Backup Early, Backup Often

Jonny started searching and realized that he already has a backup program for Windows XP. Now, he asks, what are all these options and what should I do with them?

Windows XP's Backup program, Backup Type options

Backing up your data files is important, and for some people so is saving space. The backup program here is giving you the option to do both. What Microsoft’s calling a normal backup here is more often referred to by computer professionals as a full backup – it’s going to copy everything. It’s also going to mark those files as having been backed up. That mark is important, and is cleared any time that a file is changed. That way, if you want to save space on your next backup, you can choose incremental. An incremental backup only copies the files that have been changed.

A standard strategy for backup, then, is to perform a full backup once each month and an incremental each week, onto different media. That way, if you need to restore, you start with the full back and then add on each of the remaining weeks. Of course, you’d be best served by having two complete sets of media and alternating them: Month1 full, Month1 Week2 incremental, Month1 Week3 incremental, Month1 Week4 incremental, then Month2 full, Month2 Week2 incremental, Month2 Week3 incremental, Month2 Week4 incremental. Then start the cycle all over again. That way you’ve always got a complete set, though perhaps a little old, in the drawer. And if you’re especially careful, the drawer is in a different location just in case.

Backup gives you two other options as well, not used by as many people but good for the making extra copies. A copy backs up everything, but doesn’t mark them as having been backed up. Differential just copies the changed files, as incremental does, but doesn’t mark them.

So, XP users, you’ve got a backup program and it gives you plenty of options. Now it’s up to you to keep your data safe. Next week we’ll talk about what data you’ll want not to forget.