Windows 8 – Microsoft’s latest PC operating system (OS) – is here, and with promises of greater flexibility for creating, sharing and enjoying content stored on PCs, many users are eager to upgrade, says Anamika Budree, sales manager: Branded Products at WD South Africa. 
Before users do, there is a single crucial task they cannot omit – they need to back up all digital data, as errors can occur during an operating system transition, resulting in loss or corruption of data. Backing up data is essential and often forgotten when changing to a new OS.
There are a number of easy, fast and safe backup options, including the use of external drives or “cloud” options. Once users have Windows 8 in place, Microsoft has a few more storage options in the form of two new features: File History and Storage Spaces.
As personal data grows and people become increasingly reliant on digital media for storage, ease of access and better management of data stores is becoming increasingly vital. Backup is a fundamental component of good data management for all computer users and it’s wise to store second and even third copies of important digital files.
External drives can be used for storing digital content, such as such as family photos, home videos, financial documents and more, that are usually stored on a PC or notebook. It is essential to protect these files in the event of theft, lost computers, viruses, environmental damage, and even the occasional failure of storage mechanisms such as hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs).
Create a backup
There are various methods to transition to Windows 8. Users can run Windows 8 as a virtual machine on a current OS, dual-boot Windows 8 alongside the current operating system, or perform a full installation and overwrite the current OS. Regardless of the method selected, it is essential that users first complete a proper backup of all files and drives.
There are a number of backup options available. External hard drives of various capacities are particularly useful and are available as portable or desktop drives. External hard drives allow users to save a copy of their data and store this data in a safe place. This ensures that data is safe even if a desktop or laptop is stolen.
They are not only used as a backup but also provide additional storage for those gigabyte hungry movies, photos and music files that can fill up hard disk space very quickly on a PC, notebook and tablet. These external hard drives are also capable of high transfer speeds via ultra-fast USB 3.0 connections making regular backups quick and painless.
Another option for consumers is network storage, which includes paid-for cloud services. Personal cloud network drives connect to a home network and can be accessed from any computer or mobile device anywhere in the world, offering the security and peace-of-mind that only a personal hard drive can provide.
File History and Storage Spaces
With data safely backed up, users can make the switch to Windows 8 and make use of the new File History and Storage Spaces features. File History is the backup solution that allows users to schedule regular backups to any hard drive directory on their computer, including external drives.
It automatically backs up files from folders, contacts, favourites and the desktop, which can be restored in the event that these files are lost or damaged.
Storage Spaces gives users the ability to make multiple external hard drives appear as a single storage volume or as multiple storage volumes. The single storage volume gives those who need the extra storage easy access, while dividing the external hard drive into multiple volumes offers extra-safe computer backup options.
In effect, Storage Spaces allows users to group drives together in a storage pool, pooling capacity to create storage spaces. This virtual drive appears in File Explorer and can be used like any other drive, making it easy to work with files.
Large storage spaces can be created and additional drives can be added when pool capacity runs low. Thus, if users have two or more drives in a storage pool, storage spaces can be created and won’t be affected should they experience a drive failure.
It is also important to remember to upgrade a hard drive when upgrading to Windows 8. There are various drives available to suit an OS and the system application used on Windows 8 after installation. Upgrading a hard drive will breathe new life into the PC, allowing for faster performance and increased storage capacity.
Incorporating the new features, File History and Storage Spaces, with regular backups on external hard drives will ensure users never lose those precious memories or important documentation.