Windows XP Backups

Windows XP Backups

One of the most important rules to learn when using a computer, and especially when storing data on a computer, is to always keep backups. This may sound paranoid, but occasions can happen when you lose lots of work, photos and documents, and the user is the only person to blame.

Backing up your data can protect you from the worst, in the event that your hard disk fails or files are accidentally erased. Windows XP includes a few handy tools that allow you to back up data with a few clicks of the mouse, but it is also very easy (and sometimes advisable) to backup your data manually.


Windows XP does include backup software, but for some reason it is not installed as default with a Windows XP Home Edition installation. To install the software you must do the following steps:
  • Insert your Windows XP Home Edition CD in the CD-Rom drive
  • Find the folder X:\Valueadd\msft\ntbackup (where X is your CD-Rom letter)
  • Run NTBACKUP.NSI and install the application
If you already have Windows XP Pro, you will already have a slightly more feature full version of this handy tool installed. This tool is perfectly adequate for most home users but advanced users may wish to invest in better backup software and business users may even require a hardware based solution.

To run the backup software, go to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Backup

The software will automatically start in Wizard mode, which for the purposes of this guide should be adequate for most users. As we wish to backup data, simply click Backup Files and Settings and then next.


Backup / Restore Selection

Your next menu selection depends on your situation, but the recommended options would be Everyone's documents and settings or All information on this computer. The first option would simply backup documents and settings, as the name would suggest - this would include your Internet Favorites, Home Page, E-Mails, and other system settings. The latter option would create a backup of your entire hard drive, including software and games that you may have installed. This option would take significantly more time to backup/restore, and would also require some mass storage device (i.e. a large 2nd hard drive, or a DVD Writer).


Backup Type Selection

Depending on which option suits your purpose best, you can proceed to the next page which requires you to select a location for your backup. The best option would be to backup only your documents and settings, and then choose to backup the files to your main drive.

Once the location is set, the tool proceeds to scan for all files to be included, and copies the files into a single backup file. Once this is done, you can copy this file over to a CDR disc and store it in a safe place. It would have made sense for Microsoft to include the ability to backup straight to CD, but they opted not to include this feature.


Backup Progress

Manual Backups

If you choose not to backup data with the included Backup tool, it is very easy to do this manually. There are several important folder locations that you will need to know, which will enable you to make a copy of important parts of your data:

My Documents:

This is probably the most important folder for most users, as it will contain all of the work created using many data processing applications (i.e Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and many Music/Photo files. The folder location is:

C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\My Documents\

You will need to backup all files in this folder to make sure no data is lost.


The most common e-mail clients are Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, both of which are easy to backup data from. The location of the data files for Microsoft Outlook is in the following folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\

If you use Outlook Express, the files are located in:

C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express\

All of the files in the respective folder should be backed up (usually *.PST and *.DBX)

To restore all of these items, you simply need to copy your backup files over the existing files to revert to the backed up version.

There are a few other folders which may prove useful for more advanced backups:

Favorites : C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Favorites\
Desktop : C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Desktop\
Start Menu : C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Start Menu\


Keeping regular backups is an important part of keeping your data safe and protected. The Backup tool included with Windows is simple, but can perform mainly automated backup tacks, which can be of great help to users.

If you have a CD Writer, stick with this as the method of backup. Copy your backup file over to a CDRW and re-create this every week, to make sure everything is up to date. If you own a DVD writer, an occasional full system backup would be ideal, as this should fit on a few DVDs and would aid in the recovery of a total system failure.
Ian Cunningham
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