Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Automate your backup and get some peace of mind

You’ve all heard it; you can’t say you haven’t been told, can you? You want to back up your data. In my previous article on defragmentation, I showed you how to use Windows’ built-in Task Scheduler to solve the problem of file fragmentation using a “set it and forget it” method. Today I’m going to show you how to use basically the same tool to create a backup of your system, for use as a means of recovering from a “really bad” glitch. A back up copy of your music, pictures, and correspondence [your memories] can be a lifesaver (well…maybe not a life-saver, but how about a tears and sorrow-saver?)

Tip of the day: If you follow the steps I outline next, you will set up an initial system backup, and then, and this is the best part, Windows will each night make a backup of any changes and additions you’ve made during the day automatically.

One thing you should know before we begin is, it is pretty important that you store this back up copy some place other than your Windows drive (usually, your “c: drive”). This can be on another “partition” on your hard drive, or on a seperate hard drive — such as a “storage drive” attached to your machine with a USB cable, or a network drive. For this example, we will use an USB-attached drive identified by Windows as “e: drive”.
If you do not have another partition or attached storage available, you can use the first steps of this article to create a system backup, and then use a utility like WinZip or WinRAR to make CD (or, better, DVD)-sized subdivisions which you can burn to disk(s), after that, make a routine of monthly (or more often) backups of your My Documents folder to disk as well.

First of all, open the Windows Backup utility by clicking Start >Programs >Accessories >System tools >Backup. A window will open welcoming you to the Backup Wizard. Click next and it asks if you want to make a backup (default) or restore from a back; we’re making a backup so click next. Now we’re asked what we want to back up, and here you want the bottom option, “Let me choose what to back up”. Hit next. On the next screen, expand the My Computer on the left-hand panel, as shown below.

Look to the left-pane again and you will see that I have placed a check in the box next to Local Disk (C:) [my hard drive] and System State. That causes all the other checks to appear. That’s what we want, so now you do it — click on the plus sign next to My Computer, and then click inside the Local Disk and the System State boxes. Now click next.

Now we’re asked which location you want to store the backup copy at. Click on the browse button and navigate to the (hypothetical) (E:) drive (your actual location will vary). The default file name is acceptable, so hit next. Follow the Wizard all the way through the next few “next” buttons until you get to Finish, and you’re done with Step 1. You now have a copy of your whole computer that you can use to restore it to this moment in time should disaster strike…or should you buy a larger hard drive as a replacement, load the new drive with your settings and data.
If you are burning this to disk(s), use a zip program, in conjuction with your burning software, to get the Backup.bkp onto your CD’s or DVD’s, and you’re done for now.

Step 2: Here’s where we use launch the Backup Wizard again and this time use the Advanced Mode to schedule an automatic daily “incremental” back up. An incremental backup will look at your files and folders and make a copy only of the new, or modified files you added since the last incremental backup. In this way, you’ll always have a complete copy of your present set up ready to come to your rescue should — God forbid — you ever need it.

To begin, once again open Windows Backup, Start >Programs >Accessories >System Tools >Backup, and this time click on the blue link that says “Advanced Mode” when the Welcome window appears. Then click Next, and then click on the top button of the new Backup Wizard Advanced Mode page, the one that says “Backup Wizard (Advanced)”. Then click Next. Now choose the middle radio button, on the What to back up page, that says, “back up selected files, drives, or network data” and click Next.
Here again you want to expand My Computer and check Local Disk and System State. Click Next, and again navigate to (hypothetical) drive “e:” and click next again.

Now you’re on the “Completing” page but do not click “Finished” just yet; instead click on the Advanced button. Now you’ll see the Type of backup (By default it will say “Normal”) page — use the drop-down arrow to set it to “Incremental” and hit next. Put a check in the checkbox marked “Verify data after back up” and hit Next. Leave the radio button on “Append this data to existing backups” and hit Next.

Now we set the schedule. Select the radio button labeled “Later” and the schedule windows will activate. Give the “job” a title, like ‘daily’, and click the Set a schedule button.


Set it to Daily, and set a time that won’t interfere with your using the computer…say during your lunch hour. Click on the OK button and a “run as” window will open. Make sure the user name is an account that runs as an Administrator, and give this job a password (and ‘confirm’). Hit next. Verify, and hit Finish. Done.

I realize that this may seem like a daunting number of complicated steps, but really all you’re doing is following a wizard. Once you’ve done this process though, you can rest in the comfort of knowing that there is an up-to-date copy of all your important files and folders available to you in case of digital dire straights. If you’ve ever had to wipe a hard drive and reinstall Windows, you’d know just how valuable a backup like this can be!

[Note: XP Home users please read]

Today’s free link: I have located a Startup Manager that passes muster, which I added as an update to my “answers” article, and will repeat here in case you missed it. Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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July 2, 2007 - Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, Task Manager, tech, Vista, Windows, XP


  1. how to schedule an incremental backup with the file name conatains the system date. Eg. Incr2811, Incr2911 etc.


    Comment by Roji | November 28, 2007 | Reply

  2. I have XP with SP3 installed. I tried to follow your Backup
    text, but there is no Backup option under Start . . . System
    Tools. When I ask Help, I get info on system restoring but no mention of a Backup program that came with WIndows XP.

    What am I missing?


    Comment by Tom | January 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Tom-
      There are three Windows XP’s: the low-end, basic XP Home, the advanced XP Pro, and the Media Center Edition (Pro, with some media players/recorders added).

      XP Home does not have Backup pre-installed, but it is on the install CD and you can install it.

      You can also download and install ntbackup from the Microsoft website.


      Comment by techpaul | January 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Dear TechPaul
      I am using NTBackup to back up my whole Windows Server 2003 with terminal services, inc. system state, each night on to a USB external hard drive. I would like to name each night’s backup file .bkf with the date included in the filename instead of just appending to a file with the one name for all the backups.
      How do I do it? I can have a go at some limited script writing in a batch file or something if it’s clearly described.
      Jimmy B


      Comment by Jimmy B | February 23, 2009 | Reply

      • Jimmy B–
        I believe that if you wrote a .bat that called the command line (and set the .bat to run using Task Scheduler) that by using the proper parameters (switches) you could have each ‘job’ saved with a new name.

        The Microsoft “knowledge base” you want to look at is here (even though it says NT 4.0) for making the job(s) run; and here, for a more detailed look at the parameters.

        This sample .bat might be close to what you want to do (with the wrong path names, of course).

        ntbackup backup /f “D:<dirbackup.bkf” /j “Directory services backup”
        DS “” /d “Directory services backup
        set created %date% %time%” /v:yes /r:no /rs:no

        Hope that helps.
        addenda: I found a tutorial that may help.


        Comment by techpaul | February 23, 2009 | Reply

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