Time was, you could back up everything on your computer with floppy disks. Today, when one sound or graphics file could well be larger than a disk, it would be difficult to back up even your documents on floppies, let alone your applications. Luckily, there are better options, including Zip disks, CD writers, tape drives, and external hard disks. You can also compress your backed-up files so they take up less space.


* STEP 1: Determine the quantity and approximate file sizes you will be backing up.
* STEP 2: Figure out the quantity and file sizes of any documents or applications you want to archive permanently to a backup device or removable media.
* STEP 3: Plan for that amount to grow in the future.
* STEP 4: Figure your budget for a backup storage device and removable media to use with it.
* STEP 5: Consider if you plan to archive photographs or scanned files, need portability of media or the drive itself, wish to record music for playback on other equipment, or need ease of use. Weigh these factors along with your need to back up files.
* STEP 6: Figure the cost per MB of media for each drive you are considering. Zip drives themselves are cheap, but the disks are not.
* STEP 7: Buy a 100MB Zip drive if you need limited storage capability (less than 1 GB). An external parallel-port or USB Zip drive provides the most versatility and portability. Buy a 250MB Zip drive if your storage needs are moderate (a few GB).
* STEP 8: Buy an internal Zip drive if you will only use the drive for backup and you can install it yourself (installation fees add up).
* STEP 9: Buy a CD-RW drive if your storage needs are moderate and you will regularly back up more than 500 MB of data.
* STEP 10: Buy a Jaz drive or tape backup drive if you will be backing up large amounts of data regularly.
* STEP 11: Buy an external hard disk if you need a lot of space, won't be keeping old backups, and you don't need portability.

Tips & Warnings

* Consider the capacity you need per disk. Buy a device that will let you complete your backup on as few disks as possible.
* You can compress files so that they take up less space on your backup device. Some backup utilities have automatic compression options, or you can investigate compression software, such as WinZip (Windows) or StuffIt (Macintosh).