If you don’t have a backup plan in place on your computer, you’re playing with fire. Data loss isn’t about if, it’s about when. Whether you accidentally delete a file, your hard drive corrupts, or your laptop is stolen, there are plenty of reasons why you need to back up your data.
One program to help you accomplish that is Acronis Cyber Protect (formerly Acronis True Image). You can use Acronis to create a backup plan; choose what files and folders to include, the schedule, the backup type (incremental, full, and so on), and more.
We’re going to show you how to use Acronis Cyber Protect to back up your files.
1. Create a Backup Plan and Choose the Source
Open Acronis and select the Backup tab. This is where you create and manage your backup plans. You can have more than one backup plan, perhaps if you want to back up different parts of your system to different storage devices.
To create a backup plan, click Add backup. If desired, give your backup a custom name; you can easily change this later if needs be.
By default, Acronis includes your entire computer in the backup. To customize this, within the main pane, click the left rectangle which contains a monitor icon and the name of your computer (as you hover, it displays Change source).
You can choose from the following sources:
- Entire PC: Backup of your operating system, applications, and data.
- Disk and partitions: Protect separate disks or partitions of your computer.
- Files and folders: Back up specific files and folders.
You can also select Mobile device and Cloud service, which are outside the scope of this guide; we’re focusing on backing up your local system.
If you simply want all of your data backed up, for a near enough full replication, including operating system files, select Entire PC.
Alternatively, if you want to specify the data backed up, choose Disks and partitions or Files and folders. Either of these options will lead you to a screen where you select disks/partitions or files/folders. Place a checkmark next to what you want to include, and click Ok once done.
2. Choose the Backup Destination
Now you’ve chosen what you want to back up, you need to choose where to back that data up to. To begin, click Select destination.
One option here is Acronis Cloud. This is only available to those who subscribe to Acronis Cyber Protect, which is a yearly subscription, and offers up to 5TB of space depending on your plan. If you use Acronis through a perpetual license, you can’t use Acronis Cloud without paying.
Otherwise, select Browse. Here you can select a custom location for your backup—an external drive, somewhere on the network, a NAS or FTP connection, and so on. Click the location and choose Ok.
Do not select a drive on the system that you’re backing up. This is because it offers no redundancy; if your computer goes up in flames, you lose the original data and the copy.
3. Customize the Backup Plan
You’ve now selected what data to back up and where to back it up to. Next, it’s time to customize the backup plan. To do this, click Options.
Let’s go through each tab in turn. When you’re done, click Ok, then Back up now to create your first backup.
It’s up to you how often you want the backup to run.
If your data is critical and constantly changing, you may opt for Nonstop. Alternatively, you could choose Daily, wherein you can set hour intervals or once/twice a day.
For a more conservative choice, select Weekly.
You should avoid Monthly, which is too irregular, or Do not schedule, which relies on you manually running the backup.
Once done, expand Advanced settings. Here you can customize what your computer does when a backup is running or if your system was shut down when it was scheduled to run.
You can choose between four backup schemes:
- Single version: A full backup version that is overwritten every time. Therefore, you only hold one backup at any time.
- Version chain scheme: A chain of full and differential (anything that has changed since the last full backup) backups, with versions older than six months deleted.
- Incremental scheme: Stores the changes that have occurred since the last version.
- Differential scheme: Stores the changes that have occurred since the last full version.
You can customize the latter two schemes to choose how often a full version is created and the rules around automatic cleanup (to delete old versions).
For full information on these schemes, read the Acronis support page.
You should enable Show notification message on insufficient free disk space. This will give you a warning when your backup drive is running low on space, so you can clean up your backups or expand the capacity.
You may also wish to Send email notifications about the operation state, if the system being backed up isn’t one you use first-hand.
This displays a list of all the files and folders that are not included in your backup, even if you have included their master folder within your backup plan.
You can use the plus and minus icons to add and remove files respectively.
By default, this list covers folders like the Recycle Bin and your browser cache.
Go through each of these in turn to customize them to your needs. Pay particular notice to Backup protection, which is where you can encrypt your backups. We highly recommend you enable AES 256 and choose a strong password to protect the key.
You might also want to enable Validation. Though doing this for every backup will slow the process and drain resources, you should validate at least every month or so to ensure that your backups are actually stable to recover from.
Don’t Forget to Back Up Your Phone Too
While this guide has focused on how to back up your Windows computer using Acronis, don’t forget about your phone—that likely stores a swathe of important data that you don’t want to lose, like contacts, messages, photos, and videos.
Wondering how to back up your iPhone? Here’s our simple guide to backing up your iPhone or iPad using either iCloud or your computer.
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