One-Button Backups

You’re racing out the door, and you need to back up key files in their latest state. But you don’t have time to run a complicated and lengthy program. What should you do? Well, if you sit down just once and write a simple plain-text list of the files and directories you always need, arranging the words in an easy format, you’ll be able to click a single icon to back up those valuable files from your computer to the device of your choice.

It’s done with an old-fashioned sleight of hand called a batch file — something lots of people used before Windows painted over simple DOS commands, such as “copy teabiscuit.doc a:” — which basically told the computer in nearly plain English to copy the file “teabiscuit.doc” to floppy drive a:. Batch files can contain all kinds of commands. No coding is necessary. Just write down rows of commands (in this case for making backup copies) in the following format: “copy filename.ext destination.” Do this once, and you can copy thousands of files with one click of the mouse on your batch file icon. Follow these easy steps:

Decide which files you want to back up often, such as key financial and customer documents, and choose a device where you want to send them, such as the drive letter “a:” for a floppy drive, or to a drive letter and directory path such as “d:\mybackups” for a backup directory you created on your second hard drive. Just open Windows Explorer to find out which drive letters your devices use. We find it best to write one batch file for carrying the few files that will fit on a floppy, then other batch files for backing up to devices that will hold entire project directories. You can make as many specialized batch files as you need, just make sure there’s enough room on the device.

Using Windows Notepad, write your list of copy commands in the simple format Windows uses: copy [source file] [destination].

Here’s how easy it is with real file names and drive letters:

  • copy C:\Book\Chapter01.doc A:\Backup
  • copy C:\Book\Chapter02.doc A:\Backup
  • copy C:\Taxes\Expenses2003.xls A:\Backup.
  • copy D:\Personal\GiftList.doc A:\Backup.

That’s it!

Save the file as plain text, and give it a name plus a .bat extension, such as PCtoA.bat. To create backups for different devices, simply change the destination letter from a: (as an example of a floppy) to f: (as an example of a USB drive).

Add your batch file to the Start Menu through Start\Settings\TaskBar and StartMenu\Start Menu\Customize\Add, and give it an icon that reminds you where the files go. (If you back up to another PC on the network, you may need to manually connect to the network through Windows Explorer first to make sure you’re logged in before running the batch file.)

Now, with one click, you can back up crucial files from all over your hard drive.