How to Backup Windows XP Home Edition


By Stephen Bucaro

Your computer cost you from hundreds to thousands of dollars, but the computer itself is not the most valuable part. The data on the hard disk is the most valuable part. How many hours of work did you put into creating that data? One little event, like a power line spike from a lightning strike, and all that work could be lost. Unfortunately, backing up with Windows XP Home Edition is not as simple as it should be.

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The first step is to choose a backup device. You might choose a tape drive or a DVD drive, but those devices might require drivers to be installed before you could restore from them. The simplest option is to install a second hard drive in your computer.

The second hard drive doesn't have to be equal to your main hard drive. You can use an older, smaller hard drive as the backup device, as long as the backup drive has more "Free Space" than the main hard drive has "Used Space".

Install a Second Hard Drive

When installing a second hard drive in your computer, it's important to configure the drives correctly. Your motherboard should have two ATA (sometimes called IDE) connectors. The primary connector should have a cable with two drive connectors. The end connector should go to your main hard drive, the middle connector can be used for a backup hard drive. The second motherboard ATA connector should go to your CD-ROM.

On the back of each hard drive is a jumper. The jumper on your main hard drive should be set to the "Master" position. The jumper on your backup hard drive should be set to "Slave" position. Most modern computers use "Cable Select", so you can set both jumpers to the "Cable Select" position. Don't forget the power connector for the second drive.

When you restart your computer, the second drive should be automatically recognized and be designated with the next drive letter available, usually E: (D: being used for the CD-ROM drive).

Format the Second Hard Drive

Generally, you will want to re-format the second hard drive after installation to remove any previously installed operating system and to remove any previous file access rights. To format the drive, select Start | Settings | Control Panel | Administration Tools | Computer Management. In the "Computer Management" window, under "Storage", click on "Disk Management".

Right click on the backup disk's drive letter. In the popup menu, select All Tasks | Format... In the Warning dialog box that appears, click on the "Yes" button. In the "Format" dialog box, in the "File system" drop-down list, select NTFS. Click on the "OK" button. Again, in the Warning dialog box that appears, click on the "Yes" button.

Install the Backup Utility

Windows XP Home Edition doesn't install the Backup utility by default. You'll need to install it manually from your Windows XP CD-ROM.

1. After inserting the CD-ROM, open Control Panel's "Add or Remove Programs" utility. In the "Add or Remove Programs" utility", click on the "Add New Programs" button, then click on the "CD or Floppy" button.

2. In the "Run Installation Program" dialog box that appears, navigate to the VALUEAD/MSFT/NTBACKUP folder on the CD-ROM and select the file NTBACKUP.MSI. Click on the "Finish" button. The Backup utility will be installed.

Perform a Full Backup

To perform a backup, select Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup to open the Backup Utility.

Note: If you don't find Backup listed in System Tools, double click on the file name ntbackup.exe in the Windows\system32 folder.

In the "Backup or Restore Wizard", click on the "Advanced Mode" link. In the "Backup Utility" dialog box, select the "Backup" tab and set the checkbox next to the drive to backup (c:) and set the checkbox next to "System State".

In the "Backup media or file name" text box, enter the path to the file for the backup (example E:\Backup.bkf). Click on the "Start Backup" button.

In the "Backup Job Information" dialog box that appears, set the radio button next to "Replace the data on the media with this backup". Click on the "Start Backup" button. The "backup Progress" dialog box will appear.

Even when you backup to relatively fast media like hard disk, the process can take 30 minutes or longer depending upon how much data is on the main drive.

When the backup is complete, turn off the computer and remove the data and power cables from the backup drive. It doesn't make sense to leave the backup drive connected because if the cause of a failure is a power spike, it will take out both drives. Next time you want to backup you'll need to reinstall the cables.

How to Perform a Restore

In the unfortunate event that your computer crashes and you can't get it back by any other means, you'll need to reinstall Windows XP from the CD-ROM. (Automated System Recovery is not supported in Windows XP Home Edition.) You'll need to re-install the Backup utility. Then you'll need to shut down the computer to install the data and power cables to the backup drive. Restart the computer and use the Backup Utility to restore Windows XP from the backup file.

When using this backup method, it's important to be careful not to break any pins when you are removing and installing the data cable of the hard drive. And if your computer doesn't use "cable Select", don't forget to change the jumper on the main hard drive back to "Single".

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