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Using Windows Backup and Restore in Windows 7

These notes are specific to Windows 7 and are probably close for Windows Vista.  Windows 8.1 uses a different system.  Click HERE for details.  I have not used it.  For Windows 10 click HERE.

A summary video of windows 7 backup is here:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Back-up-your-files

 Some important caveats:

1) The most important thing to note is  that the default backup settings make assumptions about what files should be backed up.  It does a good job with everything in your C disk My Documents folder and your e-mail but it does not back up everything in the folder one level below My Documents.  The folder probably has a name based on the name your computer has, in my case it is called "Bill". Different computers are set up differently.  Mine has folders like My photos and My Music there that are backed up fine but others like My Webs were not so I would not use that directory to store anything of importance other than My Music, My Pictures and similar files.  In particular do not put anything in there that was not already put there by Windows.
2) For reasons only known to Microsoft, this utility only works with backups made with more recent versions of Windows, I know longer remember how far back the current software supports but the bottom line is this is not a good way to back your files up for ever.  It does go back 2 or 3 versions of windows.
3)  The default assumes you only need to back up your data files on the C: drive. If you have data you want to back up on another drive, as is typically the case if you have a SSD (Solid State Device) for your C: drive, you will need to modify the defaults.  It does backup, Desktop, Downloads, Music and Pictures but not Videos. In particular it does not back up My Documents.

To force it to also backup you data on the D: drive, Schedule>Change Settings>Select what to backup>What files do you want to backup>Let me choose. The default is called Data Files but this is mostly just the data files on the C: drive.  You will need to also check the D drive.  It looks like the only option is all of the D: drive which wastes space but the non-data files on the drive should not change much so it will not continually add more.

To Launch Windows Backup:

Start then in the “Search programs and files” box, type “backup” then click on “Backup and Restore” at the top of the popup windows.

Here you can set up a backup schedule, backup files or restore files.


To Back up Files:

It is good to begin by backing up everything by creating a system image.  You will see an option to do that along the left hand side.  This image includes everything needed to restore your programs and files if the hard disk is damaged or hopelessly corrupted.  This back up will of course faithfully resurrect everything the way it was including any viruses that were present and will of course only have the updates that were installed at the time.  Incremental updates do not back these sorts of things.  They almost certainly do not back up any new programs you install either.

You will also have the opportunity to make a rescue disk that can be useful if your computer gets messed up.

To use it:
 Insert the system repair disc into your CD or DVD drive.
2) Restart your computer using the computer's power button.
3) If prompted, press any key to start the computer from the system repair disc. ...
4) Choose your language settings, and then click Next.
5) Select a recovery option, and then click Next.

Next you will want to set up your default backup settings by clicking on "Options" the "Check backup settings"
The more often you schedule a backup, the quicker your backup disk fills up but is not as bad as that sounds.  It only backs up the files that have changed so the more often you back up files, the less files will have a chance to change.  I back up daily as I decided that loosing one day's work is an acceptable risk.
Next make your first backup run.  It will take a very long time, a number of hours so you may want to set it to work when you are done for the day although you can still use your computer while the backup is in operation.  You can not restore individual files from the system image so you are not really covered until you do the first backup.

Restoring Files:

To restore an individual file,

Click on “Restore my files”

If you do not want the latest version, then click on "Choose another date"

Then you can choose a date, then search for files or folders to restore individual files or folders

When you have navigated to the file or folder, click on “Add File” or “Add Folder”, you can then select more files or folders if you want

When done selecting, Check the box next to the files you want and select “Next” at the bottom right of the box.

It  will then ask if you want it restored to the original spot or a new one.  Keep in mind that if you restore it to the original spot it may overwrite the file you have there now.  That may or may not be a problem.

Then Click Restore then End or Exit.


Some General notes:

1) Even though it only backs up the changed files, when you do a restore and choose a backup date, you will see all the files that were on the computer at that date, not just the ones backed up on that date.

2)  What size backup hard drive do I need?  Mine is a 2 Terabyte (2,000 GB) internal hard drive.  Lots of people use external drives.  That is about 10 times the size of all the material on my hard disk and it fills up in around a year with daily backups.  When it is full, you can use some options to delete older copies of files or what I usually do is erase the backup hard disk, create a new system image and start the backup process over again.  This means that I have no backup for a short while and I will never be able to restore files to an earlier version.  If you were really paranoid, you could use 2 external backup hard disks swapping them when they get full so you only erase the older one when you need to use it again.


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Rev.5/11/15 mew