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Windows 7 - How to Back Up Your Files

In previous versions of Windows, the provided backup utilities were relatively limited and many people ended up using third-party utilities, some of which cost a considerable amount of money. Windows 7, however, provides a fully featured backup and restore tool which is more than adequate for most users for keeping data safe.

Things can go wrong, such as power cuts or malware attacks, which can damage your data. In the worst case scenario, you may find yourself with a completely unworkable computer having lost all of your data. Using Windows Backup and Restore will help guard against this by giving you everything that you need to secure all of the data on your hard drive. In the event of a system failure, it will both keep your data safe and make it much easier and quicker to recover your system.

You should ideally have a second hard drive for backing up your data and making a full shadow copy of the primary disk. You can also back up your data on a separate partition, but this is not ideal since the partition is on the same physical hard disk. If this disk fails, you can lose the backup. Alternatively, you can back up your disk to a large enough external drive or a network location.

1 - Making a Backup
To back up your primary hard drive, open "Computer" from the start menu. Right-click on the drive in Windows Explorer (normally "C" drive) and click "Properties." Under the "Tools" tab of the properties window, click "Back up now." If you want to use an external drive for your backup, make sure that it's connected.
When the Backup and Restore control panel loads up, click "Set up backup" to the right and wait a few moments as Windows searches for suitable back up destinations connected to your computer. Choose your backup drive and click "Next."
You can either let Windows choose what to back up or you can choose for yourself. If you let Windows choose, then your program files and various other files will not be backed up, although all of your personal files and folders will be. If you choose yourself, you'll be able to see a list of items to back up in the next stage of the wizard. This is recommended if you want to have more control over the process and know exactly what is going to be copied. If you want to back up your Windows system files, ensure that the box "Include a system image of drives: (C:)" is checked. Click "Next" when you're ready.
Review the settings on the next page of the wizard and ensure that everything that you need to back up is selected. Click "Save settings and run backup" when you're ready.
You can then configure Windows to automatically update the backup at specified times. If you want to use this feature, check the box "Run backup on a schedule" and choose the times and dates that you want this to be carried out. When the process starts up automatically, it will not take as long as the first time, since it will only update the backup rather than completely rewriting all of the data. Click "OK" when you are ready to continue.
You will be returned to the control panel where you can now review the progress of the backup. You can cancel the process at any time by clicking the button "View Details" and clicking "Stop backup."
When you navigate to your backup drive in Windows Explorer, you'll see a backup file containing all of your data and a folder called "WindowsImageBackup" if you made a system image as well.
2 - Restoring Your Files
To restore files, open the Backup and Restore control panel again and click on the button "Restore my files." Ensure that the backup drive is connected to your computer.
On the next page, you will see a list of folders and files contained in the backup. Browse to the file or folder that you want to restore and specify a location (or the original location) where you want the files to be copied to. Click "Restore" when ready. You will see a progress bar as your files are restored.


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