Elaine from Indiana writes:

I have windows 7 Home Premium & need to back up my desktop how can I tell how much space I need to have in order to back up everything and what is the best way? Also what is the size of USB flash that I need for passwords?

Elaine, I will assume you are referring to your PC as in a desktop PC and not just the desktop on your computer.

The amount of space you need to fully backup your system depends entirely on your system.  If you want to do a full backup where you mirror your PC completely, you’d need an external  hard drive roughly the same size of the one on your computer. 

Here’s how to check the size of your hard drive.  Click your Start Button and select Computer from the menu.

startmenucomputer

A window will open showing the drives on the computer.  The size of my hard drive and the amount of space open are displayed right below the name of the drive. In this case, my hard drive is called C. Since I have 872 GB free of the 931 GB available, I’m currently using 59 GB of space.

localdisk

Most people opt for a smaller back-up, they back up files like documents, photos, music and e-mail. That way if the computer fails, you can reinstall Windows and other programs from scratch and reload your important files.  Here’s how to check the size of those files: Off to the left of where the drives are listed, you’ll see a listing for libraries.

libraries2 

Here’s how check how much space each item in the library would take to back up. Here, I’m selecting Documents.

documentslibrary

Right-click on Documents and select Properties.

documentproperty

A window will open with the properties of the folder. You can find the total amount of space taken up by the documents at the bottom of the window.

documentsize

You can then do the same for music, pictures and videos.  The total size of those files combined, lets you know how large the flash drive you need for a backup should be.  The total size of my Documents, Videos, Music and Photos combined is 1.72 GB – much smaller than what would be required to back up my entire drive.  You can also choose to export your e-mails into a data file from an e-mail client like Outlook or Live Mail and back those up as well. If you save that file in documents, you can copy it along with the rest of your documents. As far as how much space it would take to back up passwords, passwords themselves use very little space as they are simply a few characters.  Some browsers have the option of backing up passwords, as does some security software and it’s pretty easy to back up stored passwords in Windows 7. (When your computer asks if you want Windows to remember a password and you choose “Yes,” the passwords are stored in your Vault.

Search for Windows Credentials in your Start Menu and choose Credential Manager from the results.

credentialmanager

Choose Backup vault.

backupvault

You’ll then be given the option to choose a location to save the password backup.

backupstored

I’ve chosen a flash drive and can now name the file.

namecredential

Windows will give you step-by-step instructions and you will need to choose a password to protect your credentials.  Don’t lose it. When the back up is finished, you see that it is very small, only 6 kb. (It takes 8,388, 608 kb to equal one GB.) You can also choose to save that information with your documents and it will back up when that file is backed up.  This only saves passwords stored in Windows. For passwords stored in a specific browser, you’ll need to follow the password backup instructions specific to the browser.

credential size

The amount of space you require for backing up will depend entirely on how much you have to back up and what type of backup you want.

~ Cynthia