One of the most important things for any computer user to do is to remember make backups of their files to an external media source, like a CD/DVD or preferably an external hard drive. I have known so many people loose cherished family pictures and important documents due to not backing up their stuff until it was too late. Please don’t let that be you, and make sure that you have at least backed up your important stuff somewhere.

The reason to use an external drive is simple, because if you backup to your local drive and it fails or your computer is stolen you will have lost everything. There are also a variety of other ways to backup to the Cloud (storing your data on-line) by using tools like Dropbox, which is also one of my most used programs as it is also free and gives you 2GB for free just for using it. This will also let you sync those files between multiple devices like your mobile phone (iPhone/ Android devices etc) as well as your other computers. Dropbox saves me a lot of hassle when it comes to being able to have my most used programs or documents to hand at any time, especially if I am at a friends house fixing their computer and need a certain program there and then; I’ll simply login to my Dropbox account and grab them. You can get your Free Dropbox account here .

For this tutorial I will be walking you through the basic set up to install and configure GFI Backup Home Edition software. It’s a free program to download and use for non-commercial and home users. It’s a fantastic bit of software and I would urge people to use it, or similar products as a way to backup their important files, like pictures, music etc. For business users there is also a Business Edition available. This tutorial is quite long, but only due to trying to explain some of the other settings. It is a very straight forward program to use and will probably only take you a couple of minutes to set up and start.

Right, on with the tutorial.

I am using Window 7 Ultimate 64bit and GFI Backup Home Edition version 3.1. The program works on the Windows platform and I have used and tested it on XP, Vista and of course Windows 7.

Go to the GFI site and download the software here , once you have done that run the program and install it. Once this is completed you will be greeted with the following screen:

Next, click on the ‘My Tasks’ box which will start you through the process wizard. You will then get the next stage:

Click on ‘New Backup’ on the left of the screen to begin the configuration of what you wish to include in your backups. You will then be presented with the next screen:

In the top box (Backup Task Name) input the name of the task. In my case I just added ‘Richard’. You don’t have to input anything else into the other boxes. Click ‘Next’ to move forward:

This is where you add the folders you wish to include in your backup. In the ‘Files/Folders’ box at the top click the drop down arrow and select the first choice which is ‘Select Files and Folders’ and you will then be presented with the following screen:

For most people this will be the same type of system tree structure. Select ‘Local Disk (C:) by clicking the ‘+’ symbol next to it and then do the same for ‘Users’. If there are multiple users on your computer you can also include them in the backup as well, or if you are just backing up your files (or you are the only user) just select your username. In my case you can see that my username is ‘Dickie’. Again, click the ‘+’ symbol which will expand my profile. Now click in the boxes that you wish to include and a green tick will show you that that folder is now included in the backup. In my case I have only added a few folders due to the fact that I backup everyday anyway, and I really only wanted to do a few for the purposes of this tutorial. I would advise you to include Desktop, Downloads, Dropbox (if you are using Dropbox then the chances are that you already have those files backup up on line on their servers already, so there isn’t really a need to include it) My Music, My Pictures and My Videos. If you want to back up your Outlook emails as well, then make sure you back-up your ,pst files and everything else in your Outlook folder ( C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook ) Please note that you will have to show hidden folder to see this path ( Control Panel>Folder Options>View> and check ‘Show hidden files, folders and drives’). I have all of the software that I use in a folder called Stuff which is on my desktop, so they will also be included. Once you have selected the folders or files you want backed up, click ‘OK’ and ‘Next’ to move on to the next screen:

This is where you will tell the program where you want to back the files up to. For me I chose to an external hard drive which is the first option, but as you can see you also have the choice to back them up to either a LAN folder, USB stick/ Floppy/ memory card, CD/DVD/Blu-Ray or a remote FTP location. Now you need to tell the program where the hard drive resides by clicking ‘Browse’ and navigating to your external hard drive (or wherever you chose to back up to) in my case my external hard drive is called FreeAgent Drive (Z:) Then I just click on the ‘+’ symbol again next to the external hard drive to see point to the location that I want all my files backed up into. I previously created a folder in their called ‘Richard’ (if you haven’t just click on the ‘Create New Folder’ button at the bottom of the navigation window and create one. Once you have clicked on the folder (yellow) and it is highlighted, click OK to move on:

This next step will allow you to control how the program backs up. As you can see, I have used no compression or encryption; I didn’t use encryption on mine is because my system is already fully encrypted as are my external ones. If you get an error stating the some files can’t be backed up due to the file path being too long, this is due to the 256 character limitation for a files path. To get round this, the program will give you the option to use ‘Zip Compression’ which is a great work around. (If you have ever done a manual back-up in XP by dragging files or folders directly into an external HDD and some of your file paths have been longer than 256 chars then you will know what I mean as the back-up will fail) You also get a couple of options for the type of back up you use. For me I always replace the previous back up and use an Incremental Backup (backup only changed files), but you can also check the Differential Backup box as well if you wish to delete files that no longer exist anymore in the source location. When you are happy with your choices click Next to move on:

In this window you can tell the program when to schedule the backup process to begin. For me, I chose the first option which is to run it manually. However, if your computer is constantly turned on and your external hard drive is always plugged in, you can choose any of the other options, like choosing a specific day of the week to start the program and backup or to do it every few hours. When you are happy, click next and you will see the next screen:

This is a great little addition that GFI have added, in that you can get the program to email you of a successful backup or unsuccessful backup. Great for people who have set this to run on their machines whilst they are away or to make sure that someone else has backed their stuff up correctly (say once a day/ week) like a work colleague if you are using the Business Edition and you are out of the office, but want to be notified that backups are being run. If you would like this feature, and I would advise it as it gives you piece of mind, then check the email boxes and configure the email setting which I will show you in the image below:

I use a Gmail account as my primary email, so for me I just input the information as follows
  • Outgoing SMTP Server:
  • SMTP server password: Your password for your email account

If your email is different you can find many different settings here for a variety of different email clients

You can leave the other boxes as they are. Click the ‘Send TEST Email’ button to test your settings and hopefully you will receive an email straight away letting you know that you have in-putted your details correctly. If you have a Hotmail account the settings are:
  • Outgoing SMTP Server:
  • SMTP server password: Your password for your email account

:Once this is done click ‘OK’ which will bring you back to the email configuration window and then click ‘Finish’. You will then be asked if you ‘would like to run the Backup Task now?’ as shown below: (Click ‘Yes’ if you are ready to proceed or ‘No’ if you want to do it later)

If you chose ‘Yes’ and ran the task you will see the main window as shown below telling you the progress of your backup. The time it takes to comple will vary depending on the amount you are backing up, the speed of your computer and the speed at which your external hard drive ‘Reads data’ being written to it. For me, my initial backup was for about 1.5TB worth of data so it took a while, but that time is greatly reduced the next time as the program will skip a lot of the files due to them having already been backed up before and just the latest files being added. (depending on how you configured the backup settings in the previous parts above)

When your back up is finished you will see the window below and also get an email confirming that your backup was completed successfully (hopefully)

Now as this tutorial was written with the assumption that you are going to do this manually each time; the next time you do your backups (say next week) simply open up your GFI Backup program, click on ‘My Tasks’ in the main window, and click ‘Start Backup’ on the left. If you have created other backup profiles as well later on, just select the one you want and click ‘Start Backup’.

That’s it, you’re done!

I hope this tutorial wasn’t too boring and that it helped you out. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask them in the comments.