You collect stuff on your computer. In the latest versions of Windows, it’s all under your user profile, and in Libraries on Windows 7 and 8. Libraries are pretty nice shortcut management tools for your stuff, introduced in Windows 7. The standard set contains your documents, pictures, music, and video files. Under your user profile, a.k.a., your personal folder on Windows 7, you’ll also find important folders, like Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, and possibly others, related to applications like Google Drive or Dropbox. Saved Games and Searches and Links are also here, but are likely less important to the task at hand.

Protecting your stuff means you’ll still have your precious photos and documents if your computer should fail. And, yes, this is YABA (Yet Another Backup Article), but one that is focused on what must be done if you are going to rebuild, upgrade, or revert to your old OS after an upgrade, on your current computer. Such is the life of users in the Windows world. There is simply no guarantee that your data will remain intact after any change to your OS, so it’s a good idea to continually either synchronize it, or back it up, with cloud based services. For the purpose of this article, synchronization means you use more than one computer to access your files. Backup means you will have to execute a restore process to get your stuff back on the computer, after you’ve made changes to the OS.

For my money and time, synchronization makes the most sense. Because I use at least four computers to do my work, I need my data to be the same in several locations. This may not apply to you, but there is great comfort in knowing that if one of my computers should fail, I can simply carry on with one of the few remaining units, while I decide on how to replace the one that failed. If you have more than one computer – for some of my clients that means one desktop and one laptop – synchronization will simplify things for you, and provide one of a few forms of data backup. Dropbox and Google Drive and SkyDrive all perform this function. A detailed description of those services does not fit the scope of this article. However, consider synchronization to be the first of three ways you can protect your stuff.

You may use any one of several cloud based backup solutions. You can simply search; “cloud based backup” and read all about it. Carbonite gets a lot of attention and seems to have many affiliates, as I hear people on radio and Kim Komando constantly pitching for the company. MOZY is probably its closest competitor, in terms of similarities. Most lists of cloud based backup solutions include synchronization providers, so consider my premise of having to do a restore, versus already having a synced directory. Again, you’ll have to do your homework here. I’m testing iDrive and will likely try out Amazon’s S3 solution in the near future. This second way of protecting your stuff is best for someone who has only one computer, or who does not see the need for the benefit of synchronization.

The third way of protecting your stuff is the old tried and true external drive implementation. In my opinion, this is the least reliable and most labor intensive method, but it is still way better than nothing. It is tempting to simply end things here, since I don’t recommend this choice, but it makes sense to review image backup versus file and folder backup. Consider this parts 3a and 3b, as your external drive system may be used in at least two or more ways.

I’m publishing this post at 8 a.m., and will continue later with an expansion on that last point. For now, I’m off to help a client with backup of his system prior to reverting back to an older OS!

Enjoy. 10/26 8:03