Windows 7 Backup and Restore
Microsoft has a long history of bundling really bad backup software with its Windows operating system. That's why many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Windows 7 Backup and Restore is actually pretty good. Here's how it works...
How to Backup Your Files With Windows 7
To access the Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center, open the Control Panel, click on System and Maintenance, then click Backup and Restore. For a shortcut, click Start and type "backup" into the search box. Click on the "Backup and Restore" link in the search results to open the Backup and Restore Center.
From there, you can create a complete system image backup and a system repair disc; configure a selective backup of critical libraries, folders, and files; or restore items from previous backups.
Most people will use an external hard drive to hold their backup copies. But you can also use a CD or DVD drive, a secondary internal drive, a network drive, or even a USB flash drive. Windows 7 Backup will not let you save a backup over the Internet or on the same drive that holds Windows.
See my article All External Hard Drives are Not Created Equal for some tips on buying an external hard drive.
Choosing What to Back Up
You can let Windows choose what to back up, or manually specify your own choices. If you let Windows choose, it will back up data files saved in libraries, on the desktop, and in the default Windows folders for all user accounts on the computer. Default folders include AppData, Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Saved Games, and Searches. If the destination drive is formatted with NTFS and is large enough, a system image will be saved along with the backup. For more information on the difference between a backup and a system image, see my Hard Drive Backup Image article.
If you choose what to back up, you can select libraries, folders, or drives to back up. However, files in Windows system folders and files identified in the registry as parts of programs will not be backed up, even if their folders are selected. Also, you cannot back up files that are in the Recycle Bin, or that reside on a drive that was formatted with the old FAT file system.
After choosing what to back up, you can schedule when to perform backups automatically, or tell Windows not to schedule automatic backups. In the latter case, you will have to start a backup manually. I strongly recommend an automatic backup. Trust me, if you think you'll remember to do it on your own, you won't.
Windows 7 Backup does incremental backups. Only files which are new or changed will be backed up. Incremental backups save time and disk space. Since several backups from different times can be saved, you can restore any of several versions of a file. My preference is to make a full backup weekly, and supplement with daily incrementals. Depending on how often you create or update files, you might get by just fine with a monthly backup and weekly incrementals.
When restoring files in Windows 7, you have several options. You can restore all of your own files; all of the files of all users on a computer; selected folders; or selected files. You can also search for files by type, such as all JPG or DOC files in a backup. Finally, you can specify a particular user whose files you want to restore, which is useful if you have multiple user accounts on your PC.
Windows 7 Backup and Restore has some limitations you won't find in commercial backup products. But for most home and small business users, the backup utilities in Windows 7 are sufficient. If you want to check out other options, see my guide to Free Backup Solutions.
If you're still not sold on the notion that you need to backup your hard drive, read the story of How I Got Hacked... And Why You MUST Have a Backup!. Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Aug 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Windows 7 Backup and Restore (Posted: 22 Aug 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved