Windows PCs are forever changing. Everytime you use it changes occur to the registry, the files. Microsoft delivers patches via Windows Updates Regularly. Users install software often. Malware and viruses knock on your door. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, things go pear shaped. If you wait until that time, it is too late. At worst, it will take you some time to install, Windows, install Microsoft Office, install your favourite email program, install your printer drivers, find your browser bookmarks / favourites - the typical thing people say is "oh, this machine isn't much, my documents are stored on the other machine/server". Well, yes and no. If your machine went belly up today, would you still have your recent browser bookmarks, your saved spellchecks on Proper Names, your email? But more importantly, how many minutes or hours do you estimate before you are back with a machine again?
- Invest in a large hard disk and image your current hard disk or your system volume.
- Have a recovery CD ready to recover using your image. This does not mean your HP / Dell recovery DVD - that has only Microsoft Windows and some drivers and is way old. It does not have Microsoft Office or any of your subsequently purchased programs.
- Back up your all your known data - it's not just My Documents - remember your email and other stuff. Do that weekly / monthly / several monthly.
- Image your system volume / hard disk. Do that whenever there are major changes to your system (programs, Windows Service Pack, Office Service Pack, etc...) or half yearly or yearly.
- Save your registry regularly - weekly or monthly.
These are alternative mechanisms
- Abstain from testing nifty programs you just found on your production machine directly. Run a Virtualisation or another physical disposable machine and use that for testing.
- Run Windows XP as a limited rights user.
- Run various mechanisms to sandbox internet applications. See DropMyRights
- Optionally run application virtualisation solutions like Returnil
- Install a real time anti-virus checker. Keep it up to date
- Install and run an anti-virus disk scanner. Scan once a week, once a month...
- Install and run an anti-malware disk scanner. Scan once a week, once a month...
- Ensure you are behind a hardware firewall. If that is not possible, install a software firewall (or at least use the Windows one)