This brief article will demonstrate how you can make an automated daily back up of your Documents on your desktop computer or laptop.

Do you back-up your documents every day? Most people know they should, but rarely do it because they either don’t know how, they think that it is too time consuming, or they think that you need expensive backup software and external hard disks. This isnt the case.

In order to set up this backup you will need the following:

  1. A USB Memory Stick (or Flash Drive, or USB Memory Drive – depending on who you talk to …)

    You can buy USB Flash Drives very cheaply these days. I recommend that you buy one around 8gb. This will allow plenty of room for the average persons documents, emails and photos etc. I bought a
    8GB PQI Flash Drive from Newegg

  2. Microsoft SyncToy v1.4

    You can download Microsoft SyncToy for FREE from here.

Ok, so you now have your Flash Drive and SyncToy. Install SyncToy using the setup file you just downloaded from Microsoft – its very easy to do, just follow the prompts. After Sync Toy has installed, then plug your USB Flash Drive into an available port on your computer. I have plugged mine in the back of the computer because we will be leaving the Flash Drive permanently plugged in. Windows will probably pop up a few yellow messages in the bottom right corner while the USB Memory Drive installs, and may ask you to restart the computer after it finishes – if it does, restart the computer.

Now, here comes the slightly more difficult part – setting up SyncToy. Don’t worry, its not too difficult 🙂

  1. First you need to open SyncToy.
  2. You then need to click on “Create New Folder Pair” button.
  3. In SyncToy the Left Folder is the source, and the Right Folder is the Destination.
    Click on Browse, select My Documents and then press OK (shown in image below)
    My Documents
  4. Click the “Next” button
  5. On the Right Folder click Browse button again, and then select your Flash Drive from under My Computer
  6. Click the “Next” button again
  7. You will be given 5 options for different back-up types. Most of the time I use the Echo function, but feel free to have a read of the descriptions on the other alternatives and pick the one whcih you think best suits you.
  8. Click the “Next” button again! It will ask you to name the pair. This can be anything, I named mine My Documents
  9. Click Finish and close SyncToy

SyncToy will only run as a scheduled task if you have a password on your Windows user account. If you do not have a password on your account you should go to Control Panel>User Accounts and add a password to your account.

Ok, great. Just a few more steps. All we have to do now is create a Scheduled Task so that SyncToy runs automatically every day.

  1. Click the Start button, the click on the Run… button
  2. Type control schedtask
  3. This will open the Scheduled Tasks window. Click on Add Sheduled Task.
  4. Click Next and choose SyncToy from the list. Click Next, again!
  5. You will then be asked whether you would like the task to run daily, weekly, monthly etc.
    Choose Daily and press Next. Then select an appropriate time and press Next again.
  6. Enter the password you use to log on to your Windows account, and then again to confirm it has been typed correctly.
  7. Click Next. Tick the box next to Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish. Click Finish.
  8. In the form field beside Run: you should see something like this:
    “C:\Documents and Settings\{Your UserName}\Start Menu\Programs\SyncToy.lnk”
    Change it to –
    “C:\Documents and Settings\{Your UserName}\Start Menu\Programs\SyncToy.lnk” -R
    The -R switch tells SyncToy to run all Folder Pairs in the background without prompting or asking you questions 🙂

  9. Press OK. And confirm your password again.

SyncToy is now set up to automatically copy your My Documents folder to your Flash Drive every day at the time you specified. It is a good idea to check the contents of your Flash Drive from time to time to make sure that all files are being copied successfully.

This technique can be applied to any folder on your computer. If you decide you want to backup multiple folders you may have to create individual folders on your Flash drive for each folder pair so that they do not get lumped together.

Heres another tip: When you go away on holidays take out your flash drive and give it to a Neighbour or family member so that if you get robbed your data is still safe.

At first glance this all probably looked quite overwhelming but your efforts a well worth it and will save you hours manually backing up to CDs, DVDs or Flash Drives.

Hope this has helped you out!