Did this title catch your eye my dear fellow noobster?
Could this be the guilt niggling at you because you’ve been ignoring the gentle nudges from the universe in the form of hearing about other people’s horror stories of losing all their photos and files?
Its true! Hard drives do fail, viruses can destroy everything on your PC, and other weird unexplainable stuff can happen – I have seen it with my own two eyes!
You better read on to learn how to make sure you are covered in case the hard drive hits the proverbial fan. No one wants to lose their shh*** — ssstuff 😛
Today we are going to learn about how to backup a computer without frills or fancy software that can confuse the process. Aka – the manual way. Doing it this way may also help to give you a basic understanding of how backup software gets the job done.
Keeping It All Together
This simple method I am going to teach you requires one thing to keep the process as smooth and as uncomplicated as possible and that is to keep all your documents, photo’s etc (otherwise known as “data”) together in one main folder.
This means you won’t have to go and remember all the nooks and crannies you’ve stuffed random files into (raise your hand if you’re guilty of this – like me).
Okay so for those of you who have just gotten a brand new laptop/PC or who are starting out on a fresh installation of Windows – this step is going to be easy for you because you’re going to implement it straight off the bat and maintain it as you go. For everyone else whose files are all over the place – its time to sort out the mess and to file the important things.
Even though Windows has already made folders for you aka Pictures/Music/Documents etc – we aren’t going to use these folders – because you might have your own way of filing things that makes sense to you and you are going to set up your “filing system” according to what makes sense to YOU.
To get things all nice and neat, here is how I do it:
- Click on the start button
- Type in ‘This PC’ (without parenthesis)
- From the search results click on the “This PC” icon which will open a window displaying your hard drives and some main folders
- Now double click on the “Documents” folder
- Click on “Home” at the top and then click the “New Folder” icon
- The cursor will jump to the newly created folder and have the name highlighted in blue – which indicates that it is asking you to type a name for the folder – type in “MOST IMPORTANT DOCS” or whatever makes sense to you and press Enter on the keyboard – the point is, when we do the backup later on we are going to back up all the data in this folder. (I like to put the name in capital letters so that it stands out).
- Double click on this folder and you will have a nice empty window
- Right click on the white space and click “New” and then “Folder”
- Start typing in a category name of how you want your data organized – for example “Music” or “Docs” etc
- After typing the name, press Enter on the keyboard
- Create as many “Folder categories” as you need – remember, you’re the one who is going to need to scratch in these folders to find your stuff – so make it make sense
Moving things into categories
- Decide on what you’re going to move over first – for example all your music files
- Go to wherever all your music is saved, right click the individual files and click “cut” then go to your category folder you have created, right click on it and click “paste”
- Do this with all your files until everything is filed
- Remember to also move any files you may have saved directly onto your desktop (not that you should be indulging in this very bad habit – but more on that in another post).
Here are some videos showing the steps above:
Remember – only the stuff you actually want to keep and back up must be in these folders. Otherwise, the backup could be unnecessarily huge.
Noob Tip: To select multiple files at once within the same folder hold in “CTRL” on your keyboard and then click on all the files that you want to select (while still holding in “CTRL”). When all the ones you want to move are selected, let go of “CTRL” then right click on any of the highlighted selections and click “Cut” and go and paste them in the corresponding category that you created earlier.
You deserve a pat on the back after if you’ve completed this task – if your PC looked anything like mine I really feel for you and I am proud of you! Now the next step is to keep filing things in their categories as you use your PC.
Something To Put It On
Next you’ll need a device to copy all this information onto which will be your “backup”. I recommend you keep a separate one just for backup purposes to avoid confusion down the line.
To find out what size hard drive you’ll need
- go to the main folder you created earlier
- right click on it and click “Properties”
A window will pop up showing you the size of this folder. Note the size and whether it says “KB, MB or GB” at the end of the number.
There are lots of different makes and types of external hard drives to choose from but here’s my preference that I look for when buying:
- One that has “USB 3.0” interface – this will make the copying go a ton faster if you have a PC or Laptop that has USB 3.0 ports (the easiest way to identify them is to note the color of the USB port on your computer – the USB 3 ones are usually blue). Here’s a pic to help:
- The size – there are plenty sizes to choose from 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB (choose one that is significantly bigger than what your main folder is – the size you checked earlier on). Here’s some helpful info to remember when working with MB, GB and TB:
- Choose one that is powered by USB – no extra power cable needed – this will mean you don’t need an extra wall socket for power to be able to back up your PC or Laptop.
Here’s what an external hard drive generally looks like:
Copy and Paste – The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
Now we get to the good stuff! Sooo… your files are organized and together, you have a backup device – all that is left is to actually do the backup.
Go ahead and plug in your external hard drive. Windows will let you known that a new device has been detected by playing a little cute notification sound and it might open up a window showing the contents of your hard drive.
Brand new hard drives sometimes have optional software included that the manufacturers put on. I just delete this because it can always be downloaded from their website if ever we want to try it out.
- Go to your main folder where all your important data is filed
- Right click on this folder and click “Copy”
- Go to your external hard drive, right click and click “Paste”
- Wait for the copy process to complete
Another video to help guide you:
NB! Very Important – do not select “Paste Shortcut” – if you do this, it will not copy over the actual files. Too many times people have made backups and thought they have copies only to find out they only have shortcuts.
You can start the copy process before going to bed to let it work overnight – the backup can be quite large depending on what all you have in there. Keep in mind though that Windows sometimes hits a wobbly and needs your input – it might detect duplicates etc and then present you with options to choose from …like skipping the copying of those files or overwriting them.
Sometimes it has a problem with the file name lengths and will demand you skip that file and rename it before trying to copy it again. It will halt at these prompts and when you go look in the morning you will find that it still needs to copy a bunch of stuff. *facepalm*
Going through this bit of effort is better than having zero backups though – so don’t be lazy noobsters! Do your backups!
Set a Schedule & Do It Regularly
Now you have one backup of your important data but as you use your computer you will most likely accumulate more documents and files. Therefore, you should back up your main folder regularly. The interval depends on how important your information is to you. If you do it once a week and your hard drive dies this means you would only have lost a maximum of 1 week’s data.
To make backups after the first time:
- Go to your external hard drive
- Right click on the backup folder and click “Rename”
- Add “OLD” to the end of the name
- Press “Enter” on your keyboard
- Repeat the steps in the “Copy & Paste” section of this post
After this process has completed you will have two backups on your hard drive – the old one and the new one.
You can now delete the one you labeled “OLD” (right click on it and click “delete”). Doing it this way will help prevent confusion.
Not So Final Words
Now you known the gist of how to back up your PC. I have stuck to the basics and shown you how to only back up the files you value the most.
This does not back up system files or installed programs – the procedure for this is more advanced and I will cover this in another post if the Noob Alliance demands it 😉
In most cases all you need is your personal files and folders – Windows Operating System can always be installed again and so can your apps.
Take note that If you have specialized software installed on your PC such as Payroll or Accounting software, there is most probably a backup function within that software that you will need to learn how to use.
Has your hard drive ever failed and did you have backups? Share the love and comment down below!
And as always, if you have any questions leave them down below and I will gladly run to your rescue! <33