There are generally two types of backup methodologies – Image Backups and File or Folder-level backups. In part one of this article I discussed the concept of backup images and restore points. Here in Part II I will go over file and folder-level backups. In Part III of this article (coming soon) I will talk about a combined solution to backup your operating system (e.g. Windows) and your data.
1. Image Backups – see part I of this article.
2. File and folder-level Backups. File and folder level backups are backups that allow you to backup and access specific files and folders in their original state, and are exact copies – unaltered by any kind of backup software.
Let’s look at a simple example. If you take the MyDocuments folder on your hard drive and copy that folder to an external hard drive, you now have created a backup — an exact copy of your hard drive’s MyDocuments folder on your external hard drive.
The advantage of this setup is that if you save a large number of photos to your hard drive today, and accidentally delete them tomorrow, you can easily go to the external hard drive backup and only restore what you need to restore (e.g. the photos you deleted). In contrast to an image backup (at least most image backups), by using a file or folder level method you do not need to restore the entire hard drive back to a previous point in time – rather you can pick and choose what file(s) you want to restore. Remember that when you do a restore point restore, you restore every file on the computer from a previous point it time – not just the ones you wanted to restore; restore point restores do not let you “pick-and-choose” the individual files or folders you want to restore.
The disadvantage of using a folder or file level backup is that this type of backup is not designed to restore an operating system if the OS becomes corrupt. Because operating systems need to be installed and/or restored in a special way, you cannot simply copy your Windows directory and then restore it for a functioning copy of Windows.
Therefore, I strongly urge you to consider keeping constant updated backups of your data on some kind of external storage device (or even an online backup – though I don’t like online backups), and to either remember to run these backups yourself or to set Windows to schedule automatic backups as specified intervals.
The program I use for my file and folder-level backups is SyncBack. It’s a freeware program that has a paid version that adds some pretty good additional features. I will have a review of SyncBack posted in the near future.
In Part III of this article (coming soon) I will tie in all the information from Part I and Part II and discuss a system for keeping your computer reliably backed up.