Windows 7

Keeping Your Windows 8 Running Smoothly

Keep Your Files Backed Up

Files and documents on your computer may be important, so if something disastrous happens to your computer or if you have to reinstall Windows from scratch, you'd be pretty upset if they were wiped. This is why the most important thing you can ever do with a computer is to keep regular backups of your files.

Windows 8 includes an excellent backup program that you can find by searching for recovery at the Start screen and running Windows 8 File Recovery from the Settings results. It can be set to automatically keep an updated copy of your files backed up, and is very easy to use.

The best place to keep a backup copy of your files is on an external hard disk. These are very cheap and can often be plugged in to your Internet router, which allows the files to be accessed by any computer in your home.

  1. At the Windows 8 File Recovery panel, click/touch the Set up backup link on the right-hand side.
  2. You will then be asked where you want to store your backups.
    • If you are using a network location, such as an external hard disk plugged in to your Internet router, then click/touch the Save on a Network button. This brings up a new window where you can click/touch the Browse button to find your hard disk on the network.
  3. Once you have found the correct hard disk, click/touch the OK button.

When you have selected your backup location, click/touch Next and then you will have two backup choices.

  • Let Windows choose what to back up. This will back up your documents, pictures, music, and video libraries along with other things such as your Internet favorites. It will also back up Windows 8 itself, complete with all the software you have installed.
  • Let me choose what to back up gives you complete control over what is backed up on your computer.

So what's the difference between these two options? Well you might only have a small hard disk to back up your files to, and a full backup of Windows 8 and all your software can take up a lot of space. You might also have a second hard disk in your computer containing additional files, perhaps work files, you want to include in the backup. For both of these circumstances, the Let me choose option is best.

If you choose this second option, then after pressing the Next button you will be asked what you want to include in your backup. This is presented as a list that can be expended by clicking the arrows to the left of each item. You can select (and deselect) items for the backup by checking and unchecking the boxes. Click/Touch the Next button when you are happy with your choices.

At the very bottom of this list, there is an option to Include a system image of Windows. This is the option to create a full backup copy of Windows 8. It is extremely useful because if Windows won't start you can restore it and be up and running again quickly with all your files, documents, and programs safe and intact. If you are short on space, you can create one separately on a different hard disk or on DVDs, and show you how to do this later in this tutorial. Uncheck this box if do not want to create a backup copy of Windows at this time.

Finally, you will be presented with a screen that shows you what you have chosen to back up, where it is going to be backed up, and how often. It is here that you can click/touch the Change schedule link to specify when and how often backups should be kept.

keep backups at least once a month, but if you make regular changes to documents and add new files, you should back them up every week.

When you are ready to start your first backup, click/touch the Save settings and backup button to begin your backup for the first time.

Restoring Your Files from a Backup

Once you have created your first file backup, the Windows 8 File Recovery page will display details of when the last backup was completed and what was backed up. Here you will see a link that you can click/touch to restore your files. You don't need to restore all of them if they've not all been lost, however, and the wizard will guide you through what files you want restored from the backup.

Restoring Windows 8 from a Backup

There are two ways to restore Windows 8. If you have used the Windows 8 File Recovery panel to create a backup copy of Windows 8 itself, then you'll want to restore this in the event of a disaster.

If you need to restore your copy of Windows 8, this usually means that Windows 8 won't start and the Startup Repair feature will appear when you turn on your computer. You will be prompted to try and repair the computer, but if Startup Repair can't fix your computer, you will be presented with several options. The one you want is System Image Recovery.

If you use WiFi to connect your computer to your Internet router and your backed up copy of Windows is on the network, perhaps on a USB hard disk plugged into the router, then you will need to physically connect your computer to the router to restore Windows from the backup. Ask at your local computer store for a Network cable. You might need 5 or 10 feet or more of cable to stretch between the computer and the router.

System Image Recovery will automatically select, if you are physically connected to the hard disk containing your backup as per the previous tip, your backup image of Windows 8. The restore can be started with a couple of clicks, and Windows 8 can be restored to working condition in less than 20 minutes on average.

Restoring Windows 8 from a backup image will require you to also restore your files from a backup because these files might be wiped during the reinstallation process.

You can manually create a backup image of Windows 8 too, again from the Windows 8 File Recovery panel by clicking the Create a system image link on the left side of the panel.

Refreshing Windows 8

The System Image backup can be complicated for some people, however, and there is a better and easier to use option available. This is especially useful if you don't use desktop software and stick to using apps. This feature is called Refresh.

  1. Open the Charms menu.
  2. Click/Touch Settings.
  3. Click/Touch Change PC Settings.
  4. In the General section of PC Settings in the Refresh your PC without affecting your files section, click/touch the Get started button.

At the next screen, Windows 8 will tell you what it will do. Refreshing your computer won't delete any of your files but you will need to reinstall your apps from the Windows Store (the Store will tell you which apps you have already purchased to make this easier). You will also need to reinstall any desktop software you have been using. The important thing, however, is that your files will be safe so long as they are stored in the main libraries and you haven't stored any somewhere else.

Creating a Recovery Drive

If your computer won't start at all, you can still restore it from a backup or Refresh it. To do this you first need to create a Recovery Drive. This is a USB Flash Drive that you can use to start your computer.

To create a Recovery Drive search for recovery at the Start screen and run Recovery from the Settings search results. In the panel that appears, click/touch the Create a recovery drive link.

You will need to have a USB flash drive plugged in to your computer that you're not using for anything else. If it is a large enough flash drive, and if your computer came with a Recovery Partition when you bought it, you can also copy across this backup copy of Windows 8 to the drive. This means that if Windows 8 won't start and you can't restore it from a backup image or a Refresh image, you can still restore it to how it was when you bought the computer.

When purchasing a USB Flash Drive large enough to store the system backup copy of Windows that came with your computer, choose one that is 32GB or preferably 64GB in size.

Using System Restore to Rescue Windows

In the Recovery panel, you will also find System Restore. A restore point is a snapshot of critical Windows files taken when a change is made such as installing a new piece of hardware, installing new software, or running Windows Update.

Should something go wrong and Windows becomes unstable, you can click/touch Open System Restore to find a restore point that was made recently and when your computer was running well. By clicking/touching a restore point and then clicking/touching the Next button, you can restore Windows files to this point. This does not affect your files and documents, which will not be affected.

Maintaining Windows 8

So far, this tutorial has focused on backing up and restoring Windows and your files should disaster strike. But, ideally, you just want to keep Windows 8 running smoothly so that problems don't occur, right?

Well, Windows 8 is able to perform maintenance tasks on itself and you can access this feature by searching for maintenance at the Start screen and clicking Change automatic maintenance settings in the Settings search results.

In the window that appears you have just two options. When does automatic maintenance run and can the computer be woken up to run it. This second option will only work if the computer is set to Sleep and not shut down, and if it is plugged in. If this is unlikely, then try setting maintenance to run at a time when you will often be using the computer, such as in the evening for example. Maintenance won't prevent the computer from working and it won't stop you from doing what you are doing.

The maintenance tool will clean up unwanted temporary files that accrue during daily use of your computer, perform diagnostic tests, and make sure your security and Windows Updates are up to date. This really is a great solution because it takes all of the hassle out of keeping your Windows 8 computer running smoothly.

You can always check the Windows Update settings manually in PC Settings, and the automatic maintenance of Windows 8 should provide all the peace of mind that you need.