Copying files vs backup image and other jargon

Hello,
What is the advantage to making a backup that uses a 'backup file' (please excuse my ignornace on the jargon) vs just copying files to another location.  What is that backup file (.bkc, .bkp, etc), is it compressed?  Also what is shadowing? I would appreciate if someone could give the quick rundown on backup practices and definitions that would be great.  I think I just want to copy files and the incrementally or differentially back them up. This was I can always access the files without having to restore the whole drive.  I don't need an image with OS and such.

Thanks,
JE
justearthAsked:
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ComputerTechieCommented:
a backup file is a type of compress image of files.
a image backup is a copy of the data drive as a compress image.

incrementally backup needs the last backup plus all other backup to restore files.
differential backup just need the main backup and itself to restore files.

several image backup programs let you explore the backup image and extract files our of it.

CT
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justearthAuthor Commented:
thanks.
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