Backup File Selection Best Practices

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2018 11:15AM PDT

What Do I Need to Backup?

For most users one of the hardest things is figuring out which files actually need to be backed up on a regular basis.

We often come across machines that are having backup errors when System Files and Folders are selected to be backed up as part of a "Full Backup".
Keep in mind that if you have any real-time Disaster Recovery solution in place it may interfere with backup programs designed for long-term data retention. As these services are performing constant data replication they would need to be stopped during file backups for other programs to utilize some shared services.

Define "Full Backup"

Lets take a look at what we mean with our terminology "Full Backup".
A "Full Backup" for the common user means:
"select everything then I will have it later" 
(User selects "C:" and backs up the entire system drive)
When we say "Full Backup" we mean: 
"backup all of the selected files"
(Select the locations where your data is actually stored, such as your "User" or "My Documents" folder)
Another mode would be "Differential Backup" meaning:
"backup files that have changed since the last Full Backup"
(backup only those files, that are in the selection, that have changed since the last "Full Backup")

What are System Files?

The objective for most users is to back up your personal files from your personal computer, not system files, applications, or server resources. We don't recommend adding these files to your backup selection because they can interfere with the backup of your personal files. These types of files often have complex requirements and relationships to other files, so it's often useless to restore them.


System files

These are files that your computer needs to work correctly. They may be a part of your operating system, a third-party device driver, or another source. Typically, you don't interact with these files directly, your operating system does.

Application folders

These folders contain the files that allow various applications - like your email, word processor, and web browser programs - to work correctly. Like system files, you don't typically interact with these files directly, but your programs do.

Folders to Select for File-Based Backup

We would recommend that for most users, select only the folders you know you need to backup.
Typical folders would include your User folder (previously known as "My Documents").

Selection For Most Users: 

Selecting the User Name only would be enough for most users: 
Note: The AppData folder referenced later is included in this selection by default if it isn't visible.


Outlook Personal Folders ".PST"

".PST", or Personal Storage Table files, contain a user's Outlook data for POP3, IMAP and web-based mail accounts, including all mail folders and the items within the folders, such as emails, email attachments, to do items and appointments, contacts and more.
These files were used in versions of Microsoft Office Outlook 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 & 2010. 
Newer versions of Outlook (2013, 2016) have moved away from local Outlook Data files, ".PST", to Offline Outlook data files ".OST" that are synchronized with the Outlook mail server when your computer is connected to the internet. See Introduction to Outlook Data Files (.pst and .ost) 

Outlook Data Files (.pst) created by using Outlook 2013 or Outlook 2016 are saved on your computer in the Documents\Outlook Files folder. If you upgraded to Outlook on a computer that already had data files that were created in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 or earlier, these files are saved in a different location in a hidden folder at C:\Users\%UserName%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook.

The offline Outlook Data File (.ost) is also saved at C:\Users\%UserName%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook. Most data remains on the server; however, any items that are saved locally should be backed up. For example, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and any folders marked Local only.

See How to locate, move, or back up your personal folders (.pst) file in Outlook and/or Introduction to Outlook Data Files (.pst and .ost) for more information about these files.

Folders to NOT Backup with File-Based Backup  

We do not recommend using File-Based Backup (i.e. the Backup tab) for System Files and Folders.
These system folders are usually found at the following locations:
C:\Program Files
C:\Program Files (x86)
Note: Excluding the AppData folder is up to you, as it contains highly system state dependent data, this is also a Hidden Folder by default. To see this folder in the file tree you need to show hidden files in Windows Explorer.

Cloud synchronization folders (One Drive, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox to name a few) are not normally desired during a File Backup as they have version history available online when they are synchronized to/from your local machine.

Don't forget to make an Image Backup!

We recommend utilizing the Image Backup feature of NovaBACKUP for your "C:" drive to back up System Files and Folders.

Create a Backup Schedule

Create a weekly full backup, a daily differential backup, and a monthly image backup (With Retention)

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