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PC MAINTENANCE FOR BEGINNERS / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 5: Protecting your Data

Special folders

Many Windows users are familiar with their documents folder, and they know that their photos are automatically saved in the “Pictures” folder in the user folder, while videos default to the “Videos” folder, etc.

One of the cool things you can do with special folders is move them to your cloud service. This helps you create seamless roaming folders such that, when you redirect your “Documents” or “Music” folders to a cloud drive, you can quickly sync your data on every Microsoft profile you log into, simply navigate to your user folder, and move your special folders.

Let’s briefly demonstrate how you’d do this with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive).

Moving Special Folders

So the idea here is that we’re going to take one of our special folders, in this case the “Desktop” and move it to a cloud folder, which means that it will be synchronized to the cloud every time we make a change to it. This not only backs up the special folder continuously, but you can also move your special folders to a cloud folder for seamless synchronization across all your connected Windows devices.

The following instructions are for Dropbox, however, the same instructions apply to the other cloud services too. In fact, all these cloud services install special folders in your user folder so you can also relocate them to a larger hard drive, if necessary.

To move a special folder you can either navigate to your user folder, for example, C:UsersMatt, or you can simply right-click and select properties for many of the system’s special folders in “File Explorer.”

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In the “Properties” dialog, click “Move” to relocate the folder to another location.

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In the “Select Destination” window, navigate to the location where you want to move the folder and then choose “Select Folder.”

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A warning dialog will appear asking you if you’re positively sure you want to move all the files from the old location to the new one. Click “Yes” to continue.

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Data in the older folder will then be transferred to the new location. Note, if you want to move that particular special folder again, you will need to choose it from its new location or “File Explorer,” if applicable.

Backup Tools

There are two ways to back stuff up, archival and incremental. In Windows, this can be accomplished either through “System Image” backups or “File History,” respectively.

File History

“File History” was introduced in Windows 8 so it is not available for other Windows versions. The concept of “File History” should be very familiar to anyone who has paid attention to Apple’s “Time Machine” for OS X. “File History” like “Time Machine” works by creating incremental backups.

This means that at regular intervals, be they ten minutes, an hour, a week, etc., your libraries, desktop, contacts, and favorites are backed up to another drive or partition. The difference, however, between simply backing things traditionally where you typically overwrite the old backup with the new one and in the case of “File History,” is that backups are saved as versions.

This means that “File History” will save every version of a file or folder structure, and any changes that take place, at the preset interval. So, if you suddenly realize that you need made changes to a source file instead of making a new copy, you can go back and retrieve that file as if it never happened.

Selecting a drive and turning file history on

“File History” is super easy to start and configure, either from the Control Panel or “PC settings.” Before you actually turn “File History” on, it is a good idea to make sure you have chosen your backup drive.

To choose a backup drive, click “Select Drive” and choose a backup drive from the “Select a File History drive” screen.

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Once you’ve selected a backup drive you can turn on “File History” and it will automatically start backing up your libraries, desktop, contacts, and favorites and will continue to do so until the backup drive’s allocated space is used up, or the drive runs out of space, thereafter the oldest backups will be automatically deleted to make way for the new backups.

Excluding Folders

If you want to back up everything “File History” does by default, then you can safely leave it to its own devices. However, if you want to keep your backups small, or the sum total of your libraries exceed your available disk space, you can exclude folders.

Simply click “Exclude Folders” and on the “Exclude from File History” screen and click “Add” and choose the items you want to exclude.

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Note, “File History” only backs up your Libraries (Music, Pictures, Videos, Documents, Downloads), Contacts, Desktop, and Favorites. If you want to include other files and folders in “File History,” you will first need to add them to your Libraries (detailed earlier).

Restore personal files

Should the time come when you need to retrieve a previous file or folder version, click “Restore personal files” and the file restore screen will appear. You can “rewind” and “forward” through your backups and then click the green restore button when you find the item(s) you want to restore.

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Advanced settings

Finally, the “Advanced Settings” allow you to choose the frequency “File History” creates backups, and how long it keeps saved versions. You can also set the size of your offline cache, and decide how it keeps saved versions.

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Born and brainwashed an Ohio State Buckeye, Matt now lives a warm, snow-free life just north of the Texas/Mexico border. He fancies himself a modern-day jack-of-all-trades; favorite conversation starters include operating systems, Android, BBQ, quantum physics, and roller skating.

  • Published 03/14/14

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