Make backup easier by centralizing your data

Everyone needs backup. Hard drives fail. Period. So backup your data.

The problem is that your data is hiding in a bunch of different places on your hard drive. One of the best ways to make backup easier is to centralize it. Pick a folder where you want to store all the data you want to back up, and centralize it to make your life easier.

I use a folder named “sjg,” my initials. In there I have my “My Documents” folder My business files are in there (My DocumentsBusiness Files), as are my Time Matters documents (Business FilesTM7) and my Outlook .pst files (Business FilesOutlook Files). You can change all these settings in the relevant programs. Here’s how:

  • My Documents – Just right-click the folder and select “Properties,” then click the “Move” button and select the directory you want to use
  • Outlook – Go to File > Data File Management. This will tell you where all your data files are located. Click “Open Folder” for each of them. Leave those folders open and close Outlook. Now copy each file into the folder where you want to centralize your data. Open Outlook again and go back to File > Data File Management. Use the “Add” button to add each of the files you moved. Then delete the old ones. This is difficult if you are moving an IMAP file. I am still working on that one.
  • IE favorites – If you are still using Internet Explorer (dear God, why?), you can change the location of your Favorites folder, but not simply. Go to Start > Run, and type “regedit.” Then hit “Okay.” Navigate to

    HKEY CURRENT USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerUser Shell Folders

    In the right pane, right click Favorites > Modify, and change the path to the folder where you want to store your IE favorites.

  • Firefox bookmarks – The easiest way to backup your Firefox bookmarks is to use the Xmarks add-on. This has the added advantage of allowing you to keep your Firefox bookmarks synchronized between multiple computers, including portable Firefox on a USB drive.
  • Time Matters – It is best to do this when installing Time Matters. Once you are up and running, though, it isn’t difficult to change. Go to File > Utilities > File Locations. Click on the “change record” button for the file that appears in the window. Note the current locations, which is probably c:TMxData (where x is your Time Matters version). Copy the Data directory to the location where you want to store your TM data, and go back to TM and change those locations to reflect the new location.

I think that covers the main things. You should be able to apply this to other programs, as well. It is easier because you just have to backup the one folder now, rather than navigating around to find all the files and folders you need to backup. You may want to subtract your music and/or videos, however, since they will really slow down your backup.

Even better, use a separate partition instead of just a separate folder. That way you can even just create a disk image of your data partition once in a while to make restoration even easier.

Now go forth and backup!

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