There are hundreds of backup tools for Windows you can use to backup your files. Just have a look at our Best Windows Software list for some good tools. However, my favourite Windows backup utility so far has to be Microsoft SyncToy.
Why choose Microsoft SyncToy instead of other Windows backup tools?
Why? Because it’s easy to use, and it does the job well. I have to admit, I’m not a person who makes regular backups of my files. In fact, I have only taken one full backup of all my files once, and that was only a few months ago.
In my search for the perfect backup tool for Windows, I didn’t want anything fancy. I just wanted to copy the files from one hard drive to another, and only back up my files when I want. I crawled around the web and found so many solutions which just interfered with my Windows operating system by adding options in the right-click context menus or just seemed like bloatware. I didn’t want any of this. I just wanted a simple backup solution and I found that Microsoft SyncToy worked for me.
My last backup was few months ago, and I’ve since formatted my computer and haven’t reinstalled Microsoft SyncToy, so I will show you how to back up your files and walk you through the entire process of using the this Windows backup tool.
How To Back Up Your Files – Step 1: Download and Install SyncToy
Just go to Microsoft’s Download Center and download SyncToy 2.1 (which is the latest version at the time of writing) and download either the 64-bit, or 32-bit file depending on your operating system. The 32-bit version ends with _x86.exe (I know, it’s confusing!)
Now go through the installation steps. This is no different from any other application installation.
How To Back Up Your Files – Step 2: Configure SyncToy
When you launch the Microsoft SyncToy for the first time, you have to create your Folder Pairs. Do this by clicking “Create New Folder Pair”.
Now choose your left folder and right folder. Since we are backing up files, the left folder will be the folder/files I wish to backup, and the right folder will be the destination where I want the files to be copied to.
Now you have to tell Microsoft SyncToy what to do:
- Synchronise – the changes on the left are applied to the right. The changes on the right, are applied to the left. In the end, with any changes made, it will be replicated on both folders.
- Echo – the changes on the left are applied to the right. Changes on the right, are not applied to the left.
- Contribute – the same as Echo, but files are deleted on the left, are not deleted on the right. Sort of like file archiving.
If you are still not sure what option you want, click More Information as it describes the processes in depth. Since I want the changes on the left to be replicated to the right, I’ll be choosing Echo, as I want to right hand side to be exactly the same as the left. Since I don’t want to archive deleted items, I won’t choose Contribute.
Final step is to name your Folder Pair and review.
You will now see the Folder Pair appear.
If you click on the Change Options link, you have a few more options. You can exclude certain files. I am also going to uncheck “Save overwritten files in the recycling bin”. If I leave this option checked, any changes on the left folder will cause the files on the right will be moved to the recycling bin. I don’t want that, I want them to be replaced.
The other option to be aware of is “Check file contents”. If this is checked, the backup will take longer, however, Microsoft SyncToy guarantees that the file are different or the same. If it is unchecked, Microsoft SyncToy will only check the timestamp and file size to determined whether it has changed. I’m going to leave this unchecked because it’s only a one way backup. If you chose the synchronise option, you should check it.
How To Back Up Your Files – Step 3: You’re Done!
Now to back up your files, hit the Run button. But before you do, ensure you have checked the following:
- The Left folder is the folder you want to backup
- The Right folder is the backup’s destination
- You’ve chosen the correct Sync action (Echo)
- Do not save overwritten files in the recycling bin
- Any other option you wish to select.
So that’s how to back up your files with a free Windows backup tool — I hope Microsoft SyncToy is a good option for you. Do you use any other Windows backup utility? Let us know how they’ve worked out for you.