Build a complete Windows 7 safety net

Fred langa By Fred Langa

Every copy of Windows 7 includes a complete suite of backup tools. The suite contains everything you need to back up (and restore) your entire system.

What’s more, after you’ve set up your initial backup, future backups happen automatically.

In fact, Windows 7 makes it so easy to set up fully automated backups, it’s almost nutty not to do it.

But (you knew there had to be one) Windows 7’s backup tools are based on a different philosophy than previous versions of Windows and so do not operate exactly as you might expect. Until you understand what Microsoft is trying to do, the differences can be confusing.

Win7’s backup system has three major parts

The first component is designed to protect a system’s user data — and nothing else. User data includes each user’s locally stored library files plus the contents of the user folders and subfolders, such as AppData, Contacts, Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Music, Pictures, Saved Games, Searches, and Videos.

Those folders contain a system’s most valuable and rapidly changing data files — after all, your user files include all your documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, and so on. These are the files that need the most careful and frequent backups. As a result, the Windows 7 backup puts most of its emphasis on automatically protecting these files.

But the Windows 7 primary backup applet does not — repeat, does not — back up system folders or program files, even if you specifically select them or if they’re inside a folder that’s otherwise being backed up. The user-data backup process specifically excludes program files.

This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.

Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.

= Paid content

All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-05-12:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.