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What should I backup? Tips for protecting your important files (Windows edition)

BackupThere’s so much data inside your computer that it can be hard to decide which parts that you need to backup – and how often. Don’t panic, however, as we’ve put together a rough guide for what you should backup, and how much space it’ll take up.

Backing-up in Windows

A good feature of Windows Vista, 7 and 8 is that all of your personal documents are stored in one place – the “User” folder. If you simply set this folder to be automatically backed-up , you’ll have gone a long way to protecting all of your most important information.

If you want to go into more details – or you don’t want to pay for more online space than you need – read on for what folders could be import for you to backup.


Your Documents folder is an obvious and import part of your computer to backup. It’s the default location for personal files, so it’s where most people keep all of their Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs etc.

Each file in Documents is typically quite small (around 100kb), which means that the whole folder should be quick and easy to upload to an online backup service.


In a past life, people would store their photos in boxes under the bed. Now, our images live on computer hard drives, which can be susceptible to viruses and technical faults. If you want to ensure that your memories are safe, you need to backup your Pictures folder – the default location in Windows for photos.

Pictures are bigger than Documents, but it depends on what type of camera you used to take them. If you’ve got a super 20 megapixel camera, each file could be around 10mb – around 100x as big as a typical document!

And if you’re using a big DSLR camera, that size could be as large as 40mb. Pictures take up a lot of space, so it’s a good idea to delete any unwanted images before setting them to backup.


Just like pictures, home video in 2014 lives on hard drives. The default location for them is the Videos folder. If you record a lot of home video, you’ll want to ensure this folder is backed-up.

However, videos take up a lot of space. A one minute clip record from your phone could be as large as 200mb – 20x bigger than a large photo, and 2000x bigger than an average document. If you have a lot of videos to back-up, you’ll want to to pick an unlimited online backup service.


Deciding whether or not to back-up your Music folder depends entirely on where you got your music from. If you use iTunes, your purchases are linked to your account, so you’ll be able to re-download them whether or not you have them on your hard drive.

And if you use a Cloud service like Google Music or Amazon, your files are already stored on the internet, so there’s no need for you to make another backup.

If you’ve manually copied hundreds of CDs onto your computer, however, then it’s a good idea to protect that hard work by backing-up your Music folder. Music files are typically around 4mb each.


Most of us have web-based email client like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail. These services keep a copy of your email on their server, so there’s no need to make a back-up yourself.

If you use a program like Microsoft Outlook to manage email from a different source, it’s a good idea to back it up. Search for “how to backup email in [name of your email program]” for full details.


We get an increasing amount of our files from the internet, which get saved in the Downloads folder. If you edit and save these files, they’ll still live in Downloads, rather than in your Documents folder. This means that a lot of important information could be stored inside a folder that you wouldn’t typically think about backing up.

Make sure that you move any important information from Downloads into Documents or Pictures, or just remember to backup your Downloads folder.

Application Settings

If you’ve set up all of your software in the exact way that you want it, you’ll want to backup your AppData folder. This is where your computer stores settings for your most-used applications.


A lot of us are guilty of leaving files on our Desktop – the screen behind all of the windows.

In fact, many of the files we keep on our desktops are the most recently updated or the ones that we need to access frequently – the most important files. If you use your Desktop as a filing cabinet, don’t forget to set it to backup!

Learn more about Norman Personal Backup

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