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Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Backing up your computer has never been really exciting, but it's something that needs to be done on a regular basis. And with the increase of file encrypting malware, having a good backup has never been more important. Here's how to backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10.

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Windows 10 backup basics

Now there are two (2) different backup programs inside of Windows 10, Windows Backup and File History, and each one does a specific type of backup. Windows Backup is geared more towards scheduled backups (nightly, weekly, etc.) and is usually used for full system backups / complete 'bare metal' system images. File History is more for personal files that change frequently, like Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, as it saves multiple versions of the same file.

File History creates multiple versions of the same file with time stamps in the names
File History creates multiple versions of the same file with time stamps in the names

The one thing that Windows Backup and File History have in common is that both of these programs can back up to an external drive or network folder. Windows Backup can also use writeable disks like CD's or DVD's.

With the recent outbreak of file encrypting malware, if you're going to use a network folder it is recommend you do not map a network folder to a drive letter (N:\Files), but instead use Uniform Naming Convention (UNC) (\\Server\Volume\Files).

It goes without saying but never use the same drive that Windows is installed on for File History or Windows Backup. If your computer gets a virus or the operating system gets corrupted, you may have to reformat the drive and reinstall Windows.

Remember when not in use, store the media used for backups (external hard disks, DVD's, or CD's) in a secure place to prevent unauthorized people from having access to your files. It is also recommended to use a fire-proof location, like a data safe, to store the backup media.

Using File History to backup your files

File History will automatically create time stamped versions of your personal files (documents, music, photos ,etc.) on a set schedule. If the originals are lost, damaged, or deleted, you can restore them from an earlier point in time. You can schedule File History to run from every ten (10) minutes to daily. And you can also set the length time that File History keeps copies of your files, from 1 month to forever or whenever space is needed.

The main screen for File History
The main screen for File History

To use File History you will need to have either an external drive or network folder to save the files to. By default, File History will back up your personal folders (documents, photos, videos, etc.) but you can add additional folders to its configuration. Now configuring File History inside of Windows 10 can be a little confusing, as there are two (2) different places to change the settings, Settings and Control Panel.

How to open File History in Settings

  1. Left-click the Start menu and select Settings.
  2. Left-click on Update & security.
  3. In the left column, left-click on Backup.

How to open File History in the Control Panel

  1. Left-click on the Start menu and select All apps.
  2. Scroll down to Windows System and left-click on it to expand it out.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  4. If viewing by category, left-click on Save backup copies of your file with File History. If viewing by large / small icons, left-click on File History.

or

  1. Bring up the Power Users menu by right-clicking on the Start menu.
  2. In the context menu that appears, left-click on Control Panel.
  3. If viewing by category, left-click on Save backup copies of your file with File History. If viewing by large / small icons, left-click on File History.

Here is a breakdown of what options can be changed and where to find them.

File History option Settings Control Panel
Turn on or off X X
Manually run File History X  
Change frequency (how often it runs) and duration (how long they are kept) of history X X
Add or remove folders X  
Exclude folders (good for sub-folders) X X
Change where backups are stored X X
Clean up older versions   X
Restore files   X

Using Windows Backup to backup your files

The version of Windows Backup included in Windows 10 is actually from Windows 7, hence the name in the Control Panel, Backup and Restore (Windows 7). If you used the version in Windows 7, everything will be familiar to you. With Windows Backup, you can backup just certain files and folders or do a complete system backup / system image. And you can schedule it to run whenever you want.

The main screen for Windows Backup
The main screen for Windows Backup

But unlike File History, Windows Backup creates a single backup that gets updated when it is run. No multiple file versions here, just the latest version of files at the time Windows Backup was run.

Along with using an external drive or network folder for backup, Windows Backup can also use CD's or DVD's. But if you're going to do a complete system backup on CD's or DVD's, be prepared with plenty of blank disks.

If you're creating a complete system image, remember to make a system repair disk to go along with it. If you ever need to restore your computer from a Windows Backup image, you will need to boot your computer from it. The link to create it is in the left-hand column.

How to open Windows Backup in Settings

  1. Left-click the Start menu and select Settings.
  2. Left-click on Update & security.
  3. In the left column, left-click on Backup.
  4. In the right column, left-click on Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

How to open Windows Backup in the Control Panel

  1. Left-click on the Start menu and select All apps.
  2. Scroll down to Windows System and left-click on it to expand it out.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  4. Left-click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

or

  1. Bring up the Power Users menu by right-clicking on the Start menu.
  2. In the context menu that appears, left-click on Control Panel.
  3. Left-click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 marks the return of the Start menu, missing since Windows 7. With a combination of new and old elements, the Start menu can be quite useful. Here's how to customize the Start menu in Windows 10.

Now some of the Windows users will recognize the Windows 10 Start menu as a revised version of the Start screen from Windows 8/8.1. It is now kind of split with traditional Start menu features on the left side and universal apps / shortcut tiles on the right side. You can only change certain items on the Start menu, mainly what appears on the main screen. You can do minimal editing to the All apps menu, but be careful as you cannot add anything to, or back to, the All apps menu. Once removed, it's gone. Of course you can always add a shortcut to the tiles, desktop or taskbar.

The Start menu now can be run as pop-up menu (desktop) or completely full screen (tablet). You can also change the look and feel of the Start menu couple of different ways.

Changing the Start menu size

Just like any other application, you can change the width and height of the Start menu. Hover your cursor over one of the edges of the Start menu until the sizing arrows appear, then hold the left mouse button and drag it to the size you want. You can also modify the Tiles (add, remove, resize and move around).

Changing the Start menu appearance

The majority of Start menu settings that you can customize are located under Settings > Personalization > Start. Items that you can turn on or off include:

  • Show most used apps
  • Show recently added apps
  • Use Start full screen
  • Show recently opened item in Jump lists on Start or the taskbar

Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that you can edit
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that you can edit
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that have important context menus
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that have important context menus

You can also turn on or off which folders appear on the Start menu. They included File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, Network and your Personal folder (where you Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Videos, etc. are stored). If you want to change the color and effects for the Start menu, just go to Settings > Personalization > Colors. There you will find the following appearance settings:

  • Automatically pick an accent color from my background
  • Show color on Start, taskbar, and action center
  • Make Start, taskbar and action center transparent

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Shortcuts are links to various types of objects on your computer like a program, file, folder or another computer and it can be placed on your Desktop, Taskbar or Start menu. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

To create a shortcut in Windows 10, you just need to know where the object is located on your computer. Open File Explorer (left-click the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or left-click on the Start Menu and select File Explorer) and navigate the the object you want to create a shortcut to. If you want to create a Desktop shortcut, make sure File Explorer is not in full screen mode.

  • For a shortcut on the Start menu, right-click on the object and select Pin to Start
  • For a shortcut on the Taskbar, right-click on the object and select Pin to Taskbar
  • For a shortcut on the Desktop, press and hold the right mouse button on the object and drag it to the Desktop. From the context menu that appears select Create shortcuts here.

7 things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 comes the inevitable upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, And with the upgrade being free for the first year, why not upgrade to Windows 10? But before you do, there are some things you should do before. Here are seven (7) things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10.

7 things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10

1. Run Window 10 Upgrade Advisor

Doing an in-place upgrade has its pros and cons. Even though Microsoft claims that if the software runs on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 it will run on Windows 10, there will be exceptions to the rule. The same can be said about hardware too. Remember that Windows 10 will only come with generic drivers for a good portion of the hardware out there. Running the upgrade advisor will tell what issues you may have and then you can find a fix prior to performing the upgrade. Download any hardware specific drivers that you will need and save them to a flash drive or network folder.

    The Get Windows 10 icon
  1. Left-click the Get Windows 10 icon on the Taskbar
  2. The Get Windows 10 PC check
  3. Left-click on the three horizontal bars in the upper left corner to expand the menu and select Check your PC.

2. Check your drive for errors

One of the last things you want is to have the upgrade fail because of errors on the system drive. Especially if it the failure were to happen while coping new files and left you system un-bootable. To be on the safe side, run Windows disk checking utility CHKDSK.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7
Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

3. Clean up the junk

It's now time to clean the system up. Uninstall any program you don't need and/or want and then run Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility. You can also use a program like CCleaner, but be careful not to go too far with it.

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup
Windows 8 Disk Cleanup
Clean up and optimize your computer with CCleaner

4. Backup everything

As the old saying goes "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", so a complete backup of your system is the next thing to do. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 both have a built-in File Recovery program that can do a full system image to an external drive, network folder or DVD's. You will also need to create a system repair disk to boot the system so that you can restore the system image you create, just in case. Links to both are located on the left-side column of the File Recovery program screen.

Now the File Recovery program can be kind of hard to find, especially in Windows 8.1. So to make sure you are running it with the correct privileges, I suggest just running the program using an administrative command prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

To open the File Recovery program, just type the following into an admin command prompt and hit enter.

sdclt.exe

5. Perform an inventory with Belarc

Having a complete list of all of the hardware and software inside your computer can come in really handy if anything were to go wrong. Belarc Advisor is a great program for creating an inventory of your computers software and hardware, including any software installation keys. Once it is done creating an inventory, it opens the results in a web browser. Print or save the results to a flash drive, just in case you might need it down the road.

Belarc Advisor

6. Uninstall system utilities

This is not mandatory but I would recommend uninstalling any anti-virus, anti-malware, EMET, etc. program before the upgrade. These types of programs look for malicious activity geared toward the operating system and could create a really big headache during the upgrade. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Time to upgrade to Windows 10

Grab a drink and have a seat, it'll take a little while.

7. Update drivers and reinstall software

It's now time to install any device specific drivers you downloaded in Step #1. Once that is done, it's time to download the latest version of all the software you removed in Step #6. If you're unsure what version of a program you had installed, just go through the inventory you created in Step #5.

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

Have you ever tried to find a file in a disorganized filing cabinet? It can take some time. The same thing can happen when your computer's drive becomes fragmented. But you can keep all of the folder and files on your computer organized with regular defragmentation. Here's how to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10.

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

There are two (2) types of drives used in computers, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid State Drive (SSD). The type of drive you have determines whether you need (or want) to defragment and optimize it. To find out what type of drive(s) you have, just follow the standard instructions below. The Optimize Drives screen will tell you what type of drive(s) you currently have in your computer.

The issue of drive fragmentation actually stems from the early '80's when Microsoft needed an OS and they bought Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) and renamed it MS-DOS. At that time, HDD's were the only type of drive available and they are still the de facto standard in the industry. And they do need to be defragmented and optimized on a regular basis.

Now SSD's are different in that there are no moving parts inside, just memory chips. So when your computer reads and writes to it, the data is going back to the exact same location on the drive. Now you can defrag and optimize a SSD, but it is not recommend since SSD's have limited read / write cycles and any program that intensively accesses the SSD could shorten the life span of the drive. Microsoft started adding support for SSD's in Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 with the Trim command. Since the low level operation of SSD's is different from HDD's, the Trim command handles deletes / format requests.

You can verify Trim is enabled by typing the following into an Administrative Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

If the command returns a 0 then Trim is enabled. If it returns a 1, then it is not. To enable Trim, just type the following into the Administrative Command Prompt:

fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0

Standard drive defragment and optimization in Windows 10

standard drive defragment and optimization in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer (left-click the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or left-click on the Start Menu and select File Explorer).
  2. In the left-side column left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column right-click on the drive you want to check and select Properties.
  4. Left-click on the Tools tab.
  5. Under Optimize and defragment drive left-click on Optimize.
  6. Left-click on the drive(s) you want to optimize.
  7. Left-click on Analyze (Analyze all) or Optimize (Optimize all)

Advanced drive defragment and optimization in Windows 10

advanced drive defragment and optimization in Windows 10

  1. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative privileges (click here for instructions)
  2. Use the following command line syntax(s) and parameter(s) to run DEFRAG:

defrag <volumes> | /C | /E <volumes> [<task(s)>] [/H] [/M [n] | [/U] [/V]] [/I n]
Where <task(s)> is omitted (traditional defrag), or as follows: /A | [/D] [/K] [/L] | /O | /X
Or, to track an operation already in progress on a volume: defrag <volume> /T

Examples:
defrag C: /U /V
defrag C: D: /M
defrag C:\mountpoint /A /U
defrag /C /H /V

Value Description
/A Perform analysis on the specified volumes.
/C Perform the operation on all volumes.
/D Perform traditional defrag (this is the default).
/E Perform the operation on all volumes except those specified.
/H Run the operation at normal priority (default is low).
/I n Tier optimization would run for at most n seconds on each volume.
/K Perform slab consolidation on the specified volumes.
/L Perform retrim on the specified volumes.
/M n Run the operation on each volume in parallel in the background. At most n threads optimize the storage tiers in parallel.
/O Perform the proper optimization for each media type.
/T Track an operation already in progress on the specified volume.
/U rint the progress of the operation on the screen.
/V Print verbose output containing the fragmentation statistics.
/X Perform free space consolidation on the specified volumes.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation, Website Support, etc.

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