Using Robocopy to backup files

My schedule has been ridiculous lately and our home laptop has been sitting like a dead brick for the last month. Thank goodness for multiple computing devices in the house! Apparently, Windows 8 isn’t real happy right now and is having trouble finding a suitable restore point from the past. I was about to boot to live image of Ubuntu to start backing up files when the laptop magically decided to boot to Windows, limping along the way.

I have a FreeNAS server for mass file storage and I usually end up just mass copying all the files from all the devices to the FreeNAS server from time-to-time. Ideally, this would be done on a schedule and only do differential backups (summer project) to be more network and time efficient.

One utility you can use that is built-in to Windows is Robocopy, which stands for Robust File Copy. It’s a utility that has been around for several versions of Windows in both desktop and server varieties. The utility is command line-based, allows you specify the source and destination directories, and analyzes each file and directory based on file size and time stamp to see if needs replaced or not. Pretty handy.

The easiest way for me was to map a network drive to my FreeNAS server. If you have a USB stick, secondary hard drive, or even another local folder, you’ll be set to use Robocopy. I opened up the command window (the easiest way is to click on Start and type cmd in the search box). Then, I issued the following command:

robocopy c:\users\username\Documents\music y:\music /e

The first argument is the source directory, the second argument is the destination directory, and the /e switch tells Robocopy to include subfolders. You’ll get feedback from each file that gets analyzed and whether the file gets copied or not. Pretty handy. If you check out the Microsoft TechNet article on all of the switches and options, you can do so much more including adding scheduled jobs to copy files on a regular basis.

This tip is for all of us who have not backed up files in way too long. For my students, it’s the end of the semester, stress level is high, and your computer may want to crash on you. Create a backup strategy so that you don’t lose all that work you’ve created this semester.