Have you ever wanted to figure out how to backup your PC or backup your laptop for free? Me too. I have put together a step by step method of doing this with some free software tools provided by Microsoft. You will need a second hard drive or USB drive with enough capacity to put your data on, but other than that, you can accomplish backing up your PC for free.

Things You Will Need

Here is what you need:

1) A computer running Windows Operating Systems. (Sorry Mac users...I don't have a Mac yet) I use XP and Windows 2003. I think it will work on Vista, but haven't tested it.

2) A second hard drive, an external USB hard drive or even a thumb drive would work too...as long as it has enough capacity to hold the data you are backing up. Most people already own one of these, so I don't include it in the cost consideration. But if you need to purchase one, well...that will cost some money. Sorry, don't shoot the messenger.

3) A free utility from Microsoft called robocopy. This is included as part of the free Windows 2003 Resource Kit. If you run Vista, I think the robocopy utility is already included..although I don't know where it is located. Robocopy was originally developed to copy files and data on servers, but you can use it for your laptop or pc too.

Get the 2003 Resource Kit here: Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit

***Please note that this URL may change from time to time because Microsoft changes their website often. If that is the case just search on Google for " Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools". Someone will have it available somewhere)

Install the Resource Kit...it doesn't require a reboot.

By default all the Resource Kit files will install to: C:Program FilesWindows Resource KitsTools

Once installed, Go to that directory and find the file "robocopy.exe" Copy it and paste it into your root drive of C:

4) Go to your C: drive (Right click on "My Computer" and choose Explore) Browse to the C: drive. Create a New Folder called "logs"
(Right Click your mouse in the right half of My Computer Window , Choose--> New -->Folder--> Name it: logs

5) Also while you're in the My Computer Window, Take note of your "Other" Hard drive letter. It may be D:, E:, F: etc. It WON'T be C:

6) This part is where it gets a bit techie. You need to know what data that you want to backup. I suggest FIRST testing a folder in your C: drive
Name the folder "stuff" or "testdata" or whatever. I'll use the "stuff" name for my script example below. The F: drive is my 2nd hard drive in my example below:

Copy the following text and paste it in a Notepad document. Save the file to your C: drive and name it robocopy.bat:

FOR /F "usebackq delims==" %%i IN (`dir /b /on ^"C:stuff*.*^"`) DO @start c: obocopy.exe "C:stuff\%%i" "F: estingstuff\%%i" /E /COPY:SDATOU /NP /PURGE /MIR /R:0 /LOG:"c:logs obocopy-%%i-incremental-%1.log"

7) Now to test the script. Create a new folder with some test files in your C:stuff folder. (Don't put good data in here yet..this is just a test remember)

So it should like this: C:stuffmydatafiles< a bunch of test files>

8) Go to your Desktop of your Windows computer and do this: Right Click on the Desktop--> Choose New--> Shortcut
Paste the following location into the Shortcut window: C: obocopy.bat.
Name the Shortcut what ever you want... "Backup Laptop" etc.,

9) OK now we are ready to launch the script. If you've done things correctly (and my instructions are correct ;) ) you should be able to double click on the new Shortcut you just made. It will pop open several (or many windows) depending how much data you are testing with. It should be very fast initially,but eventually the more data you backup...the longer the windows will remain open while copying. Just let them finish. They will close automatically when they're done.

10) To see if it worked, Go to your 2nd Hard drive....in my case the F: drive. On it, you SHOULD see F: estingstuffmydatafiles

11) Now, if that test worked, you can put your REAL DATA that you want to backup everyday into your C:stufffolder.
If you want to rename any of the folders in my examples above...just make sure to change the SCRIPT locations in the C:Robocopy.bat file. It can be
edited in Notepad easily. Also make sure you actually have a real source folder and a real destination folder with the same names as in your script.

Personally, I usually just keep everything of importance in the "C:Stuffmydatafiles" folder and just work from there all day. When I'm done at the end of the day..I double
click the Robocopy.bat shortcut and let it run. It copies all those files to your 2nd harddrive and Bingo! You've got free and fast backup!

If you even want to get fancier...you can schedule this script to run every night using Windows Scheduler. But I'm not going to cover that here.
As you can see, backing up your laptop or backing up your PC is entirely possible using free software from Microsoft and a little ingenuity. I hope my scripts above work well for some of you . Once you get it working, you'll be amazed at how fast it is and after a while you won't even think about backup any other way.

Tips & Warnings

My step by step guide is a little "techie". If you haven't had much experience writing scripts or messing with .BAT files, you may want to consider a commercial option for backing up your laptop or PC. Of course, this costs money, and you may want to at least try to give my example a shot before you buy something. Best of luck to you.