My Current PC Backup Routine

Backing up your PCs digital data is obviously important, but I suspect some people are not sure how best to go about this to make sure they have everything covered. Well I’ll go through my current backup routine here. It’s a little long but if you want to follow it, just skip to the parts that concern your own backup requirements.  You’ll also find there is a bit of duplication in this routine. I don’t think there’s any harm in having more that one backup route for your data so that you have a choice of restore options if one is unsuccessful.

As you’ll see, I backup my registry, browser profiles etc. to a folder called My Backups which I created under My Documents. The beauty of this is that whenever My Documents is backed up, the My Backups folder is automatically included. Then I backup all the data and settings to an external 1TB hard drive. I also backup the documents I am working on to the cloud daily. Hopefully I’ve covered all the bases here so that if disaster strikes and my hard drive fails suddenly and the data can’t be recovered, I’ll be able to get all my data and settings back reasonably quickly.

Preparation

First off, I delete temporary files, history, cookies, etc. using CCleaner to prevent backing up unnecessary files. If you’re going to follow my routine, create a folder called My Backups under My Documents. You may also need an online backup service although this isn’t essential. I use CX (Cloud Experience) which gives 10GB of free online space, perfect for daily backups of documents I’ve been working on.

Backup the Windows Registry

I’ve given two choices here.

1. Export the registry backup using regedit:
Click Start, Run, and type regedit
File, Export
Save as: Registry backup date.reg
Save in: C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups

2. [Updated, 29th August 2012] Or use the free program Tweaking.com – Registry Backup. Read more about it on Technibble.
Once installed, click the Settings tab and change the backup location to say C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups\Tweaking Registry Backup. Set Auto Delete Old Backups, and then create a schedule to run it say daily at a certain time, and to delete any backups older than a certain age. That way, registry backups are automatically scheduled so you don’t have to worry about it. You can restore backups from within the program.

Backup drivers

You don’t need to do this backup regularly, just when you add new hardware. I use a free program called DriverMax (version 5.5). I’ve tried a newer version and for some reason it doesn’t backup as many drivers. I prefer the GUI on version 5.5 too. You can get DriverMax 5.5 on cnet here at the moment, or Google ‘DriverMax 5.5’ if that link is no longer valid when you read this article.
Once installed, go to Start, All Programs, DriverMax and Run DriverMax (version 5.5)
Go To Driver Backup and Restore, Backup drivers, Next, Select all drivers
Exports drivers to C:\Users\XXX\Documents\My Drivers\ (doesn’t seem to matter that this is not empty)

Backup Thunderbird

If you use the Thunderbird email client, you need to backup your emails and settings. Download the free program MozBackup

MozBackup

Run MozBackup
Select Backup a profile
Select Thunderbird (as shown above)
Select profile: for me it’s default
Save in: C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups
Password protect: No
Select all details to backup
Took 3 minutes to backup my 640MB of email data
Because of the backup size I just retain the last 2 Thunderbird backups

Backup Firefox

Run MozBackup again (FavBackup will also backup Firefox as mentioned later)
Select Backup a profile
Select Firefox
Select profile: for me it’s default
Save in: C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups
Password protect: No
Select all details to backup
Took 20 s
I just retain the last 2 backups

Backup Google Chrome

Download the free program Google Chrome Backup (FavBackup will also backup Firefox as mentioned later)
Close Google Chrome Chrome
Go to C:\Program Files\Google Chrome Backup
Run gcb
Select Run Wizard
Select Backup
Backup default profile
Select Backup path C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups
Empty cache before backup

Backup Internet Explorer

FavBackup

Download the free program FavBackup. Works with IE6, 7 and 8. I should mention that FavBackup will backup other browser profiles as well – Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome and Flock, so you could use FavBackup instead of the backup solutions just mentioned for Firefox and Chrome. See which you prefer or use both for good measure.

It saves the profiles as just default.dat so I found it best to save these to subfolders in the My Backups folder

Select the Browser profiles you want to backup.

Select everything you want to backup and choose the backup location:

Save profiles in:
C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups\FavBackup\Chrome
C:\Users\XXX\My Documents\My Backups\FavBackup\Firefox

Backup PC profile and software licences

Download and run free Belarc Advisor for a complete profile of your PC hardware, installed programs and software licences. The audit will be displayed as a web page in your browser. To save it, just right click on the page and then click Save as.. and save it as a web page in your My Backups folder.

Backup data and settings to external hard drive

Now down to the main part of the backup – backing up all the data and settings to an external hard drive. There’s a myriad of free applications which will do this – SyncBack and EaseUS Todo Backup are two examples. There’s a nice example of using SyncBack here, but I’ve chosen to use Fabs AutoBackup 3 and if you follow that link, it shows all the files, folders and settings it will backup. I’ve listened to enough podcasts by PC repair techs to know this is a great solution for backing up data and settings. The greatest recommendation they come up with is that after recovering a PC for a client using FABs AutoBackup, all the settings have been restored and the client gets his PC back just as he used to have it set up. That’s good enough for me. It’s not free though, but for home use, FABs AutoBackup 3 is just 4.90 euro so that’s great value and covers 1 year of updates. It’s very simple to use:

Run FABs Autobackup 3
Tick: Backup in subfolder date-user and check through everything you want to backup.
Backup to E:\FABS Backup\ (my external hard drive is the E: drive, yours may be different).

Backup daily to the cloud

I don’t do a full backup to the cloud. Any important documents I’ve been working on during that day I backup to CX. Once installed, you just drag your files to the CX Cloud folder on your PC and they get synced to your free 10GB online account.

Backup a list of installed applications

Okay, so your hard drive has failed and you managed to restore your data and settings from your backup drive to your new hard drive, what about all your apps? Do you remember what you had installed? Well, I’ve included some ways to back up a list of your installed software and the Start menu which will help you remember what you had installed. Thanks to PC Mech for this:

Click Start, Run and type cmd
At the command prompt, type wmic
Then copy the following line (except the text in brackets) and paste it at the command prompt (right click in command prompt box and click Paste):
/output:C:\InstallListdate.txt product get name,version (insert the current date in the file name but don’t use hyphens in the date, e.g. InstallList040412.txt)
The routine has finished when the prompt wmic:root\cli> reappears
Type Exit twice to leave the command prompt and then move the file to the My Backups folder.

Backup Start-menu

Again thanks to PC Mech for this:

Click Start, Run and type cmd
Then copy the following line (except the text in brackets) and paste it at the command prompt (right click in command prompt box and click Paste):
DIR /S “%PROGRAMDATA%\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\START MENU” > C:\Startmenudate.txt (insert the current date in the file name but don’t use hyphens in the date, e.g. Startmenu040412.txt)
Type Exit to leave the command prompt and then move the file to the My Backups folder.

Create a screenshot of installed programs

I use the free program PicPick to create screenshots – it’s useful because you will need to be able to capture a scrolling window of the list of programs. Download PicPick here.

Click Start, Control Panel, Programs and Features
This will list all your installed programs
Use the Screen Capture utility of PicPick and select Scrolling Window
Move the mouse over the window you want to capture. It will have a red outline border; click the left mouse button then let go and wait patiently as it scrolls down to the bottom of the list of applications. Then it opens the list in PicPick editor.
Save the screenshot as Installed programs.jpg in the usual backup folder.

Where to store your backups

My daily document backups are in the cloud and my full data and settings backups are on my external hard drive beside my PC. If you can afford it, it’s a really good idea to purchase a second external hard drive and swap them out on a weekly basis. Always keep one off-site, say at your parents, in case of fire or theft at your own home.

How often to backup

This is really up to you but obviously the more often the better. Here’s my schedule:

New files (documents, photos, etc)
To CX (cloud): daily
To external drive: daily if possible

Registry: Scheduled to backup daily

Drivers: Not so important: backup when you install new hardware

Thunderbird: Weekly

Firefox and Chrome settings: Weekly

Full FABs backup: Weekly

PC profile and software licences: Backup when you install new software or hardware

Well I hope that gives you some ideas for a backup routine.  Thankfully, I haven’t had to restore anything yet but that will be the ultimate test of any backup routine. Can you suggest any improvements from your experience? Drop a comment below.

2 Responses

  1. Carol Says:

    Thank you so much! Have now adopted your routine. Excellent description and walk-through. Much appreciated!

    Carol

  2. techandlife Says:

    Thank you! I should mention I’ve just updated the registry backup routine having read the Technibble article I’ve mentioned in the post. Tweaking.com Registry Backup seems to be better than ERUNT, and you can schedule it and forget it.

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