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How to protect your PC from data disasters

Implement a bulletproof backup system

We show you how-to implement a bulletproof backup system to thwart future disasters, organise your folders and desktop to keep clutter at bay, cut performance-clogging security software to a bare minimum, and even make sure that if you ever need to reformat and restore again, the process will go a lot easier.

Set up an automated backup system

No more excuses! Your data has survived this far, but you're computing on thin ice. A devastating malware attack or hard-drive failure might be just around the corner. The time has come to start making backups on a regular basis, just as you always promised yourself you would.

I recommend two approaches. First, schedule a weekly full-system backup, using an external hard drive as the destination. The aforementioned Macrium Reflect Free works quite well for this task, as it can automatically create image files at scheduled times. However, consider springing for the £20 full version, which supports both differential and incremental backups. (The latter means the program adds only the files and data that have changed since the last backup, a huge timesaver.)

Second, enlist an online backup tool such as Carbonite or Mozy to save your most crucial data (Office documents, financial records and so on) to the cloud. They're both a great set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Organise your files, folders and desktop

Just like moving into a new house, moving back into a restored PC gives you the rare opportunity to put everything in order: your files, your folders, and even your desktop. Let's start with the last - it's time to stop leaving icons strewn across the desktop like so many clothes on the bedroom floor. Instead, organise and corral them with Fences, a free utility that turns cluttered desktops into tidy ones. You'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

As for your files, it's always good to physically organise them as best you can, putting documents in one folder, photos in another, videos in a third, and so on. But even if you have this kind of stuff spread out across hundreds of folders (and/or different drives), Windows 7's Libraries feature makes finding what you need easy. In fact, it's a much better approach than the age-old folder/subfolder system. The only trick is getting Libraries set up properly, which you can learn to do in 'Simplify file organisation with Windows 7 libraries'.

Slim down your security measures

A lot of PCs suffer from security overkill. Assuming that more must be better, users install a firewall, an antivirus program, an antispyware program, a rootkit blocker, and perhaps even an entire internet-security suite on top of all that. (And you wonder why your system takes 10 minutes to boot?)

Resist the urge to overprotect your PC that way again. Instead, take a simplified approach to security, one that starts with Windows 7 itself. (Sorry, XP users - your OS is a leaky bucket.)

Believe it or not, Windows 7 has almost everything you need to stay safe online: a firewall, a spyware and pop-up blocker, an improved User Account Control system, and a host of malware and phishing protections built into Internet Explorer 8. Top everything off with the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus utility and the Web of Trust browser add-on, and you have an extremely well-protected PC. The only extra you might need is a spam filter, though most web-based email services (Gmail, Yahoo and the like) do an excellent job filtering it for you.

NEXT PAGE: Better unistallers

  1. Make the restore process smarter and easier
  2. Set up an automated backup system
  3. Better unistallers

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