If you’re not backing up your computer, you’re not alone – but the backup utility in Windows OneCare Live should be on your mind. The price is low, the software is easy to use, and losing data when a hard drive fails is awful, whether it’s business data, Outlook folders, financial data, family photos, or a big music collection.

Here’s a sample page of external USB hard drives from Buy.com. Some things to know:

  • These are commodities. There’s little to distinguish one brand from another. With that in mind, I usually buy Maxtor or Western Digital because they’ve been making hard drives for the longest.
  • The sweet spot for prices right now is between 160Gb and 250Gb.
  • The 160Gb external drive from Lacie on sale tonight for a hundred bucks is a great deal.
  • Plug the drive into a Windows XP computer and you’re done. Don’t install the software that comes with the drive – it’s not necessary. The new drive should show up in My Computer in 30-60 seconds.
  • If you get a balloon that says you’ve plugged a high-speed device into a low-speed USB port, your computer may not have USB 2.0 – a high-speed version of USB developed in the last three years. The drive will work, but very slowly. You can install a card for USB 2.0 easily and cheaply. Example: an Adaptec 2-port USB 2.0 PCI card for twenty-two dollars. Open the case, put in the card, and you’re done – again, no software necessary.
  • After you install the external drive, open Windows OneCare Live and click on Back Up Files to get started.
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