When using your computer, the most important thing is to know where your personal data is stored on your computer. Once you've had a computer for a few years, you will have LOTS of documents, pictures, etc. If you haven't organized them in folders, you'll have trouble finding anything, and unless you know where it all is you won't be able to back it up ... and your hard drive IS going to fail. It's only a question of when, so you better a have good backups so you don't loose too much when it does fail.
First let's talk about backing up pictures. Your most important pictures are the original versions. Your edited versions may look better, but quality of the original is always the highest ... and you can always re-create the edited version from the original if you had to.
Every time you transfer pictures from the card in your camera to your hard drive, backup the new pictures before doing anything else. (Although you might want to rotate them first, but only if you have a program like ACDSee that can rotate them without loosing any quality and can maintain the original date on the file ... you will find keeping the original date on unedited versions of a picture to be very helpful.)
If you have a second hard drive, either in your machine or on another computer which you can access over your local wireless network, make copy the new pictures over there.
If you don't have a second hard drive, use a CD. Your original pictures for a particular year should be in one place ... I keep them in a single folder (and start a new folder once the first one about fills a CD). Always keep at least one current backup of this folder. If you like CD-RWs, this is a good application for them. Personally I just use CD-Rs, you just need to learn how to add the new pictures as a new session ... done correctly your CD will contain just the single folder with both the new pictures and the ones you had previously put on the CD in prior session(s). Every time you finish adding to the CD, look at the result with your picture browser (ACDSee, Windows XP, etc.) and make sure all the pictures are there. Since you still have one copy on your hard drive, it's reasonably safe to just have one backup CD until it is filled. But if something goes wrong with this CD or you start having problems with your hard drive make additional copies ASAP.
Once I have a folder which fills a CD I make THREE backup copies. (Not counting any multi-session backup which you were making as you went along.) Originally I made 3 copies because I knew that CDs deteriorate over time. What has surprised me is how often I have found one or more of these copies bad just a couple of years later. It was probably usually just operator error ... I probably didn't follow my own advice and carefully look at each one when I made them. But more than once I have found that later I could only read one of my three copies.
I now also put the year created on each CD. Then every 3 or 4 years I'll copy one of these three backup CDs onto a hard drive and make at least one additional copy. (More if you find some have already gone bad.) Keep the old ones ... as the years go on, you're almost sure to always have at least one copy you can read.
A good place to keep things like text documents and other things that are relatively small like your financial data (Quicken or Money) is in Folders under "My Documents".
Windows likes to put your pictures, music and other things that are very large here too, but this makes it impossible to backup "My Documents" on a single CD, or even a DVD.
I like to move "My Pictures" out of "My Documents" and put it under "C:\" ... I then rename it "Albums"
... This is a work in progress ... check back later.
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