Backing Up Your Data ( Hard work ) for windows PCs
The technical term is "Backing up your computer data", but
if we substitute the phrase "Hard Work" for computer data, it may
engender a greater sense of urgency and importance. For many people, it
is not until they have suffered their first major data loss due to a
hard disc failure or virus attack, that they realise how much hard work
has gone into creating all that lost data / work / photos / music /
Doing regular backups can seem like a chore, but just try to imagine
what it would be like if all your hard won information had gone and you
have to start all over again. There are many ways of backing up your
data and just as many types of media to use as well. This page covers
the basic steps needed to backup your data easily and quickly. A Backup
is just a copy of your Data, moved somewhere safe, leaving the original
1) Keep Files in One Folder or in a Separate Partion on your drive
Try to keep all your files and documents in one place. This will make
things much easier when the time comes to back up. Some programs do not
save data by default to "My Documents"' but many programs do allow you
to choose a new location for their data files and set that as default.
For those that don't you may have use "save as" to direct them to the
right folder, or even copy files from that programs default folder to
the folder of your choice. Or of course you could buy a professional
backup program which keeps track of all the folders you wish to backup.
Or on Windows98 Xp you may want to use Microsofts "backup - restore"
utility. ( see my personal opinion of the earlier backup - restore utility.)
Win 7 is designed with complete back-up in mind, it automatically backs
up settings & data for all registered programs & applications
plus has the option to create a disc image (ghost). This will restore
your computer to it's former state even after a total hard drive
failure & replacement.
2) What do I Backup?
Just about anything your media will allow you to store. This means you
can make copies of all your personal data, such as documents, image and
media files, email, financial data, saved games, internet explorer
favourites, address book and anything else that may be important. Try
to avoid having to back up the entire operating system unless you have
the media and programs that will support this type of backup. (Just
copying system and application files doesn't work! - see Ghost above.).
3) Types of Backup Media
Most popular backup media nowadays is an external harddrive followed by a pendrive (aka: usb memory stick, usb flash drive,)
There are many older types of backup media. You can use tape drives,
CD-R and CD-RW, DVD-RW, hard drives, and older types of media like
Imation's Superdisk or Iomega's Zip. Your choice may be determined by
the sheer quantity of work / data that you have to backup. (in Windows
Explorer - right click on a folder > then click properties, this
shows you how many other folders and files are in the first folder, and
their total size - will it fit on a floppy? superdisc? Zip? Cd?.
Of the above backup media types, tape drives are fairly old and slow
and now little used, Zip drives and Superdisk are useful but have
limited capacity, CDs have a reasonable 650 -700 Mb, DVDs even more at
over 4 Gb, but if you really want to back up everything you've ever
done - then another hard disc drive is an option, previously limited by
the fact a user had to open the computer case, power off to connect /
disconnect the spare hard disc drive, but now that simple plug-in USB
external hard drives are available - by far the best option for large
amounts of data.
4) Types of Backup Methods
There are different types of programs to image your entire hard drive,
PowerQuest's Drive Image, Norton's Ghost, Dantz's Retrospect; all will
backup & restore your operating system as well as your data files,
but this type of backup is only successful if you have a second hard
5) Where Are My Data Files Kept?
Windows 7 takes care of locations for all data & automatically includes them in it's backup routine.
For 98 XP your data files are kept in many places but here are a few locations to look for your information.
a) Email: Locations may vary. Microsoft Outlook Express saves its'
files in a file with an extension .dbx.(Outlook Express 5 lets you
choose a new folder > tools> options> maintenance> store.).
Outlook saves its' files in a file with an extension .pst. Netscape
saves your files in 'C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\username\Mail'.
b) Your Internet Bookmarks and Favorites: Netscape saves its' bookmarks
in 'C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\username\bookmark.htm'. Internet
Explorer stores them as individual files in the C:\Windows\Favorites or
C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Favorites directory.(IE allows
export & Import of these files> file> import & export)
c) Other programs: You may need to do some research on where files are
saved. One good way to do this is to open up the program in question,
create a temporary file and when you save the file do a 'Save as', this
will prompt you to where the default location of where the program
saves its' files.
6) How Often Should I Perform a Backup?
In general, it's best to schedule your backup on a consistent and
regular basis. Depending on how much information you add or change on
your system will help you determine if this should be on a monthly,
weekly or even a daily schedule. Most backup software programs allow
for automatic scheduling
7) What do I do with my Backup when I've got it?
Well, what you don't do is leave it next to the computer to get:
a) mislaid. b) taken if the computer is stolen. c) burnt if the
building burns down (including the computer). d) damaged if there is a
flood or earthquake.
Ideally you should have at least 3 versions of your work / data. The
working version on your computer, a most recent backup version in
another building (take it home or another office or relatives), an
older version may possibly be brought back to the office or building to
be re-used. So each time a backup is done, the two versions outside of
the computer are exchanged, this ensures that at least one fairly
recent copy of all your work /data is available to help you recover
from a disaster.
8) Windows XP Home Edition:
Microsoft appear to have forgotten to implement a backup -restore
routine in the XP home edition, which is available in the XP
professional version. But it is actually there on the Windows XP Home
Edition CD. ( It may have been deliberately ommitted because a part
doesn't work too well, but the main backup routines are perfectly
adequate and easy to use). Simply insert your XP home CD, and run the
NTBACKUP.MSI (it might look like just "Ntbackup") program from the
folder D:\Valueadd\msft\ntbackup where D: is the letter of your CD
This will launch the Windows Backup Utility Installation Wizard, which
will install the utility automatically. When it is finished, click
"Finish." That's it, Done!
Now click Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools
-> Backup, and the Backup Utility will start. You may notice the
presence of the "Automated System Recovery Wizard" which is used to
backup the actual Microsoft operating system files not your work / data
files. It may be prudent to not to use this for a system backup as the
grapevine reports it as being unreliable.... Microsoft notes and
acknowledges this in KB Article Q302700 and suggest a work around.
9) Personal Opinion of Microsofts Backup - Restore Utility
95 98 also come with a backup -restore utility, but it is not always
implemented as a default on a standard windows installation. To check
if it is available on your computer - click...
Programs> Accessories> System Tools> if you can not see
"backup" on the menu then it is not installed. Instructions on Installing MsBackup-Restore
Microsoft Backup - Restore is a useful program, especially when used
with dedicated backup hardware, but this page is more about using your
ordinary computer with basic drives and CD / DVD writers.
The Good Points:
It lets you choose the folders / files that you want to backup simply by clicking a tick box next to the folder names.
It lets you name this backup routine so that all the same folders are
backed up each time just by clicking the named backup routine.
It lets you decide if all your chosen folders / files are copied at
each backup, or only copied if they have changed (saves time).
It restores folders / files to their original location automatically.
The Bad Points:
When backing up to Hard Disc Drives / CD writers it doesn't copy your
folders and files as they are, it converts them into one long file and
saves all your data as that one long file. Useless until it is restored
by the backup - restore utility.
From experience I have learnt not to trust a system that relies on
third party software to decode my important data back into its original
usable form. ( having had an error with MsDos 3 in the 1980's )
From other people's experience of total data loss from a concatenated
file that suffered only slight damage, I distrust these file formats.
I see it like this, you may have 500 hundred files on your computer
that you wish to back up, each has it's own name, start address, finish
address, data, error correction info, etc, - if a file suffered
corruption due to physical damage or surface errors you may lose that
file, but the other 499 with your precious data are still intact and
If all 500 hundred are effectively converted into one file and that sustains damage ! .. well ..
I understand there are safeguards in the way the big file is
constructed, I know about error correction and recovery, I know that
there are very few failures, but - sorry I don't trust this system, I
like to think that my backed up data is more or less in it's original
form. What if I want to copy just a few of the files onto another
system? No - it's personal thing, i'll leave Microsoft's backup -
Installing MS backup - restore utility
you decide that you want to use the backup - restore utility it is on
the original Windows Installation CD.
To Install the utility:
•If you have autorun on your CD drive, put your Windows CD in the
drive, then when the splash screen appears, click add/remove programs
and join below instructions at 'windows setup'
•Without autorun, put your Windows CD in the drive, then click:
start> settings> control panel> add/remove programs>
windows setup> then scroll down to system_tools and click to
highlight it> now click details> - you will see a range of
choices, tick the box next to "backup" then> click apply - if
necessary in the next dialog box change the drive letter of your CD
drive > OK