Over the years, I've seen many, many, many people have "OH CRAP" moments, because they don't backup regularly.
How, and what a person backs up will vary from person to person, and based on their experience and computer knowledge. I like using the command line version of WINZIP, because it allows me more flexibility. How?
My backups are controlled by BATCH files, four in particular. The head BATCH file calls the other three, but it also creates dated folders (e.g. 2014_06_12). The three files that are called are:
1. !!_pre_steps.bat - This does things like delete all BAK, TMP, etc files; backup specific registry settings, has me export my bookmarks, etc, and the list goes on. In this way, I don't have to remember everything I need to do, on each backup. Any valid command can be used, for additional stuff to do.
2. !!_back_them_up.bat - This does the actual backups, calling WINZIP command line with the appropriate parameter files.
3. !!_post_steps.bat - This copies the backup files from one external drive to another. Any valid command can be used, for additional stuff to do.
I usually run backups once per week, and I kick it off just before I go to bed. That way, in the AM, all is done.
I wrote a program to create all the necessary, base files. If a person knows basic DOS commands, they can modify the "pre" and "post" files to do what they want. I've had people e-mail me, saying they've gone from say Windows Backup, to the program I wrote, because they like the flexibility.
As for my backups, what I do is:
1. One copy of the ZIP backups on the "F" drive.
2. One copy of the ZIP backups on the "G" drive.
3. The entire structure of the "C" drive (of the files backed up in #1), on my "G" drive, that is under a folder called "!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!". Here is a sample:
G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!! +---MyData | +---!!configuration | +---e-books | +---job documents | +---MP Navigator EX | +---My Music | +---My Pictures | +---My Virtual Machines | +---my_themes_(win7) | +---my_themes_(win8_x64) | +---my_themes_(win8_x64)_lbr | +---our community | +---purchases | +---ubuntu_stuff
I use a program called "Beyond Compare" that allows me to see folders side by side, and quickly copy differences between the "C" drive and "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!". It might take 10-15 minutes.
Then, when I reset my computer, I use "Beyond Compare" to reverse the process. First, I try "Beyond Compare" to restore my files from "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!". If I have an issue, I then try to get the files out of the "G" drive copy of the backup ZIP files. If I still have a problem, I try the "F" drive copy of the backup ZIP files. If I still have an issue, I then go back through the "grandfather" copies of the backups. I normally keep the current backup, plus 3 copies. So to say recovering a file, or group of files failed; it takes a total of 9 complete failure attempts (four copies of my backups, plus the "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!" copy).
Some may say that's this is "over kill", but some time ago, I had an external drive start to fail (bad spots). So I bought a new drive, and:
1. I was able to recover about 92.6% of the files, by copying them to the new secondary external drive. This was using a LINUX Live CD
2. About 7% of the files that I couldn't recover/copy from the "old" external drive was just miscellaneous files that wasn't important (e.g. temp files, *.bak, etc) that just got copied by accident, or was automatically left over when I edited files, etc.
3. Finally, the 0.4% that I wasn't able to recover from the external drive, I actually found in my backups, from 2012_11_20.
After the above, is when I started to make sure that I not only kept more than just the current backup, plus one. I increased it to at least current plus three (not incremental, full backups), and the "QUICK_RESTORE" copy.
Again, how a person backs up is completely dependant on the individual, but the important thing is to backup. Since I normally start backups before I go to bed, my method works for me, especially using WINZIP command line and the flexibility of batch files.