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How to Backup Your Computer and Its Files

Backing up our important files is something many of us neglected do. Here you will find information and tips about how to perform backups of your PC files and its software, which can make life easier.

Many computer users choose not to backup their files, perhaps because of the following myths:

  • My computer never crashes.
  • Backup is too cumbersome.

It is only when disaster strikes, that you really appreciate backing up your computer.
It shouldn't be difficult
Backing up your computer can in many ways be comparable with having an antivirus on your computer - you would rather not have to purchase such a program, but they are very useful when a problem arises. Therefore it is important to use the right method that makes this process as simple as possible - otherwise you won't get into the regular routine of backing up.

Initially it can be cumbersome to backup your files - you must decide what to copy and where to save it. The rest of the process, the actual backup, is usually performed by the computer.

If you choose to set up manual backup, you don't necessarily need to do it every day, but this depends on what kind of data you are working with, and to what extent. For regular home users keep backups to at least once a week.

If you are a novice when it comes to data, we recommend the built in backup feature in Windows. For most others, we recommend ToDo Backup. If you want more features, you can try Cobian Backup.
What should you back up?
It is primarily irreplaceable personal files that should be backed up. Things such as digital photos, personal documents, bookmarks, emails and so on.

What should not be backed up, is applications and system data, such as the actual Windows operating system, because this can be reinstalled in case data is accidentally deleted or a total disk failure occurs. You probably have Windows on a CD/DVD, memory stick, or you can download the program from the Internet if you have the code.
Windows Backup
Windows has a built-in feature for backups.
Backup in Windows 7
Windows 7 has a built-in feature that can be used to backup and restore your important files.

The advantage of the included software in Windows is that it is easy to set up, you can choose what you want to copy, and you have the ability to define a schedule.

The disadvantage is that it does not sync both ways and it offers no storage networks.

Before you begin, you should make sure to have enough storage space for a backup. An external hard drive is a good option.

You you can access the backup option via Control Panel, System and Security, Backup and Restore, Configure Backup.
Backup in Windows 8
In Windows 8, you can find the backup feature via the Control Panel and then select "File History" You then have the option to turn the feature on where you must then connect your computer to an external storage device. You also have the option to exclude folders if you do not want to save certain data.
System Restore
This is a special type of recovery which restores system files to an earlier state. This may be appropriate if, for example, Windows starts to behave abnormally after installing bad programs or drivers.

Such restore points are created automatically before you make major changes like adding new software, but this does not always happen automatically.
How to create a restore point?
Restore points can be created manually via Control Panel, System and Security, System, System Protection, Create. If you have Windows 8, you can use the keyboard shortcut Windows + Q, to get a list of all the apps, including Control Panel.
Restore your computer to an earlier time
You can use System Restore when Windows isn't behaving correctly. This may be, for example, just after you install a program or driver. You can open up system restore where you will then have opportunity to select a restore point from  an earlier date/time, and can thus restore your system to an earlier time.

Third-party programs
There are plenty of alternative programs that can be used instead of the built in features in Windows.

  • Cobian Backup is a free program for Windows XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Windows 7, 8 and 10.
  • EaseUS Todo Backup can be used for normal backup and to create an image file which is a copy of the entire PC.
  • O&O AutoBackup allows selected files and folders to be automatically synchronized to a selected storage device (external hard drive or memory stick), when the device connects to the computer.
  • Acronis True Image can be used to backup parts or the whole PC. The program is not free.
  • DriveImage XML is a free program that can be used to make a copy of all partitions.

Synchronization of files
This is a method that can be used to copy files between two folders or devices. There are many such programs, but we are using SyncToy in this case.

The benefits of a program is that SyncToy is very easy to use. The disadvantage is that it does not include advanced settings - such as the ability to create a schedule for synchronization.

SyncToy is a free program from Microsoft that offers an alternative way to backup files, namely synchronization between two folders.

The program is very easy to set up - you choose two folders, and then choose one of the following methods:

  • Synchronize: New and updated files are synchronized (copied) both ways. Files given new file names and are deleted.
  • Echo: New and updated files sync only from left to right folder. Files given new file names and are deleted, which occurs in the left folder, and then the right.
  • Contribute: New and updated files are synchronized from the left to right folder. No files are deleted.

Finally, you can give a unique name to the backup process. You can thus create multiple synchronizations for specific folders.
Online storage
There are quite a few services that offer online storage, which has its pros and cons. Amongst most popular are Microsoft One Drive and Google Drive. Both are free services, but they limit you to the amount of files you can store. There is an option to increase your storage space, but this comes at a price. One of the pros with online storage is that you can access your files anywhere you have access to a computer and the Internet. The downside is uploading your files can be very time-consuming, as most people do not have an upload speed faster than 1 MB per second.
Do you use Firefox web browser, Thunderbird email program or SeaMonkey? If you do you can use MozBackup to backup data from the relevant applications like bookmarks, emails and other critical data.
Restoring older NT files
This is for those who have older files lying around that were backed up with the old NT Backup program. With these files it is possible save them over to Windows 7, if you have a functioning Windows XP computer. You can do this in the following way:

Copy the following files from Windows XP to Windows 7, they are in the system32 folder under Windows XP.

  • ntbackup.exe
  • ntmsapi.dll
  • vssapi.dll

Then simply run ntbackup.exe with Windows 7. If you get an error message "The Backup Utility can not connect ...", simply ignore this and press OK. You should now be able to run NT Backup normally.
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