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Inside Microsoft Windows 95

A Publication of The Cobb Group

Published April 1997

Many people shy away from backing up their systems on a regular basis for several reasons. Backups are time consuming, and backup tapes and disks aren't cheap. Besides, if you don't have a tape drive, you'll waste time shuffling through your floppies whenever you need to perform a backup.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid these inconveniences by using Microsoft Backup to do incremental backups. In this article, we'll explain the differences between running a full backup and an incremental backup. Then we'll demonstrate how to set up both types of procedures.

Before you can run Microsoft Backup, you'll have to install it. To do so, double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon in Control Panel. Now, select the Windows Setup tab in the Add/Remove Programs Properties dialog box. Next, click the Disk Tools check box in the Components list box, as shown in Figure A, and then click OK.


Figure A: : Select the Disk Tools check box from the Components list box.

At this point, Windows 95 will ask you for your installation media. Insert the appropriate disk or CD. As you can see in Figure B, you may have to tell Windows 95 where to find the files. After providing the appropriate path, click OK to prompt Windows 95 to install the Microsoft Backup program.


Figure B: : You may have to specify the location of the Microsoft Backup files.

Full backup versus incremental backup

You can protect your system's data with either a full or an incremental backup. However, you may like to know the advantages and disadvantages of each type before deciding which backup strategy is right for you.

Full backup basics

When you perform a full backup, Windows 95 creates a compressed copy of all the selected files each time you do a backup. While this method sounds desirable, it does have a downside.

A full backup requires more resources than an incremental backup. Since you're storing more data, your computer will take longer to write the information to disk or tape. If you're backing up a large hard drive, the process can take several hours. What's more, during this time you can't safely use your PC for other purposes.

The other disadvantage of implementing a full backup is that you're backing up more data than you would be if you were using an incremental backup, which means you'll need more disks or tapes. If you have a limited budget for backup media, this issue is definitely something you should consider.

Performing a full backup

To perform a full backup, begin by clicking the Start button and selecting Programs | Accessories |System Tools |Backup. When Microsoft Backup starts, it will display some brief instructions, as shown in Figure C. If you don't want to see this information in the future, you can select the Don't show this again check box. Next, click OK to continue.


Figure C: : Microsoft Backup will display some brief instructions when you first launch the program.

At this point, Microsoft Backup will give you an important warning, which is shown in Figure D. As you can see, this message basically states that Microsoft Backup has created a file set for full backups and that you shouldn't use that set for partial or incremental backups. When you've finished reading the warning, click OK to continue.


Figure D: : Make sure you heed Microsoft Backup's warning message—it's very important!

If you don't have a tape drive, Microsoft Backup will display the message shown in Figure E. You can ignore this message and click the OK button. If you do have a tape drive and you still receive the error message, follow the instructions in the dialog box. If you can't resolve problems with your tape drive, you can still back up your system on diskette, Zip disk, or another hard disk.


Figure E: : You'll receive this error message if you don't have a tape drive or if Microsoft Backup doesn't detect your tape drive.

After clicking OK, you'll see the main Microsoft Backup screen, as shown in Figure F. This screen enables you to select the files you want to back up. Since we'll be performing a full backup, select the Open File Set… command from the File menu, select Full System Backup, and click the Open button. The backup program will take a moment to analyze your Registry settings and your file structure.


Figure F: : This dialog box lets you select the files you want to back up.

When Microsoft Backup finishes analyzing your system, you'll notice that the title bar changes from Untitled to Full System Backup. Also, a check mark will appear in the box beside the C drive, as shown in Figure G.


Figure G: : When Microsoft Backup is finished analyzing your system, click the Next Step> button.

At this point, click the Next Step> button. Microsoft Backup will prompt you to select a destination for the backup file. You can back up to disk, tape, a network drive, another hard disk on your system, or any other storage media on which you can save data.

For example, suppose you're backing up your data to a directory called system_backup on a Zip drive. You can't type directly into the Selected device or location field. Therefore, to select this drive, you first click the + sign next to the Zip drive to display the directories on that disk. Next, you double-click the system_backup directory to select it. You'll notice that this drive and directory now appear in the Selected device or location field, as shown in Figure H.


Figure H: : Double-click the destination for the backup file to select it.

When you've selected the destination of your backup file, click the Start Backup button. Microsoft Backup will prompt you to name the backup set. You can use any name you want, but it must be unique. You might want to include the date to remind yourself when you created the backup. For example, we named our backup set Brien's Hard Drive 4-19-97. After you enter a name for the backup set, click OK to initiate the backup procedure.

Understanding incremental backups

Now that we've explained how you implement a full backup, let's take a look at what's involved in performing an incremental backup. The first time you run an incremental backup procedure, you must enter a set name. Then, the computer will execute a full backup as the first duplication of that set. Any future backups to that set will affect only new files and files that have changed since the last backup.

For example, suppose you're doing an incremental backup of an 850-MB hard disk. If you did the first backup on Monday, all 850 MB would be duplicated on that day. On Tuesday, only the files that you've created or changed since Monday would be backed up, so you may back up only a few megabytes at that time. On Wednesday, you'd back up only the files that you've created or changed since Tuesday, and so on. It's easy to see how using an incremental backup can save you time and money.

Unfortunately, incremental backups also have their disadvantages. While they are quicker than full backups, it takes longer to restore a file when you use incremental backups. For example, suppose you needed to restore a file you backed up on Monday. This file would be included in the first backup of the set, since you performed a full backup on Monday. However, to ensure that you were restoring the most recent version of the file, you'd have to search all remaining backups in the set to see if the file had changed since then.

Another disadvantage to this type of backup is the fact that you must have all backups in the set available in order to restore only one file.

If you're planning to use an incremental backup, you might consider starting a new backup set every Monday that would include the backups for Monday through Friday of that week. Of course, if you use your computer heavily on weekends, you can schedule Saturday and Sunday backups as well. You can also make the length of time between creating new backup sets as long or as short as your needs dictate.

Performing an incremental backup

Performing an incremental backup is easy once you understand how it works. Let's return to our sample backup of an 850-MB hard disk to demonstrate. Follow the same procedure we showed you earlier for doing a full backup. (Remember, the first stage of an incremental backup is to perform a full backup. Therefore, when you get to the Microsoft Backup screen we showed you in Figure F, issue the Open File Set… command from the File menu, select Full System Backup, and click Open.)

Continue following the steps we outlined earlier. When you've selected the destination of your backup file, choose the Options… command from the Settings menu. In the Settings - Options dialog box, click the Backup tab, shown in Figure I. In the Type of backup section, select the option corresponding to incremental backups and then click OK. This option tells Microsoft Backup that all future backups will be incremental.


Figure I: : Select the Backup tab from the Settings - Options dialog box.

When you've named your backup, click OK to continue. At this point, Microsoft Backup will warn that you're modifying a full system backup set and ask if you want to continue. Simply click Yes.

Next, click the Start Backup button. Microsoft Backup will prompt you for the name of the backup set. As we explained earlier, you must use a unique filename. We also recommend that you use the date or some other information to remind yourself when you created the backup. For example, you might call your file set something like increment1. After you enter a name for the backup set, click OK to begin the backup.

Performing the next day's backup

The next incremental backup we'll do will be on Tuesday. To begin, launch Microsoft Backup, choose the Open File Set… command from the File menu, select the file you created on Monday, and click the Open button to continue. Microsoft Backup will take a moment to check the Registry and your files for any changes. When it finishes, click the Next Step> button. Select the destination that you used for the first of the incremental backups, and then click the Start Backup button.

Once again, Microsoft Backup will ask you for a name for your backup set. Even though you're creating an incremental backup, you still must use a unique name. For example, if you called the first member of the backup set increment1, you could call the second member increment2. After you provide a name for the backup set, Microsoft Backup will back up any files that have been created or changed since the last backup.

Creating a new backup set

As we mentioned, it's a good idea to create a new backup set each week. However, you may recall that we set Microsoft Backup to perform only incremental backups from now on. So, you may be wondering how you can create another full backup as the first in this next set of incremental backups. The answer is simple—you just perform a full system backup as we described earlier and issue the Save command from the File menu. Then, you do an incremental backup as we've demonstrated here and you execute the Save command again. Now when you click the Start Backup button, Microsoft Backup will perform a full backup, after which all future backups will be incremental (until you repeat this process).


Many people hesitate to back up their computers because of the amount of time it takes to perform a full backup and the cost of tapes and disks. In this article, we've outlined the advantages and disadvantages of full and incremental backups, and we've demonstrated how to set up and perform both procedures. We've also shown how you can save time and conserve backup media by performing incremental backups.

The article entitled "Protecting Your Data with Hard-Disk Backups" was originally published in Inside Microsoft Windows 95, April 1997. Copyright © 1997, The Cobb Group, 9420 Bunson Parkway, Louisville, KY 40220. All rights reserved. For subscription information, call the Cobb Group at 1-800-223-8720.

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