What's an outboard hard drive? An external one?
If so, a program like Acronis TrueImage will create an exact copy [called an image] of your hard drive; in the case of hard drive failure you can restore this image to another hard drive and continue on from there.
If your PC fails and you get another, this image will not do the job for you as it will have OS of your current PC along with drivers etc on it. In such a case it is best to use a program like CobianBackup to copy all your data from its current position to the external drive. When in the UK I used to do this each evening - the program will run automatically. This worked for me because my data is all saved to a second internal hard drive which was then copied to the external drive on a daily basis.
If you give some information about the current setup of your machine (number of hard disks/ partitions, where data is saved etc) someone will suggest a backup option.