Following up on a previous post about losing data and backing your stuff up, I thought I’d tell you how I’m automating my backups now.
This is only for Windows users (possibly only XP users, in fact — I don’t really know much abotu the new Vista OS).
Microsoft provides a tool for “mirroring” a directory. It’s called “SyncToy” and its purpose is to take a folder and synchronize it with another folder.
What that means is that SyncToy will let you take two folders and make sure that the contents are the same in both folders. Folder synchronization is often used by people who have both a laptop and a desktop machine. If you share a folder over the network you can make sure that both the desktop and the laptop have all the most up-to-date files on them.
For my purposes, however, I’m interested in syncing my folders to an external hard drive which acts as my backup.
I’ve identified 3 folders that contain vital documents. The “My Documents” folder, the “Picture” folder and the “Development” folder. SyncToy has a number of setting which tell it specifically how to sync the folders. I have simply chosen the option to copy every updated file from the source folder to its corresponding backup. The result is that when I run the backup I now have a complete copy of important folders on my external drive.
I could just drag the “My Documents” folder to the backup drive instead of using SyncToy. Windows will certainly oblige and copy the entire contents of that folder over to the backup drive. However, these are very large folders. It tales a while to copy them. SyncToy will copy just the updated files, meaning that this is an “incremental backup.” It’s much, much quicker than trying to recopy all those files.
Because it’s so quick, it’s not a pain to fire up SyncToy and tell it to run all the backups. I do this manually every time I’ve offloaded a bunch of photos from my camera or done any important work.
Because it’s not automatic, there is a chance I’ll forget to run it. However, it’s so quick that running it is painless, and I haven’t forgotten yet. In the “Help” info within SyncToy, Microsoft describes how you can schedule it to run nightly or weekly if you want to, with a little bit of additional effort. But my favorite thing about SyncToy is that there is nothing additional running on my machine to slow it down when I’m not doing a backup. I’m not really fond of lots of processes running in the background on my computer. Dozens of little extras tend to slow it to a crawl over time.
In summary, here are some pros and cons of using SyncToy:
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