Windows 7 Backup

“Cloud” backup sites like mozy and carbonite are untrusted & overpriced piles of crap. There are too many layers of complexity in the process and too many places for it to fail.

I can’t stress the importance of backups and TESTING your backups.

You’ve got a couple of options:

  1. Invest some time & money into backups
  2. Don’t back anything up
  3. Don’t put digitize anything that you really care about

Step 1: Install Windows 7, preferably a version with BitLocker capabilities.  (Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions have BitLocker)

Step 2: Get another hard drive.

How big of a drive do you need? It depends. I’m using about 280 GB of space on my two drives, but my backup takes 130GB. I am sure this will grow over time. Most users will not need anything more than a 320GB Western Digital Passport. ($80 from

There are other options that are much cheaper. One is setting up drive enclosures and using normal hard drives, another is using network attached storage. The setup is up to you, but it doesn’t get much simpler than plugging in a Western Digital Passport.

Step 3: Configure Windows Backup and Restore

  • Press the Windows key on your keyboard.
  • Type the word “Backup” into the search bar.
  • Select “Backup and Restore” and press enter
  • Back up your system image and important folders (like your “Libraries” folder, anything else you value)
  • Schedule the backup for a time that you are not at your computer, but you are sure it is turned on. The most common conflict is with a Windows Update configuration. If Windows Update is installing an update or rebooting your system, Windows Backup will not work. Use common sense here.
  • Watch the Action Center – it will inform you when your backups fail. If your backup fails, you can’t restore. That’s a bad thing.

Step 4 (optional): Encrypt your backups

If someone steals your drive your data can be accessed by the thief. Encryption in Windows 7 is simple. Go to My Computer and right click “Turn on BitLocker”. Pick a good key; keep it in yet another location that is protected in case you forget your key. Turning on BitLocker takes a long time (7.5 hours for me on a beast of a PC) so be patient.

After BitLocker is turned on, right click the drive again and select “Manage BitLocker”. You want to “turn on automatic unlocking on this for this drive on this computer”. This means you don’t have to re-enter your key.

What this plan doesn’t protect against: fires and other home-destroying events.  If your data is important enough to you, use this process manually to a drive that you want to place in a fire proof safe or a safe deposit box.

Next post: How to do a restore.