Here are answers to some common questions about backing up and restoring files.
Windows provides the following backup tools:
Windows Backup allows you to make copies of data files for all people that use the computer. You can let Windows choose what to back up or you can select the individual folders, libraries, and drives that you want to back up. By default, your backups are created on a regular schedule. You can change the schedule and you can manually create a backup at any time. Once you set up Windows Backup, Windows keeps track of the files and folders that are new or modified and adds them to your backup. To set up file backup, see Back up your files.
System image backup
Windows Backup provides you with the ability to create a system image, which is an exact image of a drive. A system image includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard drive or computer ever stops working. When you restore your computer from a system image, it is a complete restoration; you can't choose individual items to restore, and all of your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced.
Although this type of backup includes your personal files, we recommend that you back up your files regularly using Windows Backup so that you can restore individual files and folders as needed. When you set up scheduled file backup, you can choose whether you want to include a system image. This system image only includes the drives required for Windows to run. You can manually create a system image if you want to include additional data drives.
Previous versions are copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of system protection. You can use previous versions to restore files or folders that you accidentally modified or deleted, or that were damaged. Depending on the type of file or folder, you can open, save to a different location, or restore a previous version. Previous versions can be helpful, but should not be considered a backup because the files get replaced by new versions and will not be available if the drive were to fail. For more information, see Previous versions of files: frequently asked questions.
System Restore helps you restore your computer's system files to an earlier point in time. It's a way to undo system changes to your computer without affecting your personal files, such as e‑mail, documents, or photos. System Restore uses a feature called system protection to regularly create and save restore points on your computer. These restore points contain
information about registry settings and other system information that Windows uses. You can also create restore points manually. For more information about System Restore, see What is System Restore?
That depends on the size of the files you back up. We recommend that you save your backup on an external hard drive that can hold at least 200 GB. Windows Backup keeps track of the files that have been added or modified since your last backup and then updates the existing backup, which saves disk space. You can manage the disk space that is used for your backups by doing the following:
Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.
Click Manage space.
If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
If you haven't set up backup, you won't see Manage space.
To delete older file backups, under Data file backup, click View backups.
You can then select the file backups that you want to delete, which will free up disk space. Deleting an entry in the list will not have an impact on other backups. If you think that you don't need a version of your files from a certain backup period, you can delete that backup. We recommend that you always keep the most recent backup.
To change the amount of space that is used by system image backups, under System image, click Change settings.
You can then choose to have Windows save older system image backups or just the most recent system image backup.
You can view the contents of your backup by opening the Restore Files wizard.
Do one of the following:
To view your files, click Restore my files.
To view all users' files, click Restore all users' files.
If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
To browse the contents of the backup, click Browse for files or Browse for folders.
When you are browsing for folders, you won't be able to see the individual files in a folder. To view individual files, use the Browse for files option.
To search the contents of the backup, click Search, type all or part of a filename, and then click Search.
You restore files using the Restore Files wizard. You can restore individual files, multiple files, or all files in a backup. You can also restore just your files or files for all people that use the computer. To restore files, see Restore files from a backup.
Yes. There are two ways that you can recover files:
If you have a backup that contains the file, you can restore the file from the backup. For more information, see Restore files from a backup.
If you don't have a backup that contains the file, you might be able to restore a previous version of the file. Windows automatically saves copies of files that are modified (including files that are deleted) with restore points; these files are called previous versions. To use previous versions to restore a file, see Recover lost or deleted files.
It depends on the type of backups you have made and what files you want to restore.
If you have a system image backup, you can restore Windows, your programs, and your files. For instructions about restoring your computer using a system image backup, see Restore your computer from a system image backup.
If you have a file backup, you can restore your files on another computer or have your computer repaired and then restore your files on it. For instructions about restoring your files, see Restore files from a backup.
Article ID: MSW700055
A file backup is a copy of a file that is stored in a separate location from the original. You can have multiple backups of a file if you want to track changes to the file.
Backing up your files helps to protect them from being permanently lost or changed in the event of accidental deletion, a worm or virus attack, or a software or hardware failure. If any of those things occur and your files are backed up, you can easily restore those files. To back up files, see Back up your files.
You should back up anything that would be difficult or impossible to replace, and regularly back up files that you change frequently. Pictures, videos, music, projects, and financial records are examples of files that you should back up.
You don't need to back up programs because you can use the original product disks to reinstall them, and programs typically take up a lot of disk space.
It depends on the number of files you create and how often you create them. If you create new files every day, you might want to back up weekly or even daily. If you occasionally create many files—for example, if you save a lot of digital photos from a birthday party or graduation, back them up right away. It's best to schedule regular, automatic backups so you don't even have to think about it. You can choose to have your files backed up daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also back up manually between automatic backups.
The ability to set up automatic backups is not included in Windows Vista Home Basic; however, Windows will periodically remind you to back up your files.
The Back Up Files wizard backs up the most common file types. The following files are not included:
Files that have been encrypted using Encrypting File System (EFS)
If you are running Windows Vista Service Pack 1, EFS encrypted files are included in backups. EFS is not included in Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium. For more information about installing Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), see Learn how to install Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1).
System files (the files that Windows needs to run)
Files stored on hard disks that are formatted using the FAT file system
Web-based e-mail that is not stored on your hard disk
Files that are in the Recycle Bin
User profile settings
That depends on the size of the files you back up. Windows keeps track of the files that have been added or modified since your last backup so you only have to update the existing backup, which saves disk space.
When you choose a location to save your backup to, the wizard searches your computer and displays a list of all locations that you can use. If the location that you want to use doesn't appear in the list, it could be due to one of the following problems:
The location is a tape drive. You can't save backups to tapes.
The location is the disk that you are trying to back up. You can't back up a disk to itself. For example, you can't back up the contents of drive E to drive E.
The location is a CD-ROM drive. You can't use a CD-ROM drive to make a backup; you must use a CD burner, also known as a CD-R or CD-RW drive.
The location is a USB flash drive. You can't save backups to a flash drive.
The location is not formatted as NTFS, FAT, or Universal Disk Format (UDF) (also called Live File System). Backups can only be saved to disks that are formatted using the NTFS, FAT, or UDF file systems. For more information, see Comparing NTFS and FAT file systems.
The location is either the system disk (the disk that Windows is installed on—also called the C drive) or the boot disk (the disk that Windows uses to start your computer—also called the startup disk).
The location is a network share on a computer running Windows XP Home Edition. You can't save backups to these shares because setting permissions on network shares and authenticating over a network are not supported by Windows XP Home Edition.
Not unless your backup fits on one disc and the disc is in the computer when the backup starts. Otherwise, schedule the backup for a time when you will be available to insert the discs. Windows will notify you later that the backup wasn’t completed; you can then insert a disc to continue the backup.
If you run out of discs during a backup, you can finish later.
Yes. The last saved version of each file is backed up, so any files you change during the backup will need to be backed up the next time. You can schedule automatic backups to occur during the night or at a time when you are not working on files. You can still do things like read e‑mail or use the Internet while a backup is in progress.
You cannot get copies of files that are on a missing disc. However, you can restore files on the backup discs previous to and after the missing one. If you don't know exactly what's on the missing disc, you can see a list of the files that you have backed up.
If you are running Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, or Windows Vista Ultimate, you can use shadow copies to recover previous versions of files directly from your hard disk, rather than from a backup.
Open Backup and Restore Center by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore Center.
Click Restore files.
You can browse or search the contents of the backup.
When you burn a copy of your files to a CD or DVD or save a copy to an external hard disk, each time you want to do a backup, you have to manually select each file and folder that you want to back up. You also have to remember to regularly back up new or modified files and folders. This can be time-consuming and tedious. When you use the Back Up Files wizard, Windows keeps track of which files and folders are new or modified. Then, when you make a new backup, you can back up all of the data on your computer or just the files that have changed since the last time you made a backup. If you set up automatic backups, Windows regularly backs up your files and folders so that you don't have to remember to do it.
No. If your computer is turned off during the scheduled backup time, automatic backups will not run. However, the next time you turn on your computer, you will be able to back up your files and resume the normal backup schedule.
If your backups are saved to CDs or DVDs, you can discard discs containing earlier backups, but make sure that you keep the most recent backup of your files. If your backups are saved to an internal or external hard disk, you can delete a backup by following these steps:
Open the location where the backup is saved.
For example, if you backed up your files to an external hard disk labeled "E," connect the external hard disk to your computer, and then open drive E.
Right-click the folder containing the backup you want to delete, and then click Delete.
Backups are saved in this format: <backup location>\<computer name>\Backup Set <year-month-day> <time>. For example, if your computer name is Computer, your backup location is E, and you backed up on April 2, 2006 at 16:32:00, that backup would be located in E:\Computer\Backup Set 2006-02-04 163200. You would right-click the folder named Backup Set 2006-02-04 163200 to delete that backup.
When you make a full backup, a backup folder is created and labeled with the date for that day. As you add updates, that date stays the same, but your backup is not out of date. The next time you make a full backup, a new backup folder is created and labeled with the date for that day, and any updates are then added to that new folder. You should not delete the current backup folder.