How to
Backup Computer Files

Imagine the feeling of having lost all your computer data because you did not backup computer files from your hard drive! You have been organizing computer files into e document storage facilities, you learnt how to organize photos into folders – and now you have lost them all!

Trust me, I know the feeling! Seven years or so ago my laptop was stolen.

No problem, I thought!

After all I had backed up all my data files onto several compact disks (CD) the previous week and my laptop was insured. I got my new laptop loaded with a new release of Windows operating system and set about loading all my programs. Then I took all the compact disks with my backed up data files and proceeded to run the “Restore” software that was shipped with the computer but the new computer did not recognize the format in which the backup on the old laptop was done.


After many unsuccessful tries at restoring my data, I took the disks to a data recovery company to see if they could recover my data. A very expensive exercise and they only managed to recover about 80% of my data.

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♥ Tip ♥

If there are any basic computer terms mentioned on this page that you are not familiar with, click over the icon on the right to open up a new page explaining all computer terms used on this site.

It took a few weeks until I realised how much of the data was actually lost and several more weeks to finally get most of the folders sorted out.

Since then I don’t use backup software.

Instead when I say backup computer files, I actually mean; copy all your folders onto an external hard drive regularly. This way no matter what happens I have my files on disk and I do not need to worry about compatibility issues with backup and restore software.

So, this is how I do it!

Hardware Needed

In my opinion this is what you need to provide you with peace of mind.


An external hard drive which you will connects to one of your universal serial bus (USB 3 or USB 2) ports. I have found that you do not need anything larger than 1 Terabyte (TB) storage capacity like this one. This will be stored in a fire proof safe or similar location away from your computer or laptop.


A USB flash drive with a storage capacity of 16 Gigabyte (GiB).This is a portable data storage device that you can attach to your key ring. You can backup computer files to this drive temporarily. I call this Flash Drive “TEMP”.


If you travel regularly for business, get an 8 Gigabyte USB flash drive to carry in your pocket during your trip. Call it “TRAVEL” and get it in a different color from the one in 2 above. This flash drive is to enable you to backup computer files that you work on during your trip. You should also organize photos that you take during your travels onto this drive.

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You only need to do a computer file backup of the folders where you have stored your own files.

If you have followed my suggestions you should have all your e Documents stored in the folders which you created, as depicted on the right.

If you missed this step and wish to set up your folders this way got to:

- Organizing Computer Files into Folders (Office e-Files) for all business related folders

- How to Organize Computer Files into Folders (Private e-Files) for all your personal files.

Don’t worry about backing up any program files.

These can be installed from the original disks or on-line onto the new computer or onto the new formatted drive (if the loss was as a result from a hard drive crash).

How Often Should I Backup Computer Files?

There is no hard and fast rule.

It depends on how often do you use your computer, how many files you save on a daily basis and how much e-mail you receive and send daily?

Here is what I do:

- I perform a full backup once a week onto my external hard drive.

- If I have been working all day on a project and have produced a considerable amount of saved files, I do a backup onto my “TEMP” flash drive of just the specific folders that I have been working on.

- When I am travelling with my laptop, I backup computer files on the evening before my departure. While travelling I backup onto my “TRAVEL” flash drive of all folders containing files that I have been working on.

Copying Folders to the External Hard Drive

So let’s backup our Private and Office folders.

♥ Tip ♥

Before you do a backup make sure that you have copied your e Mails from your e Mail client folders into your "e Mail Temp" folders as I explained in Personalize Your Best eMail Client. You will find the link to this page in Site Content.


Open up your Windows Explorer window for your external hard drive. I have named the root of my external hard drive “BACKUP”. Maximize the window so that it takes up your whole screen.


Create a folder as a branch of the main trunk (in my case “BACKUP”) and call it “Tony Backup”. This identifies that this backup is from my laptop. I also do my wife’s laptop backup onto this drive.


Next create a sub-branch of “Tony Backup” and name it with today’s date (the date on which you are doing the backup). Use the format “YYYYMMDD”. In my example I will name it “20111031” as I am writing this page on the 31st of October 2011.

Click to select the folder “20111031” in the left folder tree. The right area of the window should indicate “This folder is empty”.


Open up a second window in your Windows Explorer showing your main folder tree trunk. In my example I have called this “YOU”. Restore Down this window so that it fits within your external drive window. You should be able to see your external drive “BACKUP” window behind the restored down main folder “YOU” window.


Click to select the folder “YOU” on the left hand tree. In the right hand window, among others, you will see the folders that you created starting with the words “Office” and “Private”. These are the only folders that you need to backup, unless you have saved files to other folders in your computer.


In the right window select all “Office” and “Private” folders. You do this by clicking on the first one. Then while keeping the “Ctrl” down click on the other folders that you wish to select. This will highlight all the folders that you wish to backup. Once you have highlighted all the folders release the “Ctrl” and mouse.


Next place the mouse pointer on any highlighted folder and right click. Select copy.`

See below.

Backup Computer Files, How to be Organized, Tony Bastos

8.Place the mouse anywhere in the empty maximized folder. Right click and select paste. Your folders will be copied into “20111031”.

♥ Tip ♥ You may have saved some private files into your “Documents” folder. Copy this folder across to “20111031” as well.

After you perform your next weekly backup to your external hard drive, delete the folder “20111031”.

Copying Folders to USB Flash Drive

To backup computer files and folders to your “TEMP” or “TRAVEL” flash drives, you follow the same procedure as you did above.

Copying folders and files as I described above takes a little more effort and time that software backup, but the extra couple of minutes are really worthwhile. Naturally like any insurance, you only find this out, after a tragedy, as I did.

Get into the habit of performing your weekly backup.

♥ Tip ♥ If there is some terminology that you are not familiar with, go to my section on "Basic Computer Terms".

This completes the section on how to backup computer files. Click on the link below to return to Basic Computer Training.

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