Backing up Data and SyncToy

by Meryl Evans | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 6 comments

Maxtor 200 GB Shared Storage External Hard Drive NAS ( H01P200 )I have this Maxtor External Shared Storage External Hard Drive thanks to Nick Finck for telling me about it. I’ve been through hard drive deaths and crashes where it meant rebuilding the computer. I thought I was prepared the last time when I had dual drives, but Murphy’s Law found a loophole. We couldn’t boot from the second drive, but thankfully my data was still on it.

So another lesson learned, so I had to find another way to feel safe about my data. Online storage is too expensive. Some services are free, but don’t have enough space. Then Nick told me about the external drive. I wanted a separate drive for storing data only. No programs. No client. No operating system. Nothing that installs. Just a second home for data.

As soon as I got it, I copied all my data files over. I keep most of my data files in a special folder on my PC’s hard drive as well — so it makes it easier to back up the data. I say “most,” as not all programs allow me to select where I want the data to go. All Microsoft Office templates are stored in their default folders. Haven’t had the time to figure out how to change this.

Search for a Program to Sync Two Drives

Next step is to figure out how to sync up the two drives. Did research on software and some couldn’t do it because it’s an external drive. Then I found Novastor’s NOVABackup. I contact the company to ensure it’d work with my external hard drive and it does. I didn’t get around to buying it and unlucky for Novastor, Microsoft’s free SyncToy came along.

SyncToy is a simple application for copying, moving, renaming and deleting files between folders, storage cards, computers, and drives. You can do the following between two folders:

* Synchronize: New and updated files are copied both ways. Renames and deletes in one folder is repeated on the other.

* Echo: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.

* Subscribe: Updated files on the right are copied to the left is the file name already exists on the left.

* Contribute: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. Similar to Echo, except there are no deletions.

* Combine: New and updated files are copied both ways. Renamed and deleted files are ignored.

SyncToy Main Screen

I tested the app by using Echo as I didn’t want to risk the backup driving messing up the main drive. It did the job perfectly. Any new files I created and updated showed up on the backup.


Sometimes I work on my laptop, and when I do that I usually use Remote Desktop to get to the main PC and work on that hard drive. Using Remote Desktop is slower than connecting to the backup drive, so I thought I could connect to the backup drive instead. Whenever I work on the backup drive, the two drives could sync up and any work I do on the laptop will transfer to the PC.

The backup had stuff on it that I no longer had on my current drive. Echo only checks for changes since the last backup — so all the changes that occurred prior to using SyncToy wouldn’t be included.

So I deleted all the data files off the backup so I could start fresh. I copied the data files from the PC drive to the back up drive. Unfortunately, the copying was interrupted well into the transfer. I tried to compare the more important folders and find the untransferred data.

SyncToy ran synchronize that night. I checked it out in the morning and was mortified. All the folders on my main drive were empty. Folders were there, but data wasn’t. SyncToy sends deleted files to the Recycle Bin (whew), but the Recycle Bin was full and didn’t have everything (ack!). I opened the Z drive folders and the data was there (whew again). Wasted a lot of time doing CPR on the main drive.

I believe that because I had deleted everything on the backup, SyncToy decided to do the same to the PC drive. But it was strange that the data stayed on the backup. Shouldn’t they mirror each other?

Schedule SyncToy

No more Synchronize. Not going through that again. I returned to Echo and it’s been working great. The best part is that SyncToy runs automatically at a specific time (at night when I’m asleep) every night. Here are the steps for setting up a scheduled task:

* Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Scheduled Tasks.

* Click “Add Scheduled Task” and click “Next.”

* Browse for SyncToy (it should be in the list, if not — click “Browse”), select it, and click “Next.”

* Enter a name for the task (I called mine “SyncToy”), select how often you want to perform the task, click “Next.”

* Select the time and day to start the task and click “Next.”

* Enter your Windows login name and password of a user, so that the application can “get in.” Not a required step.

* Check the “Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish” box and click “Finish.”

* In the “Run” box, add ” -R” (sans quotes and with a space before the dash) to the end of the link AFTER the ” and click “OK.”

Whatever set up you have in SyncToy will run based on the time and dates you selected. You should be able to backup data between your PC and the network drive. Do what you can to backup your important data as anything can happen from a crashed computer to a miscommunication with tech support that unexpectedly leads to a hard drive reformatting.

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  • Posted by Meryl