Computer File Backup
Personal Files

  • Backups include your website, a topic for another discussion. Anything can fail; consider E. J. Smith.
  • Your Desktop has 3 kinds of files:
    • Operating System Files - Windows, HP-UX or VAX VMS, etc. Most of us have Windows and an install CD. Backing up such files is beyond the scope of this page.
    • Application Files - WordPerfect, MSWord, spreadsheet, etc. Like your OS, they came with an Install CD. Backing up such files is beyond the scope of this page.
    • Personal files, aka user files.
      • They did NOT come with a CD. You are 100% on your own.
      • Photos, taxes, letters to the editor, family stuff, etc.
      • The future of your hard drive is an unknown.
  • Making backups is effective in an organized realm.
    • Many folks have user files scattered all over the place. Alas, this is backup hostile.
    • Backups are typically done one folder and below at a time. If your photos are in one folder tree branch, and taxes a different tree branch, that is 2 backup steps.
    • A better approach is to organize personal files to be in one folder. Call it something like your name, especially if your computer has > 1 user. Then, create meaningful subfolder names, such as photos, taxes, etc.
    • That framework creates a destination for your existing personal files. This is a NON-trivial task. OTOH, when your hard drive permanently crashes, and your backup CD/DVDs have all your photos, taxes and contact lists, you'll realize an info loss of the 2-4 weeks since your last backup is preferable to a loss of years.
      • Don't use the standard locations of My Documents, My Pictures, etc. Older OS's like Win 98 didn't put system or application files in those folders. Newer OS's sometimes do that.
    • After a lot of tedium one has all personal files under one folder.
    • The final step is to create a *.zip file of that folder, than copy it to CD/DVD.
      • Go to the folder just above your personal file folder. Use the Right Mouse Button( RMB) to bring up the "New" option. Choose "New" to create a compressed File. Its size will be about a kB, as this new item has no content. Copy( i.e. don't move) your personal file folder into the new file. The result file is one zip file containing all the information of all the files in your personal folder. It also has all filenames, folder names and their time stamps.
      • Copy the *.zip file[s] to a CD/DVD.This should be done at least monthly, making at least 2 copies, Keep the media elsewhere. Fires and theft happen; one approach is a bank safe deposit box, about $70/year.
      • There is no need to keep the created *.zip files on the hard drive.
  • Personal Windows Files
    • These files are widely scattered, and can't be moved. They include MSIE favorites, and mail files from Outlook, Outlook Express and Thunderbird, et al.
      • A lot of computer personalizing is the Favorites' list. To reach their location, go to the Documents and Settings folder, then the folder with your user ID. The Favorites' icon will have an asterisk.
      • Mail program files require some searching. Outlook files have an extension of pst, so one can search for *.pst files. Similarly, Outlook Express users can search for *.dbx files. Be aware that these extensions may show up elsewhere. The filenames will be a good clue; look for outlook, Inbox, Outbox, etc. You'll have one *.zip for each mail program. Unless your mail programs are reinstalled, their locations on the hard drive won't change. Those locations should be in one's notes files.
      • Again, after copying the *.zip files to CD/DVD, there is no need to keep those files on the hard drive.

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