Why can I not select what I want to backup in Vista?!

Hope everyone had a good holiday and maybe did some cooking out or got some yard work taken care of! OK… onto the fun stuff! I’ve had a few people come up to me and ask “How do I manually select the files to back up with the new Back Up Files backup program in Windows Vista?” After all, in the previous versions of Windows, it was up to you to select what you wanted to back up… and that’s what Microsoft decided was the problem.

Well, with the exception of your tech-savvy users, most home users and even most corporate users don’t know what to look for when backing up files. So, Microsoft decided that they were going to simplify the backup program. They would make it so you didn’t have to know where the files were located on your computer.

Take a look at this screenshot…

You can see that Microsoft now wants you to select “file types” instead of the actual files like “Pictures” or “Documents.” Great, so what the heck does that mean?!!!

It means that Microsoft knows what’s best for you 😉

Alright, that’s sort of what it means though! If you select “Pictures” for instance, the backup program will automatically back up all JPEG, PNG files, etc. It just assumes if it’s a picture, it should be backed up.

Great for the average home user to be able to select that option and not have to worry about anything more. And hey, with disk storage as cheap as it is, the backup storage shouldn’t be too big of a concern. So what if I want to select just a couple files to back up?

Unfortunately, you can’t. In what can probably be considered a major oversight to this program, there is no “advanced” mode to switch to in order to be able to select specific files you want to back up. It’s an all or nothing deal.

There are a couple of options though if you can’t accept this answer and want some other alternative…

  • Get a third party backup
  • Write a batch file or script to copy the files you want – either to be run manually or by making it a scheduled task. This could be something using the XCOPY command built into Windows. That’s all I’ll say on this one… scripting would need to be its own post!!

However, an example of a third party backup solution that works well is Backup4all (http://www.backup4all.com/). It will run you from around $20 to $45 depending on the version that you want.

Second Copy (http://www.secondcopy.com/) is another program designed to synchronize a source (your computer) and a destination (possibly an external hard drive). It runs about $30 and does an excellent job. You can setup as many profiles as you want to sync just certain directories, exclude files, etc. Highly recommended, but not designed as an all-out backup solution.

Since I mentioned Second Copy, it’s only right that I throw Allway Sync (http://www.allwaysync.com/) out there as a very good synchronization tool. There is both a free version for personal use and it does an great job as well.

However, I kind of got off the subject of file-based backup solutions other than the Back Up Files program in Vista. The synchronization utilities are great, but they’re not necessarily the answer.

And Backup4all and other backup software can be great, but they solve only a portion of your problem… you’re now backing up your files, which is fantastic, and you are able to select the specific files to be backed up (unlike Back Up Files in Vista). But what if a fire occurs and you lose both your computer and your backup drive???

You need a better solution that lets you take your backups and store them securely offsite. I talk about the who, what, where, when, and why in great depth in my book, Just the Computer Essentials (get more information at https://www.booksbyjim.com/), but I will tell you that one of the great solutions that I personally use is called Mozy.

Mozy is an offsite backup service that allows you to install a small piece of software on your computer. Mozy then takes a look every few hours to make sure that it has the latest copies of all your files through the use of incremental backups. After the initial backup, only file changes are backed up. It encrypts your files locally (using a key only you know, if desired), then it backs up the files to the Mozy storage area over a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection where the files now sit securely on the server if you ever need them.

It requires little to no maintenance beyond the initial setup and then just does its thing. If you ever need a file or files restored, you can easily log into their website and download the files you need. You decrypt the files with your key from earlier and that’s it. This solves the problem of getting backups done and of not keeping the backups in the same location as the source itself. There are plenty of these services out there (again check out Just the Computer Essentials at https://www.booksbyjim.com/ for more info), but Mozy has become my personal favorite. And the best part is that they charge less than $5 per month, regardless of the amount of data you have – an easy decision for me to know all my personal data is safe!!! If you’re interested, Mozy can be found at http://mozy.com/.

Hope this helps you out! Have a great week!!

— Jim