How can you back up all of your important files on a Windows XP system?
It's pretty easy actually.
Lets start with Windows XP Home edition. This OS does not come with the data backup feature, but you can install it from the installation CD you got with your computer or an OEM Windows XP home edition CD. The file is located in the CD drive:\VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP folder. If you don't have access to an installation CD you can download the file here: NTBACKUP.MSI
Windows XP Professional edition comes with this feature already installed so you don't have to worry about the previous steps used with Windows XP Home.
Now you are all ready to start the backup process!
Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Backup to start the wizard.
Click Next to skip past the opening page, choose Back up files and settings from the second page, and then click Next. You should see the page shown below, which represents your first decision point.
Don't click All information on this computer unless you have a lot of space (the amount of space currently being used by your hard drive basically). The My documents and settings is a much better choice. This selection preserves your data files (including e-mail messages and address books) and the personal settings stored in the Windows Registry.
If you have a lot of people who use your computer you will want to choose the Everyone's documents and settings option.
If you have other files you want to backup then choose the Let me choose what to back up option. This option takes you to the Items to Back Up page shown below:
You can now browse the My Computer hierarchy to select the additional files you need to back up. If some of your files are on a shared network drive, open the My Network Places folder and select those folders.
Now decide where to store your backup files.
On the Backup Type, Destination, and Name page, Windows asks you to specify a backup location. By default, Backup proposes saving everything to your floppy drive (drive A). This is NOT good unless you want to use several hundred floppy disks for your backup.
Instead, your best bet is to click Browse where you can choose your hard disk, a zip drive or a networked computer or device.
After you've chosen a backup location, enter a name for the file, click Next to display the wizard's final page,(shown below), and then click Finish to begin your backup.
And that's it! You've successfully backed up the data you want backed up for safe keeping! I'll put together another post for how to do this in Windows Vista and Windows 7 soon.