Five tips for backups using Windows’ own tools

December 24, 2006 at 2:23 am Leave a comment

Any PC user who hasn’t been hiding under a rock knows the importance of making backup copies of critical system and data files. But many people may not realize that Windows XP and 2000 have several built-in backup options. These tips will help you devise a perfect Windows backup strategy.

Option No. 1: Last Good Configuration: Every time you shut down your system, Windows makes a backup of certain Registry and driver settings (specifically, those in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet). If things go awry and you can’t start Windows (or you merely have second thoughts about a new graphics driver you’ve just installed), you can restore your machine to its previous state by pressing just before Windows starts. Use the arrow keys to select Last Known Good Configuration, and press . (If you have already restarted Windows with hardware settings you don’t want, this technique won’t work because the system stored the info from those drivers in its backup when you most recently exited Windows.)

Option No. 2: Device Driver Rollback: Windows XP automatically backs up your old device drivers when you update them. You can restore a device to the way it was in happier times by reverting to this backup when a new driver causes problems. Choose Start, Run, type devmgmt.msc, and press to open Device Manager. Double-click the device whose driver you want to restore to open its Properties dialog box. Click the Driver tab and select Roll Back Driver.

Option No. 3: System Restore: A good way to back up system settings, drivers and critical system files in XP is by using System Restore, which can back up your configuration automatically on a defined schedule if you allocate sufficient storage to it. Use it to make backups (which it refers to as “restore points”) prior to making any system change (Windows creates a new restore point automatically whenever you install new software.) Choose Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. Then select Create a restore point and follow the prompts. System Restore doesn’t affect your data, nor does it work every time, so don’t count on it as your only protection.

Option No. 4: Hardware Profiles: You might find these useful when testing new hardware or device drivers. Choose Start, Run, type sysdm.cpl, and press . Click the Hardware tab and then the Hardware Profiles button. Select your current profile — or the profile that you want to back up — from the list, and click Copy. Name it something like Test Profile and press . Choose the start-up settings you prefer under ‘Hardware profiles selection’, and click OK. When you restart your PC, choose Test Profile (or whatever you named the profile). If your experiments make Windows unusable, choose your original profile at the start-up prompt; you may need to change your hardware back, too. If you like the new configuration, return to the Hardware Profiles dialog box and either delete the old default profile or make the new one your default.

Option No. 5: Windows’ Backup Utility: To back up your files manually in XP and 2000, choose Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, System Tools, Backup. Users of XP Home Edition can install the program from the Windows CD: Look for it in the valueadd\msft\ntbackup folder, right-click the Ntbackup file, and choose Install. Be forewarned, however, that the utility’s Automated System Recovery feature doesn’t work in XP Home.

Backups are simple and free with Cobian Backup

Searching for a free, easy-to-use tool that outperforms the backups in Windows XP and 2000? Look no further than Cobian Backup, which makes full, incremental, or differential backups of existing local or network drives or FTP locations. Store your backups with .zip or SQX compression, or pick from four encryption options. It has all of the features you need for basic backups, and some not-so-basic ones, too. Visit Cobian Backup for the download.

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