Many of my postings are in response to support questions. A frequent question here is how and what to back up.
External drives were the "old new" way to keep backed up. More recently, Carbonite online backup service has become appealing. Carbonite backs up online at $60 a year.
Either way, is is desirable to back up.
BUT there are alternatives.
And, if you get things right at the start, you need to backup almost nothing. So, save yourself some trouble by preparing ahead.
I back up online, being too cheap to spend the money. Also, a few years I lost an external drive suddenly. That ended external drives for me. I find it unnecessary to back up everything. I keep very little
Instead, I "rent" Amazon space for all my music, with the double benefit that I can play it all direct online (when connected) and at the most keep just a little locally. Costs me $20 a year for 20 gigs. I also subscribe to Spotify, which gives me nearly all music content online and also saves space on my Amazon Fire and iPad and Touch pocket computers. I have a backup of my old CDs and LPs on CD in our safe deposit box---the LPs are all gone, but I keep the original CDs.
The side benefit is that I don't need to keep music anywhere, on Fire and iPad and Touch, and it is also avaiable elsewhere, even on my TVs with TIVO.
What about documents and applications, like word processing? Most of my documents were created online with Googlel Docs. Now and then I upload locally. When I use a local word processor, I save them to DropBox on the internet cloud where I can get at them anywhere. (Search for DropBox.)
My pictures are all on Picasa Web, also accessible anywhere, again even my TV via TIVO and other such devices like AppleTV and Roku. If I print them, I EMail them to the drugstore or Photo website. (Search for Picasaweb).
I write a lot of extensive notes and keep them on Evernote, which is searchable. (Search for Evernote.)
I use the Chrome search engine which enables me to keep bookmarks online, also accessible anywhere. There are also many Google apps also online .
When a computer goes down, I just reinstall Windows and the remaining apps. I keep a list of them and download the latest verisons. I can still go to almost any computer and do what I need to do.
In the bookmarks list I also have the ability to send anything to Evernote or GMail (by the way, there is no need to erase anything ever). I also send things to Kindle, which has a lot of internal memory space. My purchased eBooks are kept forever by Amazon. Library books are always available online from the library. I don't need to keep them.
So what do I need to reload when everything quits? Well, my Dell drivers are always available online from Dell. I don't need printer drivers because I use Google print, which allows me to print to any of my printers anywhere.
I do need to reinstall drivers which support my small devices like Fire and Touch. They are all available quickly on the cloud. Their websites are listed on my Chrome bookmarks bar
So what do I need to reinstall?. Calibre to get journals which I send to dropbox. Overdrive. My TV player. Not a lot. Google Packs takes care of installing most apps at one swipe. (Search for GooglePack).
The latest Windows 8 loads quickly from an kmage now; and recognizes newer devices automatically (although not all older devices).
If I have stuff I want to reclaim after a crash, I run Linux and usually can transfer the Windows files out, even if Windows will not start af ter a crash.
So when I have a crash, or upgrade, I have very little to do these days. You can do it this way, too. You will also find it much easier when you upgrade to a new up-to-date computer.