It is very hard to place a value on your hard drive. The drive itself may not be all that valuable, but it is likely that many of the files you have stored on it are irreplaceable and completely priceless.
If you can’t imagine living without your digital photograph collection or losing the years of work you have stored on your computer, you need a backup plan. CrashPlan is a free backup tool that could be just what you have been looking for.
Pay a visit to the CrashPlan web site and click the CrashPlan link in the lower half of the page. Hover over the Download Free Trial link to grab yourself a copy of the problem – you can ignore the fact that that program is described as a trial, as it is free for personal use – and select the Windows or Windows (64-bit) option depending on the version of Windows you’re using.
The free version of the program can be used to backup files to an external drive, or even to another computer. This means that you could choose to back up the contents of your laptop to your desktop and vice versa.
The download is 36MB in size, so it may take a minute or two to complete, and you can then start the installer. Click Finish when this is done and the program will automatically launch. Unless you have used the service in the past, you’ll have to sign up for a new account, so fill in the details the wizard asks for and click the Create Account button.
The ability to backup file to the cloud is not available in the free version of the program, but if you have a second computer, you can use it as a backup destination. All you need to do is to install the software on a second machine and sign into the account you have already created.
If the main program window is not displayed, right click the system tray icon and select Show Application. You should start by selecting exactly what it is you would like to back up, and you can do this by clicking the Change button beneath the name of your computer in the Files section. You can tick the boxes next to any folders you would like to include in the backup and then click Save.
As well as selecting what should be backed up, you can configure how it should be backed up. Click the Settings link to the right and on the General tab you can specify when backups should be run according to CPU usage levels and whether you are using your machine for anything else.
Move to the Backup tab and use the drop down menu to choose whether backup should be running permanently or only during specified hours – you might choose to free up resources by only running backups overnight, for instance.
CrashPlan is able to store multiple versions of files so you can undo unwanted changes, and you can set this up by clicking the Configure button next to the Frequency and versions label.
Running a Backup
Before you can create a backup, you need to choose where it is going to be saved. If you would like to store your backup locally, either on an internal or external hard drive, click the Folder link in the Destinations section. You’ll now be taken to the Destinations area of CrashPlan and you can specify a location by clicking the Select button.
Use the Explorer-style tree structure to select the drive and folder you would like to use before clicking OK. Back at the Folders tab, make sure that your newly added destination folder is selected and then click the Start Backup button to create your first backup.
If you have two or more computers at home, you can choose to back up the files from one to the hard drive of the other. Start by installing CrashPlan on both computers and sign into your account.
If you now click the Backup link to the left of the main program window, you should see the name of your other machine listed in the central Destinations sections. Assuming you have configured which files should be included in the backup, you can click the Start Backup button to get things underway.
Should something go wrong with your computer, recovering your backed up data is a very simple process. Click the Restore link to the left of the program and you can choose from a list of backed up files that you can put back into place by selecting them and hitting Restore. You can also roll back to previous versions of files by clicking the most recent link and using the calendar to select the date you are interested in.
The offline backup features available in CrashPlan can be used free of charge, but if you would like to be able to store your backups online, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version – there are various plans available and details are available at the program web site.
This is just one of many online backup tools that are available. If you think you’ve found a better one, or if you have any tips about safeguarding your data, let us know in the comments below.