There are many programs out there that will cost you a lot of money just to back up your computer but what people do not realise is that Windows comes with its own backup application that can keep your files safe and secure.
The Windows backup utility allows you to do a variety things including a regular incremental backup of your important files but what it also includes is the ability to create a windows image backup up of your drive.
A windows image backup is an exact copy of your drive in the state it is in when you run the Windows image backup. All programs, settings and files are saved and this kind of backup is ideal for disaster recovery.
Although creating an image of your drive is good practice you should still do regular backups of your personal files which can also be done using windows backup. We will look at both methods in this tutorial.
Creating a Windows image backup in Vista/7
1. Click your Windows start button (bottom left corner) and select control panel on the right hand side.
2. If your control panel is set to category view under system and security select the second option which says “Back up your computer”. If you are set to icon view then click the icon that says “Backup and Restore”
3. For this part we want to create a system image so select the option “Create a system image” on the left hand panel (see below image – Red arrow)
4. A new window will pop up asking where you would like to save the backup. Ideally you want to backup to an external hard drive which once connected you will find under the on a hard disk option. You can also backup to DVD`s but it is worth remembering that you could be talking a lot of data split over many discs. Finally you can back up over the network, for example to a network hard drive or server. You can see in our example below we have connected an external hard drive called backups. Note that you cannot save an image on the hard drive you are backing up.
5. Click next and you will see a new screen that will tell you the location of your backup and what will be saved. If you are happy simply click Start backup and the backup will begin.
Creating a backup of your files with Windows backup utility
1. Open the control panel and the backup utility as above but this time click set a backup (blue arrow in image below)
2. Your computer may pause for a few seconds and you should then see a new window that asks you where you want to save the backup of your files to. Again an external hard drive tends to be the best option but you can backup to DVD or save to a network drive by clicking save on network. We are going to save our files to our external hard drive so we click to highlight it and then press next.
3. On the next screen you are now presented with 2 options.
Let Windows choose – This backups a selection of files and folders that are often used such as libaries, the desktop. This method also does a system image by default.
Let me choose –This allows you to choose the files and folders that are backed up.
We are going to select the second option as we are just looking to backup our personal files we don’t need another system image. This option is also best if you do not store your files and folders in the default locations as windows only backups the default locations in its file backup. Select “let me choose” and press next.
4. You will now get an option screen that allows you to select what to backup. All the default data files are at the top and are pre-selected. If you have other folders you want to backup you can expand the computer and put ticks in additional folders you want to backup or you can untick the data files and select only the files you want to backup (for example maybe you ONLY want to backup your pictures folder)
Personal Note: For the sake of ensuring I get everything in my file backup I untick all of the data files, expand the computer folder and tick the users folder. This ensures I backup everything from personal documents, favourites, email folders and internet history as the user folder contains everything you do on your account and all other user accounts. This method does use a little more space but if you are unsure what to backup or want to be sure you get everything this tends to work best.
5. Finally untick “Include a system image” as we don’t want a system image just a file backup. Click next.
6. Finally you can change the schedule of your backup by clicking the change schedule button at the bottom of your page. This is how often the backup runs and checks for new files and folders. You want to do this at least on a weekly basis but daily if you create documents and files often.
7.Click Save settings and run backup to get the backup started. The first backup may take 1-2 hours or maybe more depending on the amount of data to be backed up.