Thanks to all who took the time to write!
Yes, my intent is to back up all of the files, apps. etc. first.
Since I'm fairly new to this OS, I'm a little worried about "bricking" my device. I would like very much to root when I'm a little more confident, even though the instructions seem very clear.
So.... I need to install the drivers first on the laptop without connecting. Then do the backup (should I use "system apps & data AND "shared data" in order to back up everything? Should I use " Backup to Virtual SD Drive" to back up all of the content of my Nexus? Would it be best to use " Nandroid Backup with Custom Recovery"? I have plenty of space on my laptop.
Finally, since this backup is temporary, how much time do I have before rooting the Nexus and then installing Titanium Backup? Do I install it to the laptop?
I'm sorry for all of those questions.....but I appreciate your advice very much. Thanks!