Backup your computer and applications


Windows Vista includes two types of backups:

  • Files and folders. This backs up your documents. If you lose your hard disk, you can use this to restore your most important files. You’ll need to re-install Windows and all of your applications, though.
  • Complete PC. This backs up your entire computer, including all of your applications and settings. This backs up your personal files, too, but it takes up so much space that you won’t want to do this on a daily basis. CompletePC backup is only available on Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions. It’s not part of Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium.

You should create a Complete PC backup when you first get your computer setup and all your applications installed. Then, schedule a files and folders backup nightly. You can run another Complete PC backup if you install new applications, or every six months.

First, buy yourself an external USB hard disk to hold your backup. You can’t backup to your C: drive, because you won’t be able to get to your backup if it dies. Here are some well-reviewed drives in different capacities: 250 GB, 500 GB, and 750 GB. I have the 750 gigger. Be sure to get one big enough to hold all your files.

To run a Complete PC backup, follow these steps:

1. Connect and turn on your external hard disk.

2. Click Start, type Backup, and then click Backup and Restore Center.

3. Click Back up computer.


4. On the Where Do You Want To Save The Backup page, click On a hard disk, and then select your disk. Click Next. Yes, you can backup your computer to DVDs if you have a writeable DVD drive, but it would take dozens of DVDs, and you’ll forget to do it on a regular basis.

5. Click Start Backup. Windows Vista will work for quite some time… It’ll probably take hours.
If your hard disk every fails, or if you get hit by a spyware or virus and you can’t fix your computer, you’ll be able to restore your computer using this backup from the Backup And Restore Center.

14 Responses to “Backup your computer and applications”

  1. JW says:

    Is it also to select just a directory instead of a full disk to backup?
    Or is there only an option to make another partition on my disk to be able to backup that part of that that I want to have backupped?

  2. Tony says:

    JW, you can’t backup specific directories using these tools. You have to select files by file type.

    I’m not going to try and justify this decision from Microsoft, but their explanation is that the backup tool is designed for home users, and the priority is that it be as simple as possible. IT users typically use third-party enterprise backup tools, anyway.

    I will say that I’m using the tools built into Vista. Yes, it’s backup up some unnecessary folders for me, but I’d rather waste a little bit of disk space than to put the extra time into making sure just the files I really need are backed up. Storage is cheap.

  3. JW says:

    Maybe this is usefull to solve this “problem”:
    That is a how to use the old backup system build in with XP.

    My solution is now:
    I backup my mail files (.pst) with the windows vista backup tool, because it can backup while my outlook is opened.
    The other files I backup with another tool.

    Because storage may be cheap, but I am not going to buy a new harddisk of 500 gb to make sure I will not lose 10 gb of important data.

  4. Michel Dorteaux says:


    and for those with musical talent the “Backup Song”:

  5. Brian says:

    I’m having a problem with my recovery drive in Vista. My computer is no more than a month old, and since the first day my recovery drive has been at least 98% full. I think I may have accidentally tried to back up ALL my files (the problem of just hitting ‘next’ instead of reading). How do I get rid of all those files and start with a new backup? ANY help would be great!!!!! Thanks…

  6. Dick Muller says:

    Could someone please help me? I would like to transfer my Windows Vista Mail emails to my old computer which uses outlook.

  7. Dipen Mitra says:

    I cannot do complete PC backup. I am using Vista Business.
    When I try to do backup into an external Maxtor hard drive it starts alright only to end saying ” the drive cannot find the sector requested 0x8007001B”
    Can you help please.
    Thank you
    Dipen Mitra

  8. Shirley says:

    I’m trying to o a system backup with Vista Premium to a DVD+R. I’m getting the same msg. as Dipen Mitra on 8/18
    “the drive cannot find he sector requested OX8007001B”
    Do you have an answer? Thanks!

  9. Paul says:

    Is it possible to have your C:/ drive as your RECOVERY drive? if so, mine is… can you help?