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I use NTI Shadow: http://www.nticorp.com/en/us/store/shadow_5_windows_estore.asp[^] - I have it set to a number of jobs onto my NAS, but it also works to USB drives (though I haven't tried it). You do have to set up some "rules" in the sense of type of backup, frequency, and so forth, but it's pretty easy to do. They do a trial which might be worth looking at - but the full version is currently pretty cheap.
If you get an email telling you that you can catch Swine Flu from tinned pork then just delete it. It's Spam.
Have a look at the BounceBack products from CMS[^]
 if clickty doesn't work try www.cmsproducts.com [/edit]
I think the concept is probably exactly what you're looking for: just plug in a USB drive and it does the backup.
In the spirit of full disclosure: I used one of their products years ago and found an obscure show stopper bug (in my specific circumstances) and their support was an email shrug of the shoulders. I expect they are well over that by now.
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I use Time Machine on my Mac, but I doubt that's of much use to you. When I searched for "Time Machine Windows", I came across this... so as DaveAuld said, Windows File History looks like a good place to start.
Though, I can stand to lose most of my files. Anything really important I backup to DVD (though such files are rare).
i have a Retrospect job that backs up two PCs and a NAS to an external USB HD. once a month, i bring the HD home from work, plug it in, launch Retrospect, tell it to do the monthly job, go away for a while, take the HD back to work the next day.
it also does automatic, unattended, bi-weekly backups to the NAS.
Same here. There is a 500GB external hard drive in my desk at work right now with all the important stuff I would prefer not to lose. It's only there for off-site storage.
I use Acronis Trueimage Home. I've used it for years. They had some problems a couple of releases ago but the current 2013 version is great. You can do file backups, partition backups or disk backups. Everything is easy to set up. Just before a new version comes out, you can find people selling it with a rebate that results in an almost zero price.
The only thing I have against xcopy / robocopy is the resetting of file creation date. Plus xcopy has been known to exhaust memory if used from a recovery environment. (very long filenames - Windows Vista and up.)
I'd rather use Winrar and split into manageable parts, with the recovery record flag. More likely to recover corrupted files off DVD.
Q. Hey man! have you sorted out the finite soup machine?
I put pictures on Facebook and Google's Picasa, and a few important documents I upload to Google Drive. Everything else I only think are important, but are not really. When I've lost things in the past, I realized how indifferent I was to most of it. Work-related stuff stays at work. Home-related stuff is rarely more than pictures and a few documents. Let Facebook and Picasa save and tag them for me. When I need them again, I can either download them or pay $5 for a CD with all my information.