Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tech Tuesday - Using Windows 7 Libraries - 1st Step toward a better backup system

I know that I'm probably late getting out of the gate using Windows 7 Libraries. I have been using Windows 7 since shortly after it was released. However, I have to admit that the Libraries mystified me until just recently. At first I looked at them and thought "OK, this is probably a good thing, but what the heck am I supposed to do with them?". I continued with that thinking until I decided I was tired of skirting around them. I just knew they had to be useful, else they wouldn't have a position of prominence in Windows Explorer, would they? So I finally broke down and read up on what they are and how they can be used. Now I understand them. So much so, that I have recently reorganized my entire file system to take advantage of them.

The tech tip I'm writing about today is just one handy thing about Windows 7 libraries. What did I discover that warrants a write-up? You can use W7 libraries to make an easy backup of everything important to you. I know some of you are already aware of this, but it was a nice revelation for me.

I've been wanting to make my backups easier so that I don't miss anything. I know there is a lot of cloud-based backup systems, but I don't want to use them just yet. I do believe that one should have several methods of backup, and I will be looking into that soon.

In the past I would just go through my list in my head of what I had to backup. Sometimes I would miss something, and a couple times that has been responsible for losing files or information important to me.

What I recently found out about W7 libraries is that you can create your own libraries! So I have created a library called Backup Library where I've included folders that I want to make sure are backed up.

As you can see from the above snapshot, I have also added a folder to the Pictures Library. I have a ton of photos and most of them are stored on a Western Digital 600GB external hard drive. I also restructured my file system so that most of what is important to me exists under either the My Documents or Public Documents folders if it doesn't exist under one of the other Libraries. For example, I am an avid gardener and I have a very large Garden folder. In the past I had that sitting at the same level as My Documents. That has now been moved under the My Documents folder.

I have never used the operating system Backup utility. I have read the W7's backup utility is an improved application, but I cannot see how it will help me with my current situation. Right now I'm using a laptop and I do not keep it running overnight. I know that you can run a W7 backup even when using the computer, but would prefer it to run overnight. When I again purchase a desktop I will probably be more inclined to use this type of utility since I don't have a problem with keeping a desktop machine running all the time. In the future I will investigate both W7 Backup and Restore utility and non-Microsoft backup solutions. (Desktop usage vs. new technology is a topic for another discussion :-) )

Right now the Library I've created, along with the four libraries already established by W7, contain about 97 GB of data (about 60,000 files). As I write this blog post I am copying everything under the Libraries umbrella to a Western Digital 500GB drive. When it started the copying process said it would take about a day. Now it says 5 hours. That remains to be seen. If it does takes too much time, I'll probably break down the backup into the individual Libraries. I've already done a practice backup with just a couple folders in the Backup Library. Worked great and did not take very long. Of course it was much, much smaller.

Using Windows 7 Libraries as a means to make my backups easier is not perfect. I still have to remember to export my bookmarks, my blog posts, etc. before copying the libraries to my external backup drive. But this is a good first step.

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