Windows Vista has a very powerful backup and restore tool hidden away in the control panel. This is a much better backup utility than previous Windows versions as you can backup the whole computer with a few clicks if you want to (this will backup documents, applications etc...).
To create a backup you first need to prepare a suitable storage location. In the example below the backup files are stored on a secondary hard drive.
First, go to the control panel by clicking the Start Menu and then Control Panel:
Then, click System Maintenance:
Now click Backup and Restore Center:
Once the backup and restore center is loaded, you can choose to back up a selection of files or the complete PC. This article assumes you want to backup everything, so click Back up Computer:
It will take a few moments for the application to load whilst it searches for backup devices:
You will then be presented with a screen to choose the location of your backup (an external hard drive is the ideal choice). Once you have selected the drive, click Next:
A confirmation screen will display your choices, once this is approved click Start Backup:
Your system will then backup, which will take some time. A progress bar gives an indication of the current progress:
Once the backup is complete, click Close:
Your PC is now fully backed up! Be sure to do this every time something important changes on your PC. If you need to restore the system, either restore a system backup from the Backup center, or boot from your Vista DVD and choose to restore a backup from the location you saved the data to.