The best home backup plan options - Part 2: Same machine backup

The best home backup plan options: Part 2

Same Machine Backup

In part one of this series on creating a home backup plan I talked about the primary backup options you have available and the pros and cons to each. Over the next three parts, I'll detail how to use each of these methods and recommend some good options and tools.

Recapping part 1, same machine backup is the process of backing up your data to the same computer it originated on.

There are three main tactics that are available for same machine backup:

  • Keeping a duplicate copy of your files

  • Enabling shadow copies (or time machine on Mac OS)

  • Using an incremental backup tool to save locally


One of these options should be sufficient for this less than ideal backup strategy as they all do essentially the same thing.

Duplicating files

This is the most basic form of backup. In an effort to prevent accidental deletion or mistaken edits, you can create a copy of your files and move them to another location on your hard drive.

To do this, start by creating a new folder on your hard drive called Backup. Next, copy folders or files with important data into the Backup folder.

It's helpful to keep the same file structure in the Backup folder as the original, so if the original was in My Documents/Photos, you should create a My Documents folder inside the Backup folder and copy the Photos directory there. Repeat this process with all of your important files.

When you're done copying files into the Backup directory, you can optionally compress the folder to save space on your hard drive.


Right click the Backups folder and choose Send To -> Compress (zipped) folder.


Right click (or control+click) the Backups folder and choose Compress "Backups"

You should periodically update the Backups folder with the latest version of your files. Or you can create a new Backup with the current date attached (Backup-12-7-12) to gain a basic form of file versioning.

Shadow Copies

Windows (since XP SP 2) and Mac OS X (since 10.7 Lion) both have a feature that can create automatic shadow copies of files which let you revert to a previous point in time or recover a deleted file.

Windows 7

First, check to see if the feature is enabled on your system.

  1. Click the Start menu

  2. Right-click on "Computer" and choose "Properties"

  3. Click "System protection" in the left column

  4. In the System Properties window, click the "Configure" button

  5. The option for "Restore system settings and previous versions of files" should be selected. If it's not, choose that option and press OK.

The system will be automatically creating shadow copies of your files as they change. The time period for the backups is usually dictated by system restore points unless you have WIndows Backup configured.

To recover a previous version of a file you can right-click the file and choose "Restore previous versions". If you don't see any previous versions, that file has not been changed or the change has not yet been backed up. You can also click on the C: drive and choose "Restore previous versions" to see everything that has been backed up. Choose a date and click Open to view the files from that time period.

Windows 8

There is a really good guide on setting up system protection for Windows 8 over at addictive tips.

Mac OS X 10.7+

On a Mac you'll want to enable Time Machine. This is more of an incremental backup tool though and there are some extra steps involved if your Mac only has one hard drive. Keep reading for more details on this feature.

Incremental Backup Tools

An incremental backup is a snapshot of your files taken at different points in time which allow you to recover and restore files from that time. Many of these tools will allow you to create a full system image as well that will allow you to restore your entire operating system.

A barrier to the built in Windows and Mac OS X incremental backup tools is that both require a separate disk to store the backups on. If you already have a second disk installed in your system, or have an attached USB or network drive you can use, skip over the partitioning sections.

Drive Partitioning

Since the incremental backup needs more than one disk in order to run, we need to make it look like we have more than one disk available. To accomplish this, you need to partition your hard drive into two separate drives.

Windows Partition

  1. Click on the Start menu

  2. Right-click on "Computer" and choose "Manage"

  3. In the Computer Management window, expand the "Storage" item

  4. Click on Disk Management under "Storage"

  5. Select your C: Volume

  6. Next to what is probably labeled Disk 0, right click on the section that says (C:) and choose "Shrink volume"

  7. Enter the number of MB to shrink the volume by then click Shrink.This will also be the size of the new partition so make it big enough to hold your backups.

  8. When it's completed you'll see the new partition as "Unallocated".

  9. Right-click the Unallocated space and choose "New simple Volume"

  10. Follow the wizard, the defaults should be fine.

You now have a new drive which can be used for backups.

Mac OS X Partition

  1. From the finder select Go - > Utilities

  2. Open the Disk Utility

  3. Click on the top hard drive in the left column

  4. Click on the tab "Partition"

  5. Click the + icon in the bottom left to add a partition

  6. Select the new partition and enter the Size in GB

  7. Click Apply to create the partition

You now have a new drive which can be used for backups.

Backup Setup


There are too many software options to discuss so I'll stick to the included Windows Backup program that has been included since Windows Vista. To get started with incremental backups on Windows:

  1. Click the Start menu and choose "Control Panel"

  2. Click on "System and Security"

  3. Click on "Backup and Restore"

  4. Click on "Set up backup"

  5. On the "Select where you want to save your backup screen" click on your new partition drive and click Next.

  6. On the "What do you want to back up?" screen you can choose to backup specific directories and files yourself or just Let Windows choose.

  7. On the following screen you can set the backup schedule by clicking the "Change Schedule" link. By default it runs every Sunday at 7PM.

  8. Click Save settings and run backup.

Mac OS X

  1. From the finder select the Apple icon in the upper left and choose "System Preferences"

  2. Click on the Time Machine icon

  3. Click the big switch from Off to On

  4. Select the newly partitioned drive and click Use Disk

  5. Confirm by clicking Use selected volume on the next screen

  6. Optionally click the Options button to choose exactly what you want backed up


That wraps up the summary on how to use same machine backup techniques to get the bare minimum protection on your data. In the next post I'll discuss much better options involving external disk backups, followed by cloud backup solutions, and finally how these can be used together to build a solid backup strategy.

Next - Part 3: External drive backup

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