Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tutorial -- Backing up a Computer

Target Audience -- Who this tutorial was written for
Novice Windows XP Users who need to begin performing basic data backups.

If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will soon -- data loss. Most of us keep important information on our computers: pictures of loved ones, personal or business documents, music we can't live without, etc. The most effective way to avoid data loss is through routine data backups.

Keep in mind that backups are only effective if performed frequently. I will write this tutorial with the minimalist user in mind, and side notes for those who may have more advanced hardware or software.

Required Hardware
  • Working computer with enough hard drive space to make copies of important files
Required Software
  • Bundled Windows Backup Sofware

Recommended Hardware
  • Separate hard drive

Video Tutorial

Click to download the Video Tutorial -- the text and pictures are more thorough. Video made with CamStudio, edited with VirtualDub, and compressed with two passes of the xvid codec.
video hosted on mediafire
slight trouble embedding in Firefox

Step-by-step Backup Guide
  1. Begin by deciding what files you need to backup. If you are like most users, you save all your files in one of a few standard locations: The 'My Documents' Folder, or your Desktop. Most software will automatically try to save your files to these locations, so unless you have old software or manually set the save location, you will not have to do any extra work. If you save your data in other locations, you should make a list of the places where you manually save your information before continuing.

  2. Next, open the Backup Utility by holding the 'windows' key on your keyboard and pressing the 'r' key. In the popup box, type 'ntbackup' and click 'ok'. (alternately, use the mouse to open your startmenu / all programs / accessories / system tools / - and click 'backup' )
    *if start menu shortcut doesn't exist or run option fails, follow the following link to learn how to install the software on your computer:;en-us;q302894

  3. the run box -- open with 'windows'+'r' and type ntbackup

  4. Click 'next' to continue.

  5. the backup or restore wizard

  6. Ensure that 'Back up files and settings' is selected and click 'next' to continue.

  7. click 'next' to continue

  8. Here, you are given four possible appropriately named and described choices. The safest (but most hard drive space consuming) option is to backup all information on this computer, but the novice user is likely safe to use 'my documents and settings' if they are the only user of the computer or 'everyone's docouments and settings' if they want to save the data of everyone who uses the computer. Click 'next' to continue.
    *If you had to make a list of other locations where you store files in the earlier section, you should use the last option 'Let me choose what to back up' (if you are not going to back up everything). You should pick the 'my documents' folder and the other folders where you store data.

  9. select the best option and click 'next' to continue

  10. Next you are given the option to pick a place to store your backup. The safest option is on a separate hard drive***. To determine if you have multiple hard drives in your system, see **** at the bottom of this tutorial. If you must store the backup on the same drive where the source information is located, you have to keep in mind that in the event of a hard drive failure, you will lose your data**. Click 'browse' and see what hard disks are available. You want to find drives which have the same icon as your Windows drive (C:). You can not backup to a CD or DVD directly with this software. Double-click the drive you choose, then right-click the mouse and select 'new' then 'folder'. Type 'backup' and click the 'open' button. Change the filename if you want, then click 'save'.

  11. type a name for your backup then click 'browse'

    select the drive you want to store your backup on

    click to make a new folder and name it 'my backup'

    name the file if you haven't and click 'save'

  12. You can change the 'name' for the backup here before clicking 'next' to continue if you would like.

  13. click 'next' to continue

  14. Click 'Finish' to begin the backup. There are 'advanced' options available, but they are a little beyond the scope of this tutorial.

  15. click 'finish' to start the backup

    ...the backup process

    backup complete


**Users with no separate hard drive should consider purchasing a new hard drive. If the amount of data you back up is small in size, however, you may be able to use a free on-line backup service. Sites offer 2 and even 5 gigabytes of online storage for free. This should be enough room for your backup if you don't have tons of music or many large video files. This will not be feasible with a slow internet connection, and will take a while even with a fast one. if you are interested, visit one of the following web sites:
  • Mozy (2GB free)
  • IDrive (2GB free)
  • XDrive (5GB free, requires AOL / AIM screen name)

***A 500 gigabyte external hard drive can be purchased for less that $120 at online retailers such as or for less than $150 at a store near you.

****To Find out if you have multiple hard drives installed in your computer, follow these steps:
  1. Open the Disk Management utility by holding the 'windows' key on your keyboard and pressing the 'r' key. In the popup box, type 'diskmgmt.msc' and click 'ok'. --Alternately, use the mouse and:
    • Right-click on your 'my computer' icon
    • Click on 'Manage'.
    • In the left hand column of the 'Computer Management' interface, click on 'Disk Management')

  2. The bottom of the right hand column will show the physical hard drives on your system. The Drives will be labeled 'Disk 0' and, if you have any others, 'Disk X' for the others. If you have a 'Disk 1' or higher number, look to the right on that disk and note the drive letter here* (D:, E:, etc.). This is the drive you should store your backup on.
    *If the drive icon doesn't look the same as it does for your 'Disk 0' or doesn't have any description to the right, it may be a removable drive such as a multi-card reader. This is not suitable for backing up and should be discarded.

  3. the run box -- open with 'windows'+'r' and type diskmgmt.msc

    if you have a 'disk 1' or higher with white space beside it, you may have a separate hard drive. remember the letter to the right (G:, in this example)


tutorial featured on TheHiddenWeb.Net
and originally appeared here

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