Have you backed up your data recently? No? Aha! :-). You’re
not alone, unfortunately. But... don’t you want to join the ranks of the
Fortunate Few who DO back up their data? Here are two very quick ways to do
I learned these
truths about backups a long time ago.
1. Data WILL be lost one day, unless you have a backup.
Not if, but when.
2. Backups don’t get made unless the process is absolutely
3. Backups don’t get made unless backups are done every
day. It’s just human nature.
So, here’s my
An External USB Hard Drive with a Warranty
I bought a one terabyte external USB
drive from TigerDirect.com. It’s better to buy an external drive from them,
instead of Best Buy, because TigerDirect offers a full warranty on their
external drives. I bought a Fantom GreenDrive, which works well, and costs
I have two shortcuts on my desktop that I click on each
night, after plugging in my USB drive. Each
shortcut leads to a program which has automated functions all set up, so that
the backup proceeds quickly and painlessly, with a minimum of clicks. Remember:
the process has to be brain-dead simple if it’s going to happen.
Backup Method #1:
Macrium Reflect: The Whole Shebang: Data and the OS
My first backup copies the entire hard drive, with all
data, programs and the Operating System (I’m running Windows 7 Professional
64-bit). This “copy” creates an image file on my usb drive that contains the
entire bootable system. This is valuable because who the heck wants to restore
the zillions of programs and application settings that one has installed so
laboriously over time?
To accomplish this backup, I use Macrium Reflect, at:
It has a free version and a paid version. It’s very fast,
and very good. I used Norton Ghost in the past, and looked at a number of other
products, but liked Macrium the best. I use the paid version, because that has
incremental backups, which are mandatory, if one is actually going to back up
You can easily browse the Macrium image file on your usb
drive, and restore files from it with a file manager, but to restore the entire
OS you need to boot from a restore CD-ROM. Macrium makes full copies as well as
very fast incremental copies. I make a full copy once a week, which takes about
three hours for 200 gigs, and make an incremental copy every night, which only
takes about twenty minutes. Macrium allows one to make “profiles” of what to
back up, so I created one for “Full backups” and one for “Incremental backups”.
After clicking on my desktop icon, it’s just two more
clicks to select the profile, and then a click on the icon to start the backup.
Backup Method #2:
Robocopy: Data Only
I also run a second backup of my primary data directory,
just to be on the safe side, and partly because my data only backup method
doesn’t place files in an image file. It simply copies the files, one by one,
so they’re very easy to pull off the usb drive, with any file manager, like
Windows Explorer (ugh -- I use "Total Commander").
For this operation, I use the free Microsoft utility
called “Robocopy”. It comes with Windows 7, here:
For Windows XP, or other versions, you can obtain it here:
Robocopy documentation is here:
Robocopy is very, very fast, and has a plethora of command
line parameters. A Windows GUI is also available, but I found that creating a
Windows batch file, with a shortcut on my desktop, achieves the mandate of “painless
and brain-dead simple”. The GUI is rather intimidating, which is ironic.
So, for your viewing pleasure, I have modified my own batch
file and placed a generic copy here:
For Windows 7 users, there’s no installation of Robocopy
necessary, since you already have it. Thus, you simply have to download the
batch file above and follow the instructions, which are very simple. In summary,
you have to:
- rename the batch file with a .bat extension
- set the batch file or its shortcut to run as
- edit the “Source” and “Target” directories (it copies
from a source dir to a target dir)
- edit two lines of batch commands (swapping the “rem”
comment commands) so that you can run an “initialization” command first, and
then continue to run the regular command after that.
These items are explained in the batch file. Once you make
those simple edits, then you just hook up your usb drive and click your batch
file shortcut on your desktop, and there you have it. A nice, safe copy of your
I have a LOT of data, so the first
backup took a little while, but the subsequent backups only take around 10-15
minutes (depending on how much new data you have). NOTE! The parameters in the
batch file above do NOT make incremental backups, in the sense that you have
multiple versions of files. Instead, it updates
the usb copy, creating an exact, updated
mirror of whatever you have in your
source directory. This means that it deletes
files in the target directory that you’ve deleted in the source directory.
Which Backup Method
is More Important?
I would say that the Data Only, Robocopy method is far
more important, because you can always reinstall your programs and/or get a new
computer. The data could be lost forever. Whether it’s a photo of Great Aunt
Matilda, or a short story that you just labored over for days or months, data is
One thing that’s worth mentioning is the location of your data. Many users keep
their data in the My Documents folder, or in Windows 7, under
C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents. I've always felt that the My Documents location was very messy, since Windows tends to "mess" with it. Thus, for a very long time, I’ve created a directory on my
machines called c:\001_content, and then made subdirectories under that, for
documents, web content, finance, art, etc. It doesn’t really matter, of course.
What does matter is that “data” is
not scattered all over your computer, but is in one central subdirectory, so that
you can easily back up everything under that directory.
So, dear reader, good luck with your backups! May you
never weep over lost data that could have been saved, if only...