Free Backup Solution – The Software Is Already On Your PC
Have you backed up your PC lately? No? Do you hear that strange sound coming from your hard disk? Maybe it’s too late already! Just kidding, but it’s very unwise not to make regular backups, and there’s no reason not to do so. There’s a free backup solution in the shape of the XCOPY command that’s part of every Windows installation and can be automated.
If you’re not doing regular backups of your PC, you should sftart doing so soon. Immediately after reading this article would be a good time to start! I’ve seen many people losing months of work, invaluable private financial data or years’ worth of family pictures, simply because their hard disk chose to quit on them. Or because their laptop got stolen from their car. Or forgotten on the train – but that’s sheer stupidity; I’m sure you’d never do something like that.
The thing is that I don’t like backup tools. They’re needlessly complicated, I’m never sure if they do exactly what I’m expecting them to do, and they sometimes back up things into a single large file, requiring the same software to recover the data. What I want is a basic copy of my important files on an external backup medium, a USB hard disk for instance. That way I can easily check my backups, and I can even plug the backup disk into another computer and access my files as I would use them on my default PC.
Do you need to download and install software on your computer to make such backups? No, you don’t – the necessary free backup command is already a standard part of your Windows computer. It’s an old DOS command called XCOPY that you need to type into the DOS command box of your computer, but you can also run it automatically at the start of your session.
How does it work?
When you follow the procedure as described here, you’ll get a perfect copy of the important folders from your hard disk on your USB drive, looking just the same in Windows Explorer.
First of all, open the “Notepad” program on your PC to create a new text document. Select “Save As” and save the new file to your desktop under the name backup.bat. Or something similar, as long as the extension is .bat. A bat file is a file with commands that your computer will execute when you double click that file.
Now let’s assume, as an example, that the c: drive is the hard disk in your computer on which your files are stored. And g: is the drive letter of the external backup disk on which you want to store your backup data.
While the Notepad text file is still open on your screen, copy or type the following line into that file:
Looks frightening? It isn't, just type the little characters or copy and paste this without the quotes: "xcopy c:\folder1\*.* g:\folder1 /s /c /i /f".
Now replace “c:” and “g:” with the real drive letters as used by your system, if they’re different.
Then replace “folder1” with the real name of the first folder that you want to back up, e.g., “\My Documents\” or “\My Pictures\” or “\Files\My Pictures\”, or whatever you need.
The command would then look something like this:
xcopy c:\files\pictures\*.* g:\files\pictures /s /c /i /f
– this tells the computer to copy all files (that’s the *.*) from the source folder \files\pictures\ on disk c: to the destination folder on disk g:
Then select the options (switches) that you want, or rather, delete those that you don’t want:
/s this tells the computer to also copy subfolders of c:\files\pictures. If you want to copy only the files in c:\files\pictures without the subfolders, delete /s from the line, otherwise leave it.
/c this tells the computer to continue when an error occurs. Leave this unless you want to be notified of every single issue.
/i this tells the computer to automatically create a directory on the destination disk, if required. Do not alter this.
/f this displays full file names when copying. It helps you to see what’s happening, but you can delete it if you don’t want to see all the details.
Note: By default, the XCOPY command will copy only those files the date of which is newer than the file date on the backup disk. That way, it copies only the changed files onto your backup disk, making the process relatively fast after the initial backup.
Now create a second line with the same structure but with the folder or folder paths of the second folder that you want to include in the backup. This way, you add one line per folder until you’ve listed all the folders that you want to back up. You can add a last line with just the word “Pause”. If you do that, the window won’t close automatically after the backup, and you can check everything has gone to plan.
When finished, your text file should look something like this:
How to start a backup?
When you save this to your desktop as backup.bat, all you need to do in future is double click that backup.bat icon, and the backup will commence – provided that your USB backup disk is plugged in.
Do you want to automate the process? Click the backup.bat icon with your mouse and drag it onto the “Start” menu of your Windows, then drop it in the “Startup” folder in the Start menu. When you’ve done this, the backup will be performed automatically every time you log on to Windows.
- Free backup solution for Windows
- Can easily be configured
- Backup has identical structure to your original folder structure; no software needed to access the backup
- Only changed files are copied
- Can be automated.
When you want to change the settings afterward, right-click the backup.bat file icon on your desktop and choose “Edit” (not “Open” because then the backup would start again).
For most users, the settings as described will do just fine. If you want to tweak the settings even further, XCOPY offers lots of parameters that allow you to control the backup process. You can find more information at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/289483.
Other Clever PC Solutions on Clever & Easy
Where to buy
You already "bought" this free backup possibility it as part of your Windows OS; Microsoft thanks you for your purchase.
Approx. price: Free