WHAT TO BACKUP AND WHAT NOT – BASIC GUIDE

I receive tons of emails on weekly basis, asking about windows crashing, hanging problems, blue screen errors and hard disk failure related issues. People who ask such questions are worried more about their data than Windows, because in worst cases we can re-install Windows in the PC but what about the Data / Information saved in it? Before such problem hits your PC, let us see where we can backup our data, what options do we have and what information should be backed up?.

 

Taking backup of your PC Intelligently is not as easy as you think. Most of the people take full backups of their computers (including all drives), which not only consumes unnecessary space on the device (where you are dumping your data) but also confuses you at the time when you need to restore it back on to your PC. However, taking the full backups will give you a piece of mind that you have the backup of everything.
My Recommendation

You just dont need to backup each and every file/folder available in your computer. There are many useless folders in your computers and are not required to be backed-up. Although External drives are cheap now a days, still its recommended to backup only important files / folders because it will also help you in the restoring process.
Basic Backup Rule / Concept

Many people don’t understand the basic concept of BACKUP. Your Data Is Not Safe If It Doesn’t Exist At Two Places. Considering that, there are two things which you should be aware of:

 

  1. Once you take the Backup of your files / folders, it doesn’t mean that you should delete your original files from your computer. Many people do this silly thing thinking that now since they have a backup of their data, they can delete the original files from the computer to save the disk space. WHICH IS TOTALLY WRONG

 

  1. The Backup files / folders should not be touched at any cost. After taking the backup, just leave the backup data and don’t use it for any purpose. I have seen many people messing with their backup data and later find them in difficult position when they need to restore the original files.

Where To Store Backup Data

  1. Buy an external hard disk which connects with your computer via USB and have almost double the space as compared to your Computer’s Hard Disk. Let say if your computer’s built-in hard disk is 500GB, then you should buy an external hard disk of 1 TB space or more.

 

  1. If for any reason you cannot buy an external hard disk, then take the backup of your Data on a separate partition in your computer, which although is not recommended but at least something is better than nothing. Let say you have C , D and E drives in your computer, I will then recommend to backup your crucial information on E Drive and nothing else on that drive should exist at all.

 

  1. You can store the backup of your Important files and folders Online as well. I will recommend to store your Documents at Google Drive, Pictures and Other stuff at Dropbox. There are few excellent online services available which stores the backup of your PCs online, I will explain you about those in my future article.

Should I Backup Individual Files Or Complete System Backup

To most of you, I will recommend to take the backup of your important files and folders individually. Why? let’s see

1. Taking the Image of the complete computer seems to be easy, but require some skills to restore it back (when required). Secondly, you need a big external hard disk to keep the complete copy of your full hard disk.

2. Taking the backup of individual files / folders is easy for everyone, because all of us know which files / folders are important for us and need a back up.

What To Backup?

Since taking the backup of Individual files / folders is easy, still you need to know the locations of other important data as well which needs to be backed up. Find below few tips which you should follow in order to take the backup intelligently and making sure that you don’t miss anything.

1. The most important folder in Windows Operating system is the User Profile folder. It contains My Documents folder, Desktop items, My Pictures, Music, Downloads, Browser favorites / bookmarks, Received files, Chrome/Firefox extensions/add-ons, Ms-Outlook saved Emails  (*.pst format), Contacts and Address Book. Beside taking the individual backup of all these folders, simply copy the whole User Profile folder and that’s it.

 
The location of User Profile folders in Win Xp is : C:\Documents and Settings\  and the location of User Profile folders in Win Vista and 7 is : C:\Users\ . If multiple users with different login names are using your computer, than you would be having multiple user profile folders and Its important to take the backup of all.

Note: Before taking the backup of user profile folder, I will recommend to use CCleaner or Advance System Care software in order to clean the junk files from your computer, because the Temp folder also resides inside the User Profile folder.

2. If you have installed many custom fonts in your computer, then do take the backup of Windows Font folder, which you can find it at : C:\Windows\Font

3. If you have multiple drives (C,D,E etc) and your data is scattered all over, I will recommend you to make one folder in each drive and name it as Backup or Important Files (or whatever you like). After that, put all the important / necessary files/folders of that particular drive in the folder and leave out all the other junk / unnecessary files as it is. Now whenever you have to take the backup, you can easily take it only of that particular folder, without looking at other files/folders in that drive.

4. Also make a search in your computer for these files extension and make sure that you have taken the backup of all those files as well : Pictures (JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG), Videos (AVI, MPG, 3GP, mkv etc), Audio (MP3, WAV, etc), Documents (DOC, XLS, DOCX, XLSX, PPT, etc).

5. Make sure you also have a backup of all your PC drivers, which is required when you re-install a fresh copy of Windows.

6. For Gamers, don’t forget to take the backup of all of your saved games. The location of saved game files can be found at the location where you have installed it.

What Not To Backup?

1. C:\Windows This and all of its subfolders contains the files which are required by the windows operating system to operate. It doesnt contain any of your personal files/folders.

Note: As already said above, if you have installed custom fonts in your PC, then its folder is located under Windows folder.

2. C:\Program Files This folder contains the files of those softwares / applications which are installed in your computer.

Note: Some softwares do keep the copy of databases or saved files under their own installed location folder. If that’s the case, then you need to take the backup of that software folder as well.

Last Words

Following above tips will make your backup process smooth and easy. It will also help you to easily restore your files from the backup data, incase anything goes wrong. You can do anything you want but doing the things in a correct way will help you in a long run.