CD Backup DVD Backup


I probably don't need to tell you that you can be in for big trouble if you don't back up your most important files. If you are a small-time, private computer user, you need only to back up the files or folders you have modified yourself.

For years, I've been copying files to CD's and DVD's to archive them and to send them to others. Unfortunately, I've discovered that information I've copied to CD's and DVD is sometimes no longer readable several years later. While backing up to CD's and DVD's is a good short term solution, you may want to consider backing up to hard drives or backing up to an online service if you want your backups to last more than several years.

CDs and DVDs are also relatively compact and can be stored easily.

What equipment it is needed?

To back up your files and folders to CD-R, CD-RW, you will need to have a DVD or CD drive. These drives now come standard in most late model computers, so this shouldn’t be a problem for many users. If you wish to burn to a DVD, which has a greater recording capacity than a DVD, your CD-ROM drive will need to have DVD writing capacity. Depending on how you wish to undertake the backup, you may also need a CD mastering program, such as Nero. Again, if you have a late model computer, you will probably also have a CD mastering program. If you do not, there are many freeware programs that you can download and install.

CD Picture


With this basic equipment accounted for, there are several choices for how you can make a backup to CD or DVD. You have the choice of manually undertaking the backup, or using a third party program to copy your files.

There are a couple of options for undertaking manual backup to CD or DVD. First, you can simply drag the folder you wish to copy and drop it into the CD drive. This can get a bit messy if the files you wish to copy are littered throughout your hard drive. For your own sanity, when you are using this backup method, it is much simpler if all the information that you wish to backup is stored in a single folder, such as the “My Docu

ments” folder included in Windows 98, or the “Documents and Settings” folder in Windows XP or 2000. Windows XP has a backup utility, which you may need to specifically install if you are running Windows XP Home Edition, but which should be automatically installed if you run XP Professional. You can start the Backup Wizard by clicking from the Start Menu, through to Accessories, then System Tools. The Backup Wizard prompts you to select the files and folders you wish to backup, although it doesn’t offer you the option to save directly to a CD drive. You will need to store your backup files on your computer, and then burn these to CD or DVD using a CD mastering program.

What software is needed?

If manually backing up your data seems too onerous, you should consider using a third party program to copy your files. There are a number of freeware and proprietary software products available. These programs allow you to simply insert your chosen media into your CD-ROM drive, select the compression level at which you wish to burn your backup data, specify an encryption level and to define a schedule of backups. A further advantage of these programs is that they do not simply make a copy of your data, they make specially structured backups in their own proprietary format, which means that you can usefully restore your data (using the software program) after a system crash. The downside is that you'll need to have their proprietary program handy when it's time to restore the files.

Is it difficult or easy?

Backing up to CD or DVD is relatively easy, once you have worked out a backup schedule. You can use your Windows Backup Wizard to automatically create a backup at regular intervals. You can then burn these backup files to CD. Software programs can also take the difficulty out of creating backups – they run in the background and are automated, and they also assist in creating backup files which, using the software program, can help you restore the backups.

How reliable are the backups?

CD and DVD data is not likely to be corrupted after it's “burned” to the disc. However, parts or all of the disc can become unreadable if the disc becomes badly scratched or if the disc is otherwise damaged. Keep in mind that the media of the disc can break down making the CD or DVD unreadable after several years of storage.


One thought

  1. I just wanted to note that you actually don’t need any special backup software, everybody can backup to dvd manually. Here’s my short list of tips:
    1. Keep all your work/business related files in My Documents. Do not scatter them outside. Same applies to music, videos, photos – keep them where they should be.
    2. Keep a note that software settings (such as Illustrator pallette, or filetype settings that are customized for you) can be transferred via the Windows Files and Settings Transfer wizard. Use that and save just all application settings.
    3. As for Outlook, you can simply copy the entire Microsoft Outlook data file, which contains all your mail account, calendar, contact, memo, task related infos as well as all emails/attachments. No need to export/import anything, just copy the whole damn datafile. Outlook.pst is the usual name, and if you have lots of data you may see archive.pst as well.

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