As people become more comfortable using computers, it seems that people's lives are being stored virtually on hard drives. Yet many people still do not take rudimentary actions to protect and back up their data. Having a backup for an emergency or securing your computer from intruders does not have to difficult or time consuming.
Think about all the music, text files, pictures, financial records, videos and other files that you have created or collected that is stored on your hard drive. What if that hard drive failed? Would you be able to recover those files? Would you want to? There is simply no reason not to have an external hard drive to back up your sensitive to. An external hard drive can make daily, weekly or monthly backups. You can set it to make backups on only those new files added to your computer or full backups every time. The software that controls the backup process is typically easy to use and very flexible. Do not be one of those people who suffers a hard drive crash only to realize that they did not have adequate copies of their files stored externally. Plan for the worst.
The protection of your data from unwanted intruders are accomplished with firewalls, virus protection and routers. Windows XP systems all have a built in firewall that should be turned on before the computer is connected to the internet. It is simply an On/Off button reached through the Network Properties Advanced tab. This built-in feature is not the most robust firewall available, but it is certainly better than not having one at all.
Virus protection is to be used to strengthen your computers defense against viruses, worms, adware and spyware. Viruses and worms can come from email and web sites. Adware and spyware typically come from web sites. Most viruses and worms can be thwarted simply by not opening email attachments or downloading a file that you are not 100% sure is legitimate. Spyware and adware can be a little more tricky to rid your computer of simply because so many websites are now using tracking software to get information on their website visitors. The more malicious of these programs can cause system degradation and even crashes. Always running virus protection and using software to periodically rid yourself of spyware and adware will help in the defense of your computer.
A more advance technique to protecting your computer is to use a router to reach the Internet. The Internet connection from your provider will be "routed" through the router. All your computers will then be connected to the router via wireless or wired connections. From an unwanted outsiders view they will only see the one public Internet address of the router, which in effect masks the addresses of the computers attached to it makes them virtually invisible.
You have spent a lot of time creating and collecting the files that are stored on your computer. It would be a shame to lose them simply because you did not take the necessary precautions to back up and protect all your data.