How to Backup My Computer
We can’t stress this enough. The frequency of your backups should be directly proportionate to the value of your data. If it is priceless, back up daily. A general rule of thumb is to back up at least once a week for general data, word processing documents, pictures etc.
Accounting data, we recommend backing up daily. Quicken and QuickBooks for example have a backup utility built right in so no excuses! If you don’t know how to backup, learn. Everything you need to know is right here on this page. Print it out now for your reference or at the very least bookmark this page.
How Often Should You Backup
How important is your data that is the question you need to ask yourself. If it is very important then backup more frequently, if it is not important to you then backup less often. When was the last time you backed up? You should ask yourself that question at least once a week.
Loss of data is something that is ignored until it happens to you, then it is a critical emergency. People who do not back up until it is too late often losing years worth of work! If your computer crashed right now, how difficult would it be to replace all the information that you have stored in it? Think about it for a minute. Don’t wait until it is too late. Get on a stringent backup regimen and stick to it. You will be glad you did when something goes wrong.
Who is Responsible for Your Data?
You are. Although you may have a computer technician help you set up the hardware and maybe even help configure your backup software, it is your sole responsibility to make sure that it works every day, not the technician. You must verify that your backup is working as well, so do not take it for granted. If you lose data it is because you are not verifying your own backups, not because a technician did something wrong. They cannot be there every day to make sure your backup is working it is up to you.
Automate the Task
Automating the task of backing up takes the worry out of it. For example you can schedule your computer to do a backup every Friday night at 11:00pm. The best part is you don’t have to be there. It will launch automatically as long as your computer is on. See below for how to set this up.
Which Backup Program to use
Windows 7 /10 comes preinstalled with a backup utility that works very well. It is easy to understand and utilizes a very simple interface so it is easy to do. Wizards walk you through the process and restoring is a breeze. A built in scheduler allows you to automate the task if you wish even across a network. To do this you must assign a password (if you don’t already have one) to the “Backup User”. The user you are currently signed in under (see the people icon on your start menu).
It is extremely important that whoever is doing the backups up also understands the backup program that is being used.
What to Backup
There are 2 approaches to backing up. One is that you backup your entire computer which includes Windows, programs everything. This method is called a System Image but it takes forever to run since the file size will be so big. Besides, if you have one of our QuadStation computers we have you covered there. See Factory Restore Drives included in all of our systems.
The second method is backing up just your DATA files (Word documents, spreadsheets, financial data, favorites etc). This is the method that we recommend since it is so much faster and more practical if you ever need to quickly recover your data. You can choose exactly which files and folders to backup when setting up your backup software.
Drag and Drop Method
This is the process of simply dragging a copy of your data over to an external storage device such as an external hard drive, or USB drive. You can also ask your computer guy to install an extra backup drive INSIDE your computer. It would show up as an additional drive letter in your MyComputer / This PC area. This process is the same regardless of what you are storing to. Read more below.
Offsite Backup Services
Services such as Carbonite and others can automate the backup process for you. You pay a flat annual fee for cloud data storage and it is truly a set it and forget it setup. It works very well and if you need to retrieve your data at any point, just login to your Carbonite account and it walks you through the restore process.
However, keep this in mind! If you delete something on your computer,30 days later it will also be GONE on Carbonite in the cloud.
Let’s say you want to free up hard drive space on your laptop. Your figure that since you have a copy backed up in ‘the cloud’ you can remove documents and pics from your laptop from last year. But, what you may not know is that anything older than 30 days is deleted from Carbonite! Think of it this way. If it is deleted from the source it will be deleted from your backup as well.
There are several media types to choose from depending on how big your data files are. Common media types are DVD, USB pen drives, NAS devices and external hard drives.
The size of your data will determine which media type makes most sense for you. To give you an idea, a DVD holds about 4.7Gb of data, a USB comes in many sizes ranging from 2Gb to 64Gb+. An external hard drive is much higher since these are full size hard drives mounted into an enclosure. Hard drives come in sizes from 500Gb up to 4000Gb.
External hard drive enclosures come in 2 sizes, 2.5″ (laptop sized hard drive, very portable) or 3.5″ (desktop sized hard drive). The best part is that most of them are connected through USB 2.0, USB 3.0 or eSATA (the latter being much faster) making backups faster as a result.
Set a reminder to backup in your Outlook, or other scheduler so you don’t forget to backup.
Verify Your Backup
Verifying your backup is as important as the act of backing up itself. Too often businesses go for years assuming that their backup is good, until it is late. The computer crashes and they go to restore from their backup only to discover that is has not been backing up like they thought, sometimes for months or years!. Case and point.
It is easy to do. Simply open up Computer icon, navigate to the location of your backup set, and just look at the date and file size of your last backup. Get in the habit of doing this regularly to avoid disaster.
Know Where Your Data is Stored
Which leads me to my next point, know where your important data is at all times! At any given time you should be able to go right to the folder that stores ALL of your data on your hard drive or network. If navigating is difficult, learn how. No matter how good you think you are at the computer, if you can not go directly to your data you have something to learn.
Outlook Users: Know Where Your PST is Located
Microsoft Outlook is one the most versatile and widely used programs for businesses. All data is centralized in one convenient location including, email, contact, schedules, to do lists, memos and more. It has become a lifeline for businesses however most people have no idea where their database file called, “outlook.pst” is located. If you lose this file you have lost everything in Outlook…everything.
Although this should be included in your regular backups, it is very often overlooked. Find out where your PST file is located and know it at all times. In XP for example it is located in: C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. Could you have found that in the even of a hard drive emergency? Probably not. To locate your PST file do a search on your computer for “*.pst”. Record this location in your Outlook as a Memo for future reference.
Some people prefer that the file be located in a more convenient location such as MyDocuments. If you have a good understanding of navigation and file structure within Windows go for it. Just remember that the next time you open Outlook, it will be looking in the old location. You will have to tell it where the new location of your PST file is located.
Your favorites / bookmarks must be backed up separately from your documents so don’t assume your favorites will be saved automatically. In Windows, Favorites are stored in a folder located at: C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Favorites. It will be in the same directory as MyDocuments and will have a little gold star as the icon. Backing up your Favorites is done a little differently for different browser but easy to do. See the Browser manager on your browser menu.
Backing Up Using the Windows 10/7 Backup Utility
- Open Control Panel and click on Back up your computer under System and Security. (in Category view. If your are using a different view it will just be Backup and Restore.
- Do one of the following:
- If you’ve never used Windows Backup before, click Set up backup on the upper right, and then follow the steps in the wizard. Administrator permission required If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
- If you’ve created a backup before, you can wait for your regularly scheduled backup to occur, or you can manually create a new backup by clicking Back up now. Administrator permission required If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
- Next, choose where you would like to save your backup. (You should not backup to the same drive that your data is stored on. See Backup Media section above for backup locations).
- On the next screen, select Let Me Choose and select all of the locations where your data is stored. It will save this a backup set.
- Choose how often do you want to backup and at what time.
- Save Settings
- Click on the Backup Now button on the upper right to start your first full backup. (Note: If this is your first time backing up this will take a while so be patient. After the initial full backup set is created it will go much faster, backing up only the data that has changed since your last backup).
Backing Up Using the Windows XP Backup Utility
First, you should not still be using Windows XP. Stop here and consider a new computer today.
- Open Windows Backup Utility (Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Backup). The Backup Utility Wizard starts by default, unless it is disabled.
- Click the Advanced Mode button in the Backup Utility Wizard.
- Click the Backup tab, and then, on the Job menu, click New.
- Specify the files and folders you want to back up by selecting the check box to the left of a file or folder in Click to select the check box for any drive, folder, or file that you want to back up.
- In Backup destination, do one of the following: Click File if you want to back up files and folders. This is selected by default.
- In Backup media or file name, do one of the following: If you are backing up files and folders to a file, type a path and file name for the backup (.bkf) file, or click the Browse button to find a file.
- You will navigate to the location where you want to save your backup.
- This depends on the media you are backing to (external hard drive, DVD, USB drive etc)
- Specify any backup options you want, such as the backup type and the log file type, by clicking the Tools menu, and then clicking Options. When you have finished specifying backup options, click OK.
- Click Start Backup, and then make any changes to the Backup Job Information dialog box.
- If you want to set advanced backup options such as data verification or hardware compression, click Advanced. When you have finished setting advanced backup options, click OK. For more information about advanced backup options, see To set advanced backup options.
- Click Start Backup to start the backup operation
- You can use Backup to back up and restore data on either FAT16, FAT32, or NTFS volumes. However, if you have backed up data from an NTFS volume , it is recommended that you restore the data to an NTFS volume used in Windows XP , or you could lose data as well as some file and folder features. Some file systems might not support all features of other file systems. For example, permissions, encrypting file system (EFS) settings, disk quota information, mounted drive information, and Remote Storage information will be lost if you back up data from an NTFS volume used in Windows XP and then restore it to a FAT volume or an NTFS volume used in Windows NT 4.0.
- To back up and restore Microsoft SQL Server database files, it is recommended that you use SQL’s built-in backup and restore utilities. For more information, see the Microsoft SQL Server documentation.
- Some tape drives might not support hardware compression
- You must be an administrator or a Backup Operator to back up files and folders. For more information about permissions or user rights. In addition you must have a password assigned to this user if you want to schedule the backup. It will not start without it.
- To start Backup, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Backup.
- If the Backup and Recovery Wizard does not start by default, you can still use it to back up files by clicking the Tools menu, and then clicking Backup Wizard.
- You can only back up the System State data on a local computer. You cannot back up the System State data on a remote computer.
- Backup files usually have the extension .bkf, although you can use any extension.
- Backup operators and administrators can back up and restore encrypted files and folders without decrypting the files or folders.
- If you have Windows Media Services running on your computer, and you want to back up the files associated with these services, see “Running Backup with Windows Media Services” in the Windows Media Services online documentation. You must follow the procedures outlined in the Windows Media Services online documentation before you can back up or restore files associated with Windows Media Services