You know you should backup your important data. Some large organizations pre-install automatic backup on systems given to employees. However, most IT organizations don't. They back up their data but not the client's data.
The easiest and most straight forward way to protect your data on your notebook PC is to buy an external hard drive and simply copy the most important data on to that external drive. Then, if your system crashes (or is stolen or otherwise becomes inoperable), then you'll have a copy of all your data. For years, I've always copied my important files (about 40GB) onto an external hard disk on Friday nights.
It's a pain to do this manually since you have to select the files and then copy them to the external hard drive. Fortunately, most external hard drives now come with backup software, making the process automated and hands free. It's much easier! No more dragging and dropping files manually.
There are two classes of hard drives: 1) desktop drives that hold up to 1TB (1000GB) and include an external power supply, and 2) portable drives that now hold 500GB of information and run off the power of the USB port. Clearly, if you have a notebook PC, you should get a portable hard drive. And, you don't really need to buy an external hard drive that's as large as the hard drive in your system.
The reason is that your notebook PC hard drive stores the OS (Windows or Mac), programs, drivers and other system data and your data (typically made up of photos, movies, data for applications like Microsoft Office such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as PDF files). Thus, the size of your valuable information is less than the total size of the hard drive. As a rough estimate, I'd recommend getting an external hard drive that is around 75% of the size of your notebook hard drive. Thus, if your notebook has 160GB, you would only need a 120GB external hard drive. However, if you're storing large files such as graphics and video, you may want to consider upgrading to a higher capacity. These files take up a lot of space, and you'll need room to grow.