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Tutorial: Automated backup and syncing to s3 — free and instant

I’m terrible about backing up. My idea of backing up is buying a new hard drive every year or so to replace the old one. DVDs are too small and awkward to bother with.

But if I could get cheap, easy, and automated off-line backup, I’d do it. Amazon s3 solves the cheap part, but not the easy or automated parts. I’ll show you what I found out after some research and playing around.

First of all, some false positives:
Microsoft’s SyncToy sucks. It’s buggy, and there are some reports of it randomly deleting source directories. It also doesn’t play nice with the Windows Scheduler.
Ycopy is also a no go It doesn’t support scheduling and has a weird interface. I applaud the author for releasing it freely, but I needed something more robust.

Enter Microsoft Robocopy (short for Robust File Copy), a free tool included in most versions of Windows. There’s even a very limited GUI for it. The GUI can help you set up your own command scripts. Once you make one or two, it’s probably not needed as you can edit the command files directly.

One word or warning: this is for advanced users only. It will take awhile to setup, and MANY things can go wrong. Just one simple command and all your source files can go away, forever. For those who don’t mind spending a little money, I think MirrorFolder is just a front-end gui for robocopy (they don’t advertise this fact), and it’s therefore probably a little safer/easier. But if you’re gung-ho do-it-yourself, here you go:

First, create a Tasks folder somewhere on your hard drive. I put mine in C:Tasks.
Open the folder, right click and select New > Text Document. Open it with notepad, and copy-paste this command:

start /min robocopy “C:FROM_DIR” “D:TO_DIR” /E /COPYALL /V /NP /Z /W:30

Rename it to something like “BackupSync.cmd”. Right click