Drive imaging tools enable you to back up your entire Windows installation
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here's no need to back up every single file on your computer - although if you'd like to do so, we show you how later on in this feature. The most important job you have to do is back up your documents, pictures, email and other personal files that can't otherwise be easily recreated. It's also possible to back up key program settings too, so you don't have to waste time setting up applications, email accounts or web bookmarks again should disaster strike.
All of this takes time and effort if done by hand, which is why you want a program to do all the hard work for you. Vista users are well served by Windows itself here - the Backup and Restore Center is much improved on previous versions of Windows, and is easy to set up and configure as we'll see shortly.
If you're running an earlier version of Windows, then you'll need to source your own software. The step-by-step guide below features Genie Backup Manager 5 Professional, which occasionally appears on magazine cover discs. If you don't have a copy, or would like to use Genie with Windows Vista, try the latest version - click the ad link opposite to find out more and download a trial version.
Back up your data with Genie Backup Manager
1. FIRST STEPS
Install Genie Backup Manager and reboot. Launch Genie and click OK followed by Help > Registration. Enter your registration details from your email and click OK. Now click the Backup button on the main screen to start.
2. PICK BACK-UP LOCATION
Give your back-up job a suitably descriptive name and click Next. Now choose where you want to back up to - Genie supports CD , DVD and other removable drives, plus hard drives, network drives and even FTP space online.
3. CHOOSE WHAT TO BACK UP
There are three sections: My Profile contains email, internet and key settings; My Folders lets you pick any folder or file; My PlugIns backs up individual program settings - click Download new scripts to get more online.
4. OTHER OPTIONS
Pick the type of backup you wish to perform - Normal ensures all changes (new, updated and deleted files) are recorded. You can choose to compress your backup to save space and add encryption and password protection.
5. BACK UP AND VERIFY
Click Next followed by Backup Now to let Genie back up your selection of files and settings for the first time. Once complete, click Yes to verify your backup's integrity - a vital step in the back-up process.
6. SCHEDULE AUTOMATIC BACKUPS
Click Startup Page and then choose Schedule Wizard followed by Create New Schedule. Select your back-up job and click Next. Pick exactly when you want your back-up job to run and click Next followed by Finish.
Back up in Vista
Vista users who've not yet put a back-up plan in place should immediately click the Start button and type backup into the Search box. From the list that appears, click Backup Status and Configuration. You'll be told that automatic backup hasn't been set up, so click Set up automatic file backup to begin.
Click Continue when prompted and the tool will scan for available back-up devices: hard drives (internal and external) plus any CD/DVD burners that are present, plus - in all editions except Vista Home Basic - a network drive. Make your choice and click Next.
Next, choose those drives that contain data you wish to back up - your system drive is automatically included, but if you have any other drives or partitions you can specify whether to include them or not by ticking or unticking the relevant drives before clicking Next again.
The next screen gives you the opportunity to choose exactly what will be backed up - roll the mouse over an option to see what files and settings it will store. The tool is pretty comprehensive, but some file types are inexplicably missed, which can cause problems with some non-Microsoft products. Firefox and Thunderbird users, for example, won't be able to back up key preferences thanks to the tool's failure to back up .js files. If you're not slavishly pro-Microsoft in your program choices, consider using Genie Backup Manager 8 instead.
Once you've chosen which files to back up - if in doubt, leave everything ticked - click Next. Again, Vista Home Basic users are left a little short here, because the tool can't be scheduled to run automatically, but if you're running Vista Home Premium or later you can back up on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Depending on how often you edit and change files, make your choice: remember, you'll only ever be able to restore your data at the point your last backup was taken, so weekly is probably the best compromise for most. Click Save settings and start backup, and Vista will get to work.
Archiving to disc
Remember, burning your photos to disc and then deleting the copies on your hard drive is not backing them up. All you've done is transfer the only copy of the files you possess to another medium, so copy them to a second disc or other back-up device now.
Restoring files from your backup is done from the same tool - click Restore Files and then follow the various options. You can restore files on to a different computer, or even restore older versions of files from previous backups.
Genie users should click the Restore button and select your chosen back-up job from the list (if you've recently had to reinstall Windows, you'll need to manually load the back-up job from the folder your backup is stored in). Follow the wizard through, and when prompted to restore individual folders, make sure you select Alternative from the "Restore files to" drop-down box if you're restoring to a different folder than that the backup was originally taken from.
Unsure if a critical file has been backed up by Vista? Open Backup Status and Configuration, choose Restore Files and click Search to look for the file in question.
Duplicate back-up jobs in Genie
1. LOCATE BACK-UP JOBS
Duplicating back-up jobs enables you to create two identical back-up jobs, each of which saves your data to a different location, giving you an extra layer of protection should one backup fail. Click Start > Run, type %AppData% and press [Enter] to open your personal (and hidden) Application Data folder. Now open the Genie-soft, GBMPro and Jobs folder in turn. Each job is stored in its own folder.
2. CREATE DUPLICATES
Right-click one of the job folders and choose Copy. Now right-click some empty space in the Explorer window and choose Paste. A duplicate folder (named "Copy of Xxxxx") will appear. Repeat for the other jobs.
3. CHANGE DUPLICATE'S SETTINGS
The new jobs will instantly appear in Genie. Click edit previous jobs and select your chosen duplicate job. Change its back-up location and tweak the schedule of both this and the original job if you want - we recommend setting the jobs on alternate days or weeks, so you back up to alternate locations each time.