I’m in the process of finishing up my Windows 8.1 backup book, Saved! Backing Up With Windows 8 Backup. It’s in editing as I type this, and I’ll soon be putting the finishing touches on the companion videos. I hope to have it available within a couple of weeks.
It’s an important book because I know that many people don’t want to shell out more money for my standard recommendation for backing up, Macrium Reflect. If there’s backup software already in Windows they’d prefer to just use that … for free.
The problem is I learned quite a bit about Windows 8.1’s backup as I researched and wrote the book.
And not all of it was good.
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The good news in Windows 8.1 is a feature called “File History”.
When enabled it’s like a continuous incremental backup of your working files. And no, it’s not enabled by default, probably because it requires that you have a disk connected to be used for backing up.
You can adjust the frequency, the location and to some extent the amount of disk space it uses, but the idea is very simple: every so often it simply makes a copy of any of your files that have changed. Need that document you trashed a few minutes ago? File History from an hour ago will have it.
Like I said, it’s a fairly cool feature, but it’s not without limitations.
For example, you can’t specify which folders to include. It assumes that what you want to back up will be in your Libraries, (a confusing concept for most people), on your Desktop, in your Windows Contacts or your Favorites. Have a folder of important data that’s not in that list? Unless you add it to a library it’s not going to benefit from File History.
Microsoft is not-so-subtly applying more pressure to force everyone to use the old My Documents or Documents folder (part of your Documents Library). For some of us My Documents is a cluttered mess that we try to avoid.
But still, it’s a cool feature, if somewhat incomplete, and I heartily recommend turning it on.
As you might know already, I’m a huge fan of image backups. These are the backups that contain a complete image of absolutely everything on your hard drive.
Image backups serve two critical purposes in my mind:
- First, they can be used to restore your machine completely when a hard drive fails, or your machine is so compromised by malware that you just want to start over. In either case simply restoring to an image backup taken prior to the problem gets you up and running with the problem resolved.
- Second, by definition they contain everything. That means if you need to recover a file you didn’t predict you would need to recover, you can. File and data-only backups assume you know what needs to be backed up. Image backups don’t make that assumption.
Unfortunately it’s fairly clear that Microsoft doesn’t agree with me.
Image backups are difficult to find (they’re buried in the File History settings), and there’s no concept of an incremental image backup – at least not that I could find. So full image backups are all that’s available.
But it gets worse.
Windows 8.1 has apparently removed the interface for scheduling automated image backups.
Nope. There’s just no easy way to schedule them.
You need to get down-and-dirty to schedule your full image backups. That means using the Windows Command Prompt, command line tools, and manually setting up the Windows Task Scheduler for the job.
And yes, the book absolutely shows you how to do that.
I just don’t like it. Not one bit. Backups should be getting easier, not harder. And they should be getting heading towards all-inclusive, not becoming less so.
And therein lies my conundrum.
What do I say? What do I sell?
Here’s the deal: I really, really, REALLY want you to back up.
And for many people that means the only option is the backup software already included with their machine. For Windows 8.1 users that means that if Saved! Backing Up With Windows 8 Backup helps you get backed up, then it’s critically important.
But to be honest … I’m not terribly enthused about Windows 8.1 backup. It really only barely makes the grade. In my opinion it’s actually a step backwards, in many ways, from Windows 7 backup (which is essentially the backup included in Windows 8 prior to the 8.1 update).
I’d rather you purchased something else.
I’d really rather you got a copy of Macrium Reflect. It’s more complete, more powerful, more flexible, and it does everything we want.
Then, if you want additional help with it go grab my other book, Saved! – Backing Up with Macrium Reflect.
But absolutely do turn on File History. That, at least, is pretty cool. (And also covered in the book.)