I asked you which tech terms confused you, and you answered.  One reader is a bit mystified by backing up.  “‘Backup’ software, whether it uses the ‘cloud’ or local HD, is confusing to use, and choose. Does the software include only the Document, Picture, Video and Music folders contents? What about the application software and operating system that came with the computer, along with software added by the user? How is ‘recovery’ supposed to work if there is a hardware failure and a new HD installed? Do you have any recommendations on this subject?”

There’s more than one way to back up a device.   For example, when I set up a backup in Windows 7, I’m given the option of choosing between just backing up libraries of documents, pictures, videos, and music or also doing a system image.

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A system image is a copy of the state of a computer system at a particular time.  If you were to get a virus or make an unwanted change to your system, you could restore it to the previous state using the system image.  A system image contains your OS, programs, and files and probably a lot of stuff you don’t need or want. It also takes a long time. You aren’t going to want to run one daily.  Backing up your libraries is a good choice for everyday use.  You can often back up just your libraries on a flash drive or memory card.

But if you need to swap out a hard drive, you could create a system image, swap out the old hard drive and then restore your system image. Microsoft does not support installing that system image on a different computer.

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Or you could get a program like Acronis True Image and use it to clone your drive onto another HD. (get a compatible internal HD and use a hard drive enclosure to do the transfer)  Then you can install the new HD and boot from it instantly.  Acronis True Image will also let you back up your mobile devices.  True Image 2017 is available now by clicking here.  But 2018 will be out very soon.

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I like software with cloud backup options for several reasons. One is that in the event of a disaster like a fire or a hurricane, you might lose your computer and any external drive containing a backup.

Look for the term “system image” if you want backup software that will copy everything. In future articles, we’ll walk step-by-step through several kinds of backups.