When was the last time you backed up your computer? Maybe the better question is ‘have you ever backed up your computer?’.

20% of hard drives fail within 4 years of their purchase and there’s no predicting which ones will crash.

Sometimes it is a virus, but more often than not it’s a problem with the computer memory or file system. Maybe the hard drive is just old, which is not uncommon as computer systems last longer than they did a decade ago.

One common problem is a dirty computer that doesn’t allow it to cool effectively. Try opening up the computer case by removing the 4 screws holding the cover, then use a can of compressed air to dust it out. If you’ve never cleaned it before have a vacuum cleaner handy as there will be lots of dust flying out. Also, don’t get the nozzle of the can too close to moving parts as they can shift or come loose with direct pressure.

You should also defrag the hard drive. You don’t have to know what a defragging is, but you can run the program by opening the control panel and look for administrative tools. You should be able to easily schedule a weekly defrag at a given time while you are away from the computer. This also optimizes your computer system; it should run faster.

It’s important to back up the hard drives you have now. The easiest way to do this is by an online service such as Carbonite. This costs anywhere from $60­$100 a year. It will upload all files on the computer to a cloud where they can be downloaded in the event of a computer crash.

You can also purchase an external hard drive and save everything to it as a back up. Windows has a built­in backup tool in the control panel. Mac owners have Time Machine. The issue with this choice is the backup is only as good as the most recent time it was backed up.