3. What to Back Up
It is often impractical to back up the entire contents of your machine's hard disk(s). Although doing this might completely remove the possibility of losing anything important, the volume of data involved often makes this an unfeasibly complicated and time-consuming exercise and the large majority of the material would not be of any use on your restored system. The files and folders that you do need to back up are the ones containing material that you yourself have created.
The specific files that should be backed-up can vary according the version of Windows you
are using, what applications you use for activities such as email, web-browsing etc., and
your own working practices. The guidance below is based on a typical Windows
XP system where you have followed the Windows convention and stored all your own files
My Documents folder. If you have valuable material
saved elsewhere, it is up to you to identify this and to include it in your
Windows XP has a top-level folder on the C: drive called
Settings. Within this is a subfolder for each username that exists on the
system, plus a folder called
All Users. These folders are used to
store a variety of information, including each user's
folder, and also data relating to applications such as
Internet Explorer, and most other common
applications. Ideally, you should make a back-up copy of the folder for each username,
and also the All Users folder. The whole of the
Settings could be very large (possibly several Gigabytes).
Alternatively, If your back-up space is limited, you could back up just the most
important individual parts of each user's
Documents and Settings
subfolder. On your back-up drive, for each user you want to back-up in this way, create
an new empty folder named with person's username. Then copy to that new folder, any of
the following subfolders from the person's
Documents and Settings
on the machine's main C: drive:
My Documents- the person's main personal documents folder
Application Data- data from various applications including Microsoft Office and the Outlook Express address book
Local Settings- the
Application Data/Identitiessubfolder includes Outlook Express local (e.g. POP) mail folders (probably not needed if you use an IMAP mail service and have no local folders). Note that this folder is normally not visible when running Windows.
Favorites- the Internet Explorer Favorites list
Desktop- the person's desktop folder
Cookies- small data files used by internet sites to record your preferences etc.
A few non-Microsoft applications store important data in other locations, typically
within the program's own software subfolder in
C:\Program Files. It
may be possible, however, for this location to be changed by the user to some other
Endnote bibliographic program by default stores Styles,
Filters, Templates, and Connections in correspondingly named subfolders of
C:\Program Files\Endnote n (where n is the
Endnote version number).