What to Backup?


  Solution: What Files Should I Backup?

Here's a list that might come in handy when you're trying to move files from one system to another, or when you  just want to "be safe".  I'll also discuss some methods for backing up files (tape, zip, floppy).

OK, obviously the best solution is to backup all your files on your hard drive(s) to a tape drive using a commercial backup utility (like Seagate's Backup Exec).  But, not everyone has the time, space or money for tape drives and tapes. 

However, you might have a ZIP disk or a hard drive with space on which you can make a backup folder.  Personally, I recommend a ZIP drive for every system.  It's as easy as using a floppy disk, and you can store hundreds of megabytes of data.  If you're considering a ZIP drive as part of a backup scheme, you should consider the internal IDE version over the external parallel version.  The IDE model is much faster. 

Worst case, you can even use your diskette drive and a shareware utility like Winzip to add files to a spanned disk backup.  This is probably the slowest and most painful way backup files.  Save up for a ZIP drive or writeable CD!

Another good recovery method is to use Norton Ghost to make a full image of an entire disk partition!  This is a great, inexpensive product which can make an exact snapshot of your entire system and place it in one large compressed file.  For best results, you should have a second hard drive (or partition) to save your ghost save file to. There are programs like Partition Magic that can split your existing drive into multiple partitions.   It is also possible to create a network boot disk, and save the ghost image across the network to a shared folder, but that's too complicated for the average user.

  Here's a good list of files and information to consider:
  • My Documents folder, and any other folder that you've designated as a typical save location.
  • Check programs that have their own "save" location.  For example greeting card programs, video or editing software, publishing programs, and other creation applications have their own folder in which to save files or configuration data.
  • Write down important system settings that you can't easily save or find a specific file with all the information.  For example, you dialup network entries and phone numbers, and your network card settings.  Also be sure to record any phone numbers and accounts for any programs you use that connect and log on (for example, Online Banking).
  • Make a copy of your Windows\favorite folders with all your Browser favorites or Bookmarks.
  • Make a copy of the data files from your tax or financial programs.
  • Phone numbers and/or addresses from your FAX program, etc.  These data files usually aren't stored in the My Documents folder!
  • Save game files and configuration files.  Save games are typically stored inside the program directory in which the game was installed.
  • Save your .PST and .PAB files from Outlook (or the comparable data files from your other e-mail program).
  • Record the phone numbers and/or addresses from your  communication programs (dialers, FAX programs, etc.)   These data files usually aren't stored in the My Documents folder!  If you can't find all the files for you address/phone books, and coversheets, at least go in and write them down.
  • If you keep your latest downloads or latest drivers in a folder, consider making a backup of that as well.
  Go into each of your favorite or important programs and games.  Think about how and where you you save files, options and settings for that application.  If you can't find an obvious file to backup, then you should consider writing the information down.
  You might also consider the Norton Rescue program (part of the Norton Utilities -- it comes as part of Norton SystemWorks).  This rescue program makes a bootable environment and backs up many of the important or critical system files on your PC.
Always keep a Windows boot disk (Startup Disk) with your CD-ROM driver working when booted from the diskette.  Be sure to test  it by booting off the startup disk and making sure you can access your CD-ROM drive.



Copyright 1995-2005, Keith Turbyfill.  All rights reserved.