A bit off-topic, but you really don't want to be surprised by the failure of your hard drive. My home / primary computer is now almost 4 years old, and one of the first parts most likely to go, along with all my data, is the hard drive. HERE is an excellent post from makeuseof that provides links to some free diagnostic programs you can use to evaluate the health of your hard drive. I tried a few of the programs, and I ended up keeping the CrystalDiskInfo one as providing the clearest info most quickly. (Note that it is basically a download/unzip/run type of program. Ie, it does not require a whole installation process.) As you can see on the graphic, my hard drive has been powered on 1925 times and has been running for 11014 hours. That's a lot, but it appears that it is holding up well and is in "Good" health. The help file with the program will point you to the S.M.A.R.T. info on Wikipedia which will help explain some of the numbers.
Even though the hard drive looks good, you should have some kind of backup plan. Remember, you are not only protecting against hard drive failure, you are also protecting against theft, fire, etc. Here are some steps I have taken.
- I have burned a bunch of CDs and DVDs worth of data (especially the space-hogging pics and music). I keep these stored in a different location than home with this computer.
- I have a bunch of data that I store on my Google account online. This is nice, because I can access it from anywhere if need be. I also use services like SkyDrive (25Gb), Dropbox and drop.io to store / access / share files online. (Also check this Christ-Tech post for info on making it much easier to copy files to SkyDrive.)
- I keep data synched between this home computer and my laptop using a service like LiveSync (formerly FolderShare) or using my USB drive and ViceVersa FREE.
- I bought an external hard drive and copied over all my data.
UPDATE: 1) Be sure to read the comments. 2) The latest CCMag just came out today and features a long article about backup plans, software, and recommendations. Check it out HERE.