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Apps and Software

Backing Up Your Data on Windows

Chris Moore - Thursday, November 24, 2011

I felt the need to write this post today as I've been dealing with some restoration work on my MacBook over the last 24 hours. Yes, that's right, I managed to kill my Mac - they don't always "just work". For some reason OS X 10.7 Lion didn't like it when I installed Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 for Mac and decided to give me the Grey Screen of death. An Anti-virus package crashing your computer, weird right. Having said that, I've always had great experience with Kaspersky on Windows.

So anyhow, I though I'd give a little overview of backup options and how I take care of mine as it was quite a painless process for me to restore everything. I'll start with Windows 7 as this is what we operate on our desktops before moving to Macs early next year.

Windows 7

With Windows you have several options. The inbuilt option that comes with Windows by default is Backup and Restore. This can be found in Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore. Here you have the options to schedule backups, create system images and create a system repair disc via easy to follow wizard type setup. It also contains several options for restoring: users' files, another backup to restore files from, and system settings.

Backup will create a regular backup of Windows recommended (Default Windows folders and local files in libraries) or you can choose to customise this yourself. For most home users the first option will be the safe bet. You will only require the second option if you have your person files saved outside of the default Windows locations - in this case I personally have some items that fall in to this category and/or items that I do not want to include in the backup like my pictures as they are all on my MacBook.

A System Image will create an exact copy of your entire system that you can restore. This is basically like a point in time snap shot of your computer and can be made on an external drive, DVD or network location. It is only a backup of the System and System Reserved files, not your personal files.

A System Repair Disc is a bootable disc for in the event that you can't boot in to Windows to perform a restore. It contains recorery tools to restore your machine from a serious error or from a System Image. This is good to have if you don't have your original Windows install disc.

Given all this information, it must be pionted out that Windows Backup and Recover is a FULL backup and takes quite sometime to complete each time depending upon how much data you have.

What I really find a lot more useful however is an Incremental/Differential Backup for your personal files, this is much quicker than Windows full backup and only performs a backup on new and modified files, not all the files that are the same and were included in the previous backup. Much much quicker! There are a couple of tools for this, Microsoft SyncToy, SyncBack, Paragon Drive Backup, Comodo Backup, Cobian Backup, Easeus Todo Backup to name a few. Personally I use SyncBack and have been experimenting with SyncToy. I won't go in to how to use these tools here, that's maybe for another post, just know that they are your options.

What would I recommend for a complete Windows Backup? Here's my current thinking and what I have done for a number of years:

  1. Create a System Image on your external harddrive. Do this every week or two. Windows will also create restore points during upgrades.
  2. Create a System Repair Disc on a DVD
  3. Backup your files with SyncBack. Schedule this for every day or two at a time you are not using the machine or your usage is low. For example, 4am if your machine is left on.

This should give you a complete backup of your system and the ability to restore it. The following post will be on backing up your Mac and OS X.

Chris Moore