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Turn an External Hard Drive into a Windows7 Computer Insurance Policy

You may not be aware, but these days when you buy a new computer you don’t get a disk with the original operating system.

Most people just assume that “original CDs” come with new computers. Because its always been that way.

But not anymore. Not with Windows7.

And most people find this out about twenty minutes after their our computer crashes and they start looking for those original disks. But none are to be found. (You KNOW that sinking feeling in your stomach, don’t you?)

Now we’re all in a lurch because some MBA bean counters in computer manufacturers’ corporate offices found out they can save a lot of money by not shipping those original operating system disks with new computers.

Think about it… if the computer manufacturer sells a million computers, that’s a million CDs they’ve got to ship. If they didn’t have to ship those million disks, how much money would it save the company? That’s got to be worth at least another MBZ for the boardmembers’ girlfriends!

So what does this mean to you? It means an ounce of prevention is going to be worth a lot more than a pound of cure.

Like all insurance policies, a little prior planning (plus a little investment) makes for a lot less headache later on.


Good News

The good news for you is Windows7 makes backing up your entire hard drive trivially easy! In fact, I tell clients of my computer repair company if they buy the external harddrive (~$100), I will come out and configure their backups – gratis!

The magic of computers (and the internet… and hard drives… and bandwidth!) is that your data can be perfectly, repetitively and quickly (sometimes seemingly instantly) duplicated. Much to the chagrin of the entertainment industry, I might add!

But what that means to you is that you don’t have to keep all your eggs in only “one” basket. You can have all of your eggs in MANY baskets! In disparate places. Often for very low cost, often actually for free.


An Illustration

Allow me illustrate a point. Have you ever been to a circus? And have you ever seen the guy on the high wire? Or the trapeze artists? What they do is crazy awesome for sure but no matter how good they are, they still use a safety net. (Okay, there are some here and there that don’t use a safety net – but they’re ridiculously stupid – risking life and limb. And for what?? Their foolishness just serves to underscore my point.)

I tell my clients, I like safety nets. In fact, I like safety nets beneath my safety nets. With the often vanishingly small cost of data and bandwidth and storage space, there’s no reason NOT to take advantage of the backup options afforded to you.



Window7 Backup and Restore

So lets discuss one of those options now – let’s take a look at one of these so-called low-cost “computer insurance policies.” And let’s give you a leg up in case one of these days is Your Lucky Day and it is, as I like to say, “Your turn to dance.”

Here’s how you set up automated local backups in Windows7…


1) First, ensure you’ve plugged in your external hard drive


2) Click on the Start button in the lower left-hand corner of your screen

windows 7 backup and restore


3) Type in the word “backup” in the search box and select “backup and restore” when it appears

 windows 7 backup and restore

click to expand


4) Next, a window will open – click on “Set up backup” in the upper right-hand corner

windows 7 backup and restore


5) You will be shown locations on your system suitable for storing a backup – select your external hard drive

windows 7 backup and restore


6) On the next screen, click “next” and select “Let Windows choose”

windows 7 backup and restore


7)  You are ready to run the backup now – at the “Review your backup settings” window select “Save settings and run backup”

Expect the backup to take a good 45 mins or so. As the backup runs in the background, you may continue working and using your computer.


There you go! You have an what I call an “insurance policy” for your computer! And it wasn’t even that difficult!

Now, in case you get absolutely CLOBBERED by a virus (and believe you me, I see it more often than I like) or your internal hard drive physically *breaks* you have your data stored in at least “one” additional place.

If you are a business, that means yes, today you are having a bad day. And we have some work ahead of us, so we better roll up our sleeves and get started. But you didn’t LOSE YOUR BUSINESS. Your files “do” exist – they are recoverable in some form. It is merely a question of “how” to recover them and access them. You will have options to select from depending on your particular situation and which direction you want to go.


Setup a Schedule

But before I close out, let me make a few more comments about the backup that comes with Windows7…

Perhaps you noticed, in the last screen before the computer started the process of backing up there was an option to set a backup schedule – here…

windows 7 backup and restore


Its most definitely advisable to set up a schedule for your backups. You can go ahead and set the schedule your backups to whatever day and time suits your taste…


(Note: For laptops, this becomes problematic. For the scheduled backup to work, your external hard drive must always be available and connected. But that’s not always the situation with laptops. If the scheduled time arrives and the laptop is off or in sleep/hibernate mode, or your hard drive just isn’t plugged in… you missed the boat. And Windows won’t just run the backup the next time your laptop is on and the ext HD is plugged in. With laptop use becoming more and more prevalent, this becomes more and more of an issue. For now, I recommend learning how to do a manual backup while simultaneously recognizing and appreciating the gravity and importance of ensuring your backups are being conducted periodically on a regular basis. Whatever the word “regular” means in this context corresponds to your personal comfort level surrounding how important your data is. Are you comfortable losing a month’s worth of work? Then run backups once a month. Or perhaps weekly suits you better.)


Remember back in school there were “extra” problems at the end? My treatment of this topic wouldn’t be entirely complete without discussing this step. So, today for “extra credit” we are going to create what Microsoft calls a System Repair Disk. In case you have a computer emergency and your computer won’t boot, you will need this disk to restore your system. You will boot from this disk to enter the Windows Recovery Environment from which you’ll restore your hard drive from the backups that you are creating now (and hopefully periodically into the future). This is what I call “sortof important.” ;)

You may notice once your backup completes, you will be prompted to create a “System Repair Disk.”  Insert a writable CD into your CD-burner and select “Create disc” in the pop-up window.

windows 7 backup and restore

When the computer finishes creating the CD, it will eject the disk automatically. Take it out and, using a Sharpie, write the name “System Repair Disk” on it. Now store this disk wherever you store “computer stuff.”


Local vs Remote Backup

If you don’t mind, I’m going to discuss a “big picture” concept that I think is valuable for you to understand – this backup is what is called a “local” backup because your backup location is right there, next to the computer you are backing up.  If you think about it, your external hard-drive is vulnerable to the same disasters that could destroy the data on your internal hard drive.

Therefore, any “comprehensive” backup strategy will incorporate both local and remote (or online) backup components.

Local backups are good for imaging your entire internal hard drive – system files and all. And remote backups are best for selectively backing up important folders and files (ie: MyDocuments, Outlook PST files, pictures, music, desktop, etc).

(Note: Windows7 Professional and greater support backing up to network-based computers. Not the internet, mind you – but at least you can save your backup files further than 24-inches away – perhaps another part of the building or at least across the room.)



That’s All!

If you find this information helpful, please indicate your approval by clicking on one of the Google +1 buttons found at the top and bottom of this page – it helps my site’s ranking in Google.

And if you think others might benefit from learning how to setup their own local backup system in Windows7 using an external hard drive, click the Facebook “like” button and your friends on Facebook will see it too!

Additionally, if you just feel you would prefer assistance setting up your backup with the confidence that it is being done the right way by someone who is familiar with the process and does this all the time – to remove any doubt that your important personal files, pictures and financial information are safely and securely preserved against disaster and calamity – call All San Diego Computer Repair at the number at the top of this page or click the “call me” widget to place the call for free.

I would much more prefer to talk to you “now” BEFORE an issue arises, rather than later, when you’re in “crisis response mode” and my job in that circumstance is to “limit the damages,” as opposed to proactively building a customized plan that keeps you out of hot water in the first place.


“Have a great day!”


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