Most of us are aware of the importance of backups, yet few actually act on that knowledge. However, when the time comes to buy a new computer or to reinstall the operating system, we're afraid of losing precious files, settings and information. In case users are interested in a full and complete backup (documents, photos, emails, Favorites, etc.) there are sufficient tools with which to perform the task. But, what about user accounts, passwords, drivers, registration numbers and the myriad of software programs they've installed? Can these also be backed up successfully?
Backing Up Important Data
Many users fear to reinstall their operating system in case precious data accumulated over time will be lost. Sophisticated users make sure their disk has at least two partitions. C holds the operating system while D stores all of the important files, such as: documents, photos, emails and other personal information. Users who store everything on one partition will have to manually copy all of their personal files, or otherwise use a software program to get the job done for them, save them onto an external drive, burn them or upload them onto an online storage service until after their PC had been formatted and the new operating system installed.
Luckily, there's an enormous assortment of software programs that provide users with a good solution to back their data up: Backup, Rollback, Yadis, AceBackup, Ocster, Comodo backup, FBackup and Backup Maker. As a matter of fact, there are simply too many backup software programs out there which make choosing the right one a challenging task. While some provide users with an effective solution to backing up files and folders, not all of them enable backing up drivers, passwords, emails, user profiles or preferences defined for different installed applications.
Backing Up Applications Settings
After installing a software program its installation files are kept in the Program Files folder but its settings are kept within the User Profile (%UserProfile%). Accessing the %appdata% folder we'll find a list of all of our installed software programs' settings and preferences. Backing up this folder means it can be restored on a new system along with all the preferences and settings it contains.
Software Programs for Backing Up Software Programs
Backing up and restoring the Appdata folder requires some user proficiency and provides for only a partial solution as quite a few pieces of data are not kept in it, such as e-mail, browser settings, passwords, etc. An alternative, simpler and more efficient solution is using data backup tools which offer a central and intuitive user interface. It should be noted that after installing the operating system users will still have to install all of the desired software programs and only then will they be able to restore each software program's settings and preferences.
This tool, which is built into Windows, is slightly limited although it will probably meet most users' demands. It allows for a swift and simple files and user settings backup. It can be launched from Windows 7 install disk by launching the migsetup.exe file located in the support/migwiz folder. Windows XP users can launch it from the menu located at: Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
After launching it users can select the type of data they would like to backup: user accounts, documents, music, photos, e-mails (including Outlook accounts), favorites and installed software programs' settings. The backup file can be saved onto an external drive, burnt onto a CD or synchronized in real time between PCs.
A software program for Windows 32 and 64 bit versions (including Windows 7 and Server 2003-2008) which can be used for free by both home and corporate users. It offers all features and capabilities that can be expected of a backup software program although it also offers a solution for backing up installed applications' settings.
1. Local backup, external drivers backup and web backup
2. Scheduled backups
3. Filtered backups by file types
4. Compressed backup files in Zip format
5. Password protected and encrypted backup files for maximum security
6. Automated actions to be carried out prior or post to backup
7. Simultaneous backup into several destinations
8. Specific application backup – users interested in backing up applications' settings before reinstalling or transferring to a new PC should access the plugins page on the website, locate and install the required plugin corresponding to the application of interest: Chrome, Firefox, Picasa, uTorrent, Skype, Thunderbird, Outlook and more. Later, these plugins can be turned on or off through the Tool -> Plugins menu.
Backing Up and Restoring Drivers
The first order of business after having Windows installed is installing drivers. In most cases Windows will automatically identify connected devices without bothering users. Yet, should your PC contain any unique hardware we strongly recommend backing up your drivers before formatting and then restoring them (DriverBackup). Alternatively, if the drivers had not been backed up, a tool to locate and update drivers can be utilized (Device Doctor).
Many of Microsoft's Messenger users check the 'Remember my password' option and prefer to dial automatically. After a while, they no longer remember their password and when the time comes to purchase a new PC or to reinstall the operating system users remain clueless as to how they should log into their accounts.
The solution is simple. All you have to do is download the MessenPass tool and activate it. If the password is indeed kept by the system it will be displayed by this tool. On top of that, it can even discover some chatting software programs' passwords.
Dialer's, Email accounts', Browser's and Wireless' Passwords
There are many great password restoring tools out there, such as Mail PassView, PstPassword, Dialupass, WirelessKeyView, Asterisk Logger, Password Fox, IE PassView.
Capturing Software Programs' Registration Details
There are tools available for locating and capturing registration details and serial numbers of installed software programs. These should be used before moving to a new PC. For example, ProduKey can be used for Windows, the Office package and for installed software programs.
Importing and Exporting Browser's Settings
Most browsers enable exporting favorites and settings into a file. Alternatively, an external tool can be used. Such tools usually simplify the process and offer even greater capabilities, such as exporting specific items, Favorites, user profile and even backing up settings made with the portable version.
Backing Up Emails
If you use a desktop software program to read your e-mails such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Windows Mail, you can export the settings, accounts, emails, contacts, etc., using an external tool or the built in tool.
Three types of data should be backed up: rules, PST file (e-mails, contacts, schedules, etc.) and the user profile.
Export Rules – access the Tools – > Rules and Alerts -> Options menu and click the Export Rules option.
PST Backup – locate the PST file by launching Outlook and accessing the Tools -> Account Settings -> Data Files menu, checking the Personal Folder option and clicking Open Folder. This action will open the folder in which the PST file is kept. Then, close Outlook and copy the file. Alternatively, a Microsoft plugin – Personal Folders Backup, can be installed and make things simpler. To restore the file from a different PC a new Outlook profile should be created and then linked to the previously saved PST file.
Accounts Backup – Export Outlook Email Accounts. For some unknown reason, Microsoft did not include the option to save Outlook profile or e-mail accounts. However, this can be done in the following manners:
1. By exporting an item from the registry (Windows Messaging Subsystem)
2. By using Windows Easy Transfer
3. By using an external tool which allows to export account profiles, local mail software programs (Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Mail), Messenger, FileZilla, etc.
Written by Moshe Harel