Back-Up Folders in Windows Effortlessly

Alright guys and gals, time to stop putting off this important step and start backing up the folders that have content you can’t afford to lose. It’s simple and will save you tons of heartache in the long run and it’s free.

Backing up your content is one of those things you know you should do but always seems to get put it off (that’s the case for me anyway). I don’t know what I would do if I lost my music collection or all of the valuable plug-ins that I spent a lot of money on, yet nothing has been lost at the moment so why worry too much right? Well, now that I’m a bit older, I realize it’s better to do a little preventative maintenance then wait around for a problem to occur, then complain after the fact when everything is lost.

We’re going to be using a free tool provided by Microsoft called Robocopy. What I like about Robocopy (besides that it’s free) is that once you have your initial back-up made, it will add or remove any changes to the original folder but nothing else. This makes it extremely fast and efficient way to back-up your content.

XP Users:

Robocopy will need to be downloaded from the Microsoft website. Unfortunately it is bundled in the  Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools so you will need to download the entire kit (11.8MB). It is a simple exe file so all you have to do is install and we will be ready setup our backup.

VISTA Users:

Robocopy is included with Vista so there is no download or install needed.

Robocopy does not have an interface, so to do your back-up we will need to run a CMD or create a simple batch file which is what we are gonna do. Don’t worry, all you need is notepad and the right extension. Trust me this is incredibly easy and you only have to make this one time.

Open notepad and copy / paste the code into your document. Now all you have to do is save the file with the .bat extension. In this example I called mine backup.bat.

robocopy "C:\My Music" "F:\C-Drive Backup\My Music" /MIR /R:2 /W:5

You should have a file that looks like the one on the left. Before opening we need to make some changes to the code. Right click and select Edit.

We need to tell windows what we are looking for and by simply typing in robocopy, this gives us access to the application. Since it should be in your system32 folder after installing, there is no need to type in the path to where robocopy is located.

Here we tell robocopy what folder we want to back-up. On my computers hard drive (C: drive for me and probably you too) I am backing up the contents of “my music” folder.

In the second set of quotes we tell robocopy what folder to place the back-up in. On my external hard drive (F: for me) I have made a folder called “C-Drive Backup” and inside that is another folder called “My Music”. So the structure for this is “F:\C-Drive Backup\My Music”.

MIR activates mirror mode, deleting any files in the destination that are not present in the source. R:2 Tells robocopy to retry ‘2’ times before giving up in the event of error (default is 1 million). W:5 is wait time between retries (default is 30 seconds). These are the command line options I use but there are many more which you can read about here:

* Please notice the spaces in the code. Leaving these out will cause some issues.

The final line of code is “Pause” and needs to be on it’s own line. This is optional and just keeps the window open so you can review any issues that may have occurred. If this is something that is not important to you, then you can remove it and the window will close automatically when completed.

Finally, you can add more folders if you would like to back-up more than one at a time which would look something like:

robocopy "C:\My Music" "F:\C-Drive Backup\My Music" /MIR /R:2 /W:5
robocopy "C:\My Downloads" "F:\C-Drive Backup\My Downloads" /MIR /R:2 /W:5

There is no way to schedule the batch file to run once a day or whatever so you will need to double click the file to run the backup as needed. What I’ve done is placed the batch file in my startup folder so every time my computer is rebooted it will run. This is good for those of us who tend to forget about these kinds of things and will give you a little more cushion if you do lose some content and forgot to run the batch file.

An easy way to do this is to go to the start menu and select “RUN” and paste the following instructions in the dialog box.

%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\

Now that you have found your startup folder, just drag a copy of your batch file into it and that’s it. I would leave one on your desktop as well for easy access and as a reminder.

Let us know how you back-up your content or what command line options you use with robocopy in the comments.

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