an external hard drive, on a monthly basis. I use a 1TB external drive I got for about $70.

You want to perform a full image backup. This is a copy of everything on your computer (not just business related files). This includes data stored by all your programs for example video files created by Camtasia, audio projects created by Audacity, browser bookmarks, etc. It also backups important system files so in the event your computer has any trouble (like malware, hardware failure, etc.) you can restore it back to normal.

This full image backup should also be set to do daily incremental backups. This is easy done with EaseUs. Incremental backups are basically daily backup of just any new or changed files.

leo notenboom

Leo A. Notenboom has a good guide that explains the difference between Full and Incremental backup. See also What’s an Incremental backup? There he explains a great backup strategy, which is the one I use.

Let’s look at that.

Backup Strategy Using EaseUS

At the start of the month you want to create a full image backup and set it to perform daily incremental backups.

At the end of the month you can create a new full image backup and safely delete last month’s incremental backups (there will be about 30). Keep just the full image backup from last month.

The full image backup is the biggest file. It might be 100GB or more, while incremental backups will be much smaller, maybe 4 or 5GB. Delete them all.

And repeat the same process each month.

Full image backups take up a lot of space so you can keep just the last 3 full image backups.

Here’s a mind map that might help clarify this strategy.

Now let’s see how to create this backup strategy using EaseUS software.

How To Create A Full Image Backup
With Incremental Backups
With EaseUS

Open EaseUS, and click Disk/Partition backup.

easeus disk partition

Then check the left hand check box next to your hard disk. This should select all partitions including your hard drive, which is normally Drive C.

easeus settings

Select the destination of your backup, the ideal place is an external drive.

It’s recommended yougive it a Plan name for example “January Full and Incremental Backup”.

Click on Schedule: off. Click Daily and select Incremental from the Backup Method drop down menu. This means it will first create a full image backup and then every day perform an incremental backup. You can specify a time you want it to run. Then click save.

schedule options

The software will perform a full image backup, so this may take a while. In the following days the backups will be performed much faster on the time you’ve scheduled it to run.

After a month, create a fresh new full image backup using the same settings as above. And you can safely delete all incremental backups of last month from your external drive.

You can pause or delete the backup plan of last month’s so it won’t keep making incremental backups forever.

pause easeus plan

How To Restore Files From Your EaseUS Backups

Anytime you want to restore a file just open your external drive, double click the latest backup file, browse and locate the file you want to restore, right click it and select restore.

What’s An Emergency Disk?

In the rare even that your computer hard drive fails, or it has malware you need to restore one of your recent full image backups. 

However if the hard drive is damaged or contains malware you won’t be able to boot (“turn on”) your computer. That’s why you need to create a so called “EaseUS Todo Emergency Disk”. 

It will help you boot your computer and make the necessary restoration just the same. Leo has a good tutorial to create this disk with EaseUs.

How To Backup Your Website Files

Your website files are stored with your web hosting account. They’re not on your computer so they won’t be backed up just like other files with EaseUs.

You have two options to backup your website files.

Option 1: Manually download your files from your web hosting account (using cpanel). Then they’ll be backed up normally using EaseUS with the rest of your computer files.

Option 2: Use a wordpress plugin (if you’re using WordPress.org) to do automatic backups. This backup will be sent to a cloud storage of your choice e.g. Google Drive.

Let’s see each option in detail:

Option 1: Manual Backups

Your hosting account should provide you access to Cpanel. In this web based tool you can find a backup option. In the search box type backup to find it.

cpanel backup

Note that if you have a different version of Cpanel you may see different options, but either way there should be a backup tool. Next download the Home Directory Backup and all MySQL Databases.

The home directory backup contains everything on your webhosting account. All your website files (even if you have more than one website), including all wordpress files of course. This is a large file so it make take a while to download.

Databases are special files created by WordPress or other tools that you’re using. They contain important data for the tool to function properly. I have 7 wordpress databases, one for each website I own.

Every month download those files. It’s safe to delete/overwrite the previous month’s files to save space, since last month’s files have been backed up with last month’s full image backup. Then do the normal full image backup with EaseUS so they’ll be backed up with the rest of your computer files. 

This is not rocket science, but I thought about making a mind map:

overwrite backup files

The home directory backup is a single large zip file. Ideally you want to unzip it after downloading it. The issue with a single zip file containing all your files is that in the worst case a single bad sector in the zip file could render every file within it unrecoverable.

You can use 7zip to unzip and there are 2 steps to completely unzip the home directory zip file.

First right click the zip file, select 7-Zip and Extract to…

extract zip file

It may take a while and then you’ll see a new folder with a single .tar file. The second step is to unzip this file in the same process. After unzipping you can safely delete the zip and tar files.

The unzipped folder might be 4GB and the zipped file 3GB so you’re not wasting too much space by unzipping.

Option 2: Automatic Backups

WpBeginner lists 7 Best WordPress Backup Plugins Compared (Pros and Cons) These plugins can do backups of your website files automatically as long as you’re using WordPress. I’ve tested UpdraftPlus. The free version can do a monthly backup of all WordPress files, including the database to Google Drive or other cloud storage.

If you have more than one WordPress website, install the plugin on each one. 

Set the plugin to do automatic backups of files and database once a month. You can retain the last 2 or 3 backups.

updraftpro settings

If you manually upload files via cpanel or FTP software in a folder outside of your WordPress folder, these won’t be backed up with the plugin. Because they don’t form part of WordPress. I personally use Option 1 for this reason.

However I still use Updraftplus whenever there’s a WordPress update. You should backup before updating. And with this plugin you can perform the backup of all files and database much quicker. If in the rare occasion I update a lot of pages on my website I perform a quick update with it afterwards (a full site backup from cpanel will take longer since I have 7 websites and it downloads everything).

Extra Backup Steps For WordPress

Your website content is probably the most important thing you have. You spend hours producing video, audio or other content, so it’s very important to make sure your content is backed up.

So apart from option 1 or 2 above, I also perform two simple steps.

I use the WordPress Export Tool which can be found in your WordPress dashboard. Click Tools, then Export and download an XML file containing all your posts, pages, comments, categories and more.

This only takes a few seconds.

wordpress export tool

And after I create a new blog post I save it as a template in Elementor, and then download the template (which basically means I download the actual post). If you use Thrive Architect or another plugin to build your pages, you can probably do the same thing. They all have some backup function.

The XML file and the templates you download are stored on your computer, and they will be automatically backed up with EaseUS along with your other computer files.

How To Backup Your Web Based Files

These are not website files, they’re files or other data produced by web based tools like autoresponders, graphic design tools, etc.

I suggest you take a look at all the online tools you use, and decide what’s really important for you. Then figure out if it’s possible to make some sort of backup of that data.

For example Aweber allows you to download a backup of your subscribers, broadcast and follow up messages (not campaigns). You can also subscribe to your own list to have a backup of your campaign emails. 

Google allows you to download all the data stored for all the services you use…

google data backup

If you can download the data of any particular tool or service, it will be automatically backed up with EaseUS with the rest of your computer files.

Remember backup (or download) of this data should be performed once a month.

How To Backup Important Smartpone Apps

This depends what apps you’re using. Check the app’s settings to see if there’s any backup option. They usually allow cloud storage backup, like Google Drive. If not figure out how to download the app’s data.

For example Google Keep doesn’t include backups but you can select all your notes and export them to Google Drive.

Remember these backups should also be done once a month.

How To Backup Lastpass

Lastpass is a free plugin you can use to manage all your username/passwords, as well as generate new passwords on the fly and auto fill forms.

Once again Leo Notenboom has a detailed guide on how to backup lastpass. Since your lastpass data includes all usernames and passwords, don’t keep this backup on an external drive attached to your computer, or on cloud storage. 

Ideally backup that data onto a pen drive, DVD or something portable that you can detach from your computer and keep it safe somewhere.

And of course do this backup once a month too.

How To Backup Your Current Files

This is an optional backup. Sometimes if I’m working on an important ebook, video or so forth I’ll put the file/s on a DVD, a pen drive or any other storage medium. It takes only minutes.

EaseUs daily incremental automatic backup will eventually back them up since they’re new files, but if it’s scheduled to run 5 hours from now, and for some reasons it doesn’t run I’ll still have a quick backup.

I really don’t like spending 4 hours writing an ebook and loose all my work, so I won’t mind taking this extra step.

A Second Backup

Now you have a backup copy of your files. That’s your first backup. But ideally you want to have a second backup located on a different storage medium. This should also be performed once a month after you download all your website files, web based files and app files.

Lastpass file doesn’t need to be backed up twice.

The first backup was an image backup which means a backup of everything on your computer. The second backup doesn’t have to be an image backup, but a backup of just the most important files.

If your first backup was an external drive this backup has to be physically located somewhere else. Therefore not another external drive. In case of malware (or other issues) both drives can be damaged because they’re attached to the same computer.

So for the second backup you can use cloud storage, another computer, pen drives, DVD or Blu-Rays or any other storage method not permanently attached to your computer.

I use a 128 GB pen drive for this backup. Cheap pen drives have low transfer speeds for large files, a 40GB folder can take 6 hours to be transfered.

Faster pen drives can cost almost as much as an external drive even though they have much less storage capacity. So if you want faster speeds it’s wiser to get an external drive.

For the second backup you can do a full backup every month without any Incremental backups. Although you can do that too if you want.

How To Perform This Backup?

This backup can be done manually, just drag and drop files to a pen drive, Blu-Ray discs, etc., and detach/eject from your computer once done. If you’ll use cloud storage you can do it automatically using EaseUS.

However when I personally tried it with EaseUS it took more than 6 hours to finish, and it can only be used with Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive. 

Google Drive have a free software that can also perform the backup automatically, so that’s another option.

There are a lot of cloud storage services you may want to discover their different features.

Option 1: Manual Backup

You need to manually select the files you want to backup. Then copy them (drag and drop) to a pen drive, cloud storage or whichever storage medium you prefer. This is an easy method and it’s the one I use on a 128GB pen drive.

You should backup your documents, images, videos and all other files you have. These are all located in Drive C. There’s a folder called Users. In it there’s your username folder. In that folder there’s everything. Backup your ‘documents’, ‘downloads’, ‘pictures’, ‘videos’ and any other folders you’ve created.

In the ‘documents’ folder you’ll also find folders created by certain programs that you use. For example Camtasia screen recorder creates the Camtasia folder at C:\Users\username\Documents\Camtasia

There’s another folder you should backup, it also contains data stored by programs you use. This folder is hidden for security reasons. To see it click View and check the ‘Hidden Items’.

hidden items option

Now in your username folder you’ll see the AppData folder. In it you’ll find the Local folder. Backup that folder too.

Option 2: Automatic Backup

There are two ways to do automatic backups. And depending on the cloud service you’ll use there could be more methods.

First Method

Cloud storage services typically give you a software that you download on your computer. This creates a folder on your machine. And whatever you put in it gets automatically backed up instantly.

Super simple.

The downside is that you have to “work” in that folder, meaning you have to put all the folders and files you want to backup in that folder. This folder resides on your hard drive so if you have 100GB of data on your hard drive to upload, and you copy them to this folder your hard drive will essentially have to store 200GB of data.

Furthermore certain folders like the AppData that contains all your program data cannot be moved. So you’ll have to use a pen drive or something else to store that folder.

But every cloud storage service differs slightly in how this works. DropBox have Smart Sync to combat some of those issues.

Google’s cloud service called Google Drive works differently. They give you a software called Backup and Sync. All you have to do is select the folders you want to backup and you’re done. Easy option but you cannot backup your local folder in AppData folder.

Second Method

You can do this backup automatically with EaseUS in much the same way as we did previously. Keep in mind when I tried this it took between 6-8 hours to do the full backup, but you only have to do this once a month.

This automatic backup can only be done onto cloud storage and you need at least 100GB storage space. If that’s not enough 200GB is also very cheap with Google Drive, it’s about $2.99 per month.

EaseUS currently allows backup to 3 cloud storage services, Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive.

For this second backup you don’t have to do incremental backups, but should you want to you can.

In EaseUS select File Backup.

 

ease us file backup

Now we have to manually select the folders that you want to backup.

Under Computer you’ll find drive C. Use the drop down to view folders within drive C. 

In drive C: you’ll find the Users folders. In that folder there’s your username folder (mine is karls).  In that folder there’s everything. Backup your ‘documents’, ‘downloads’, ‘pictures’, ‘videos’ and any other folders you’ve created.  You don’t have to backup folders with strange names like .cache, .android, etc.

In your username folder open the AppData folder. In it you’ll find the Local folder. Backup that folder too. It contains files stored by all programs you use. If you can’t see this folder click View and select Hidden Items.

Once you select all the files for backup click Browse next to Destination.

Select Cloud Storage and follow on screen instructions.

ease us cloud storage

Give this plan a name, for example Full & Incremental Cloud Storage.

Then click Schedule:Off. For this second backup a monthly backup is sufficient. So you can select Monthly, the time and day for it to run and next to Backup method Choose Full.

Alternatively you can make a full backup each month with daily incremental backups. To do this select Daily, the time to run and Incremental backup next to Backup method.

Save and click proceed. The software will perform a full backup of the folders you’ve selected. And each day thereafter the incremental backups if you selected that option.

The strategy is exactly the same as you did for the first backup, but the storage medium is different. 

If you chose to do incremental backups each month delete last month’s incremental backups and perform a full new backup (with incremental option). You can pause or delete the backup plan of last month’s so it won’t keep running.

Whether you use incremental backups or not you don’t have to keep more than the last 2 or 3 month’s full backup.

If you use incremental backups here’s a mind map to clarify:

cloud storage strategy

Now here are two simple tips to protect the files you’re working on right now.

How To Protect Your Current Work

Write Content Offline – I used to write blog posts directly on my website, in WordPress. But one time, for some reason the automatic save feature of Elementor page builder wasn’t saving properly. I spent about 2-3 hours writing and lost all my work. I got mad!

Now I write my posts in LibreOffice Writer. I can save fast and easy. Since it’s an offline tool it’s not going to be affected by Internet connection issues or WordPress plugins that work unexpectedly from time to time.

Then I just copy and paste the post on by blog.

Save Often – This has to become a habit. Fall in love with it. CTRL + S works in almost every program you use. Save often regardless of what you’re doing. Bad things don’t happen often, but they do happen! Being prepared is the key.

Conclusion

To summarize we perform a backup every month of all our computer files. Before we do this we download all our website and other important files so they get backed up too. An external drive is a great option for this backup.

We perform a second backup every month on a different storage medium as well. Pen drives or cloud storage are both good options for this backup.

Backups can be performed both manually or automatically using EaseUs software or others.

I hope you found this guide useful. This and any of my other guides gets updated if needed.

So which backup strategy are you going to use?

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About Jack
Jack Sarlo

More than 7 years ago Jack made his first few sales online as an affiliate marketer. His site ranked on Google for dozens of keywords, so later on, he built courses and software to teach his SEO "secrets". He also won a Flip Camera in an affiliate contest.

Now he reveals all the insights he's discovered throughout the years about Internet marketing, in his free guides and products!

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