How To Use Backup and Restore Options In Windows

The Hot Tub Time Machine of Your Computer

At some point in our lives, we just want to turn back the clock and undo everything we did before. This superhuman feat is not possible with real life problems but, if its any consolation, you can do it with your Windows computer! 🙂  The newer versions of Windows have introduced an integrated Backup and Restore utility which holds its own when compared with its competitor programs.  This utility is quite reliable and efficient and has become even better in Windows 7. It will perform its scheduled tasks in the background and will intelligently replace only the parts of files that were changed rather than backing up the entire file once again.

Backing it up

Making a backup and restoring your computer is done by tracing a few easy steps:

1. Navigate to the Properties of the drive you want to create backup for, by right-clicking on the drive icon>Properties>Tools tab>Backup Now . Alternatively you can access the Backup and Restore utility from the Control Panel, under the System and Security section.

Drive Properties

2. This will open a Backup and Restore window from where you will click on the ‘Set up backup link’, as shown in the following figure. In the left pane you can also see the option ‘Create a System repair disc’, this is a useful option that you should carry out at some other time. It will create a disc with a system recovery program that can be used when the Windows fails to boot (such an instance is explained in the ‘Restoring your Windows’ section below).

Backup and Restore in Windows 7

View of Backup and Restore window in Windows 7

3. In the Set up backup window, select the drive where you want to store the files. the recommended choice for the destination drive is removable media like an external hard drive. A DVD or CD cannot be used for this purpose because backups usually take more than 10GB space.

Setting up Backup in Windows 7

4. After selection of the destination drive, you can either let the Windows decide which files and folders should be backed-up or you can choose yourself. I am going with the choose-it-yourself option.

Choosing files for Backup

5. You can choose which folders you want to create a backup for by checking them in the list. Check the box for ‘Include a System image’ (I will explain it later). Click Next.

Selecting which folders to backup

6. You will be asked to review all the folders you have chosen and from this window you can also schedule a backup for future.

7. The backup process will start. The window might flash several times during this process.

Backup in Progress

Once the process is finished, you will see the 2 backup folders, one for the system image and the other for the files.

Backup folders

Turning back Time – Restoring your Windows

The proceeding text will explain the function of the Restore option in Windows. You can click on the backup folder (as shown in the figure above, it has a disk drive icon) and restore files from this backup in case you lose them or you can manage the space occupied by the backup folder by deleting files that are not needed anymore.

Windows backup dialog box

Click on the ‘Restore files for all users’, a window will open from where you can choose which files or folders you want to restore to your system, as shown in the below image. After making the selection, click Next and enter the location to copy restored files .

Restoring files and folders from Backup

Using Restore Points and System Images

The method you choose to roll back your computer to a previous point depends upon the severity of your problem, there are a couple of ways to do it:

  • If the Windows is still booting you can simply use the recovery options available in the Control Panel. This usually occurs when there is a problem with your hardware/software e.g, a sudden issue with a driver. The Windows suggests you to use a restore point to repair a problem.
  • In case of a major disaster where an attempt to startup is made but fails, the Windows has to be repaired. A system repair disc (a bootable cd with recovery options or a Windows installation cd) is used to boot the system.

A restore point is a representation of a stored state of your computer’s system files. Restore points are made weekly by  or when there is a change in Window, such as – the installation of a new driver, installation of a program, etc. You can also create a restore point yourself by doing these steps.

  1. Open Computer Properties by right-clicking on Computer icon.
  2. In the left pane, click on System protection.
  3. In the System Protection tab,  click on Create.
  4. Type a description,a restore point will be created for that time.

Restoring Within Windows

Restoring your computer in the Windows environment (with restore points or system images) can be done by the following steps:

1. From Control Panel, Open Backup and Restore

2. Click on ‘Recover system settings or your computer’

3.If you click on Open System Restore, it will give you basic recovery options. Here you can restore your computer back to a previous point that has been automatically generated by the Windows.

System Restore Basic options

4. Choose the restore point by keeping in mind the date they were created on.

Selecting the Restore Point

5. The system will proceed to restore your computer to the selected restore point.

Using System Images

The advanced option is to restore with a system image which can be done by clicking on the ‘Advanced recovery methods’ in the Recovery window shown above. As mentioned, I made a system image which is an exact copy of a drive. By default, a system image includes the Windows, settings, programs, and user files that were present on the hard drive when the backup was made . It can be used to restore the contents of your computer in case of a software or hardware failure. A restoration done from a system image cannot be customized. All components will be restored just as they were before. This will open a window (shown below) where you will choose the option ‘Restore with a system image’.

Advanced Recovery Methods

After choosing this option you will have to restart your computer. This will not require a bootable system repair disk.

Restoring Outside Windows

The steps that follow the restart are the same as when you boot from a repair disc in case of complete Windows failure. The only difference is that you will have to change the boot order in the BIOS and set it to boot from cd or dvd if it is not already so.

Place the cd in the drive and change the boot order to boot from CD-ROM first.  For every system the key that pulls up boot options varies, it can be F12 or F9, you can check it in the bottom lines of the startup screen. As the system boots from the cd, it will load files and then will give you the option of choosing the keyboard input method.

System Recovery, choose language

It will then search for Windows installations on the hard drive and locate the system image on your hard drives.

Selecting the system image

I chose the system image that I had created earlier and saved in drive D.

Re image your computer2

Once you click Finish, the restoration will start after a warning.

Confirmation of Recovery

The entire process might take a couple of hours and will drive back your system to a working condition if no errors popup in the way.

Phew! Turns out turning back time is not easy after all! It is one long hard journey even in the virtual environment. No wonder they haven’t succeeded in making a time travelling machine yet! But now you know how to do it.



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