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What is the easiest way to back up my documents on a daily basis



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Hi Paula, and thanks for using Ask the Forty Pound Head!

The easy solution to this problem would be just to send you out to your favorite software vendor, and purchase a ready-made backup solution. There are several very good packages out there, which will more than fit the bill. One that I can recommend is Karen's Replicator. Karen has been writing software for years. The really cool part is that she writes great software, then gives it away.

But what kind of geek would I be if I didn't give you a scripted solution? Many people don't realize that with a few "old school" tricks, Windows has the ability to perform backups full and incremental backups. Couple this with the built in task scheduler, and you can enjoy fully automated, daily backups.

I am going to outline here a solution which utilizes and external hard drive, connected via USB, firewire, or even eSATA. Also, I'll be using Windows XP, so if you are using Vista, you may have to adjust certain paths.

On my computer, the external drive is labeled as X: in My Computer. If your external drive is labeled something else, then replace the X: with the drive letter of your drive.

First, let's create the target for our backups.

To do this, open My Computer, and double click the drive you want to backup your documents to. In my case, it is the X: drive.

Next, click File, then New Folder. Name the folder "Backup". Double click the Backup folder, then create another folder called "My Documents"

Great! Now that chore is done, we can proceed to creating the short little batch file that will be our backup "engine".

Click Start, then Run. In the run box, type the letters "CMD", without the quotes, then click OK.

This will open a command window. This is the "old school" interface, which us old geezers used before there were such things as Windows.

In the command window, type the following two lines, pressing the enter key at the end of each line. The second line is a bit long, and it may "wrap around". A better idea might be to copy these two lines to your clipboard, then paste them into the command window.

Also, be sure and replace the with your username.

Copy CON MyBackup.Bat
xcopy "C:\Documents and Settings\\My Documents" "X:\Backup\My Documents" /S /D /I /Y /C /R /H /E /Q

After those two lines are entered, press the F6 key, and press Enter. After you press F6, you'll see ^Z on your screen. Don't worry! This is the End of Input marker, which tells the command window that we are done inputting, and to write the file to disk.

At this point, make sure and note the location of the file that was just created. It'll be apparent in the command window, and will look something like this:

C:\Documents and Settings\FortyPoundHead>

Now, lets schedule this job to run.

To do this, open your control panel by clicking Start, Control Panel. Look for an icon called Scheduled Tasks. If you do not see this icon, you may have to click the "Switch to Classic View" link on the left side of the control panel. Once you are in classic view, you should be able to see the Scheduled Tasks icon.

Once the task scheduler is open, you should see at least one icon, labeled "Add Scheduled Task". Double click it. The scheduler wizard will open.

At the first screen, click Next. Now you'll be asked what program you want to run. The window shows a list of already registered programs which you can schedule. But you'll want to click the Browse button to tell Windows about your program. So click Browse.

The next window that pops up will allow you to browse your hard disk drive for the program you created above. In the example above, the file was saved in C:\Documents and Settings\FortyPoundHead, so we'll browse to it by double clicking on Documents and Settings, then FortyPoundHead.

The MyBackup.Bat file should be present in the window now. Double click it to select it.

Next, the scheduler will ask you what you want to call the job, with a suggestion already filled in. You can call it Paula's Backup, or whatever you want. Below, you'll see a list of selections of when you want the job to run. If you want to utilize daily, click the circle next to Daily, then click Next.

Now, scheduler needs to know at what time of day it should run. Adjust the time accordingly. Note that your computer needs to be on at the specified time, or that backup will not run.

Click Next, and scheduler will ask you what username this should run under. Enter the username and password of an Administrative account for this computer, then click next.

Finally, click Finish.

Great! All done. When the specified time rolls around, your computer will begin copying your files to the specified device.

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