Since you're on a laptop a second drive might not be possible so get an external USB hard drive and keep copies of everything there or network the laptop to a desktop maching and make backups of important stuff regularily. How often you back up is directly correlated to how valuable (timewise usually) the data is. If you backup once a week you are losing up to a week of changes, same goes for monthly. This is why many places do a nightly backup so the most that would be lost is one days changes.
I've used Powerquest Driveimage (~$70 us) and been happy with that although the new version is much different at first glance. Windows backup will work and I've heard good things about Ghost.
I have mirror images(backups) of several versions of Win2k, Win98se and Winxp split among many 30GB Fat32 partitions on 8 or so drives. If one get's scrambled I just swap in the latest backup and am up and running instantly. I keep important data on separate mirrored drives away from the OS. (Mirrored usually means Western Digitals Partition Copy (which conviently defrags Fat32 on copying and not RAID which would enable any virus to corrupt the RAID drive).
It's sad that clients usually learn the importance of backing up data the hard way having to sometimes recreate years worth of data.