Keep your data safe Backup software

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all backup solution. You don’t necessarily need to back up everything on your computer. You really only need to make copies of everything that’s important to you.

Good backup software will copy your files in a systematic, hassle-free way, making sure you have a copy of the latest version of your files. It will regularly back up everything to your external hard drive and even save a carbon copy of your hard disk.

It’s a good idea to back up once a week or more, depending on how vital your data is. A lot of programs will do it automatically for you at a preset time. Check whether the one you choose has this option.

Where to back up

You’ll need somewhere to store your files. If you only have a few crucial files, these could fit on a rewritable DVD. To make a complete copy of your hard drive, consider an external large-capacity drive. It’s wise to keep backups separate from the PC itself. You can even have an online backup service for a monthly or annual fee.

Full or file backup?

Software can be set to perform either a full backup or a file backup. A full backup will copy the entire contents of your hard disk – including programs such as Microsoft Office. This can take a while, even with the fastest software and hardware. You don’t need to do this too often. Files and folders should be backed up much more regularly, but should only take minutes.

Supported media

Not all backup software will support every storage medium. Suprisingly, some don't even support CDs or DVDs. Commonly supported types are floppy disk, network (or internet) drive, hard disk, USB memory stick, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R/W, DVD+R/W.

Although most software will back up the majority of your files, some may choke on multi-megabyte or even gigabyte files. Before you buy, ensure that the software supports any large files you intend to back up.


Backup software can double check that it’s saving the data accurately as it goes along. It's no good finding out after the event that the data files were corrupted.


Encryption may be important to you if you are backing up sensitive data. By backing up unencrypted data onto a handy CD, you are making it much easier for a thief to steal your secrets.

Find out which backup software came out on top in our reviews section.