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Here's what I use for backing up my Linux files:

I have a file called backup.list containing a list of the folders to back up, one per line, e.g.

Another file called exclude_from_backup.list containing a list of subfolders and files to exclude, e.g.
This is some of it - you will want to add more when you see the list of files whizzing by...

Then a file called containing the tar command:
tar -cvzV `date +%Y_%m_%d_%H:%M:%S` -f /home/chris/backup/backup.tar.gz --files-from=/home/chris/backup/backup.list -X/home/chris/backup/excludefrombackup.list

This needs to be executeable, so
chmod 775 /home/chris/backup/

      All stored in /home/chris/backup/

Run as root (so you can back up any file) by typing /home/chris/backup/ and it should write a nice big backup.tar.gz file to /home/chris/backup/ which I then copy to another PC or CD.

Works for me...

See here for advice on backing up Microsoft Windows - How to back up your PC