How to Get the Best Cloud Backup / Sync Out of MSFT’s new SkyDrive App

Microsoft today released their new SkyDrive app for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 which finally competes head on with services like Mozy and Dropbox for online backup.  You can read Martin’s full writeup here, but as people will now be using this to create online backups of their files I thought I’d show you how to get the very best from it.

I always recommend, and indeed I always have recommended moving your personal files and folders away from Windows.  This means moving them to a different physical hard disk or partition.  The advantages of doing this is that if something goes wrong with Windows and you have to reformat your hard disk, you won’t lose all your files too.  You can move your user folders in Windows by following these simple steps…

  1. Click your name in the top right of the Windows Vista / Windows 7 Start Menu
  2. Select the user folders you want to move, I suggest Downloads, Favorites, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures and My Video
  3. Right-click on the selected files and click Cut from the menu that appears
  4. Move to the hard disk or partition where you want to store your files
  5. Right-Click and select Paste

It’s slightly more complex with SkyDrive though as you may have a tremendous amount of files that you perhaps don’t want to store online, such as your music and video; don’t forget there’s still a limit of 2GB per file on upload and some videos might be larger than this and a maximum of 125GB online storage even if you pay for it.

I would suggest then creating two store folders for your user files and moving them away from Windows in two steps.  One folder for the files you just want to keep on your computer, and another folder for things you want to sync and backup in the cloud.  So you would end up with, for example D:\Files and D:\SkyDrive.  Alternatively you could create these within a sub-folder if you have other content on the disk.

Myself I am only backing up my Documents and Pictures folders to SkyDrive so these are in my new SkyDrive folder on a separate hard disk and the other user folders, Music, Video etc. are stored in the Files folder.

There is a good reason for this.  When you install SkyDrive it asks you what folder on your hard disk you want to use for the local storage of SkyDrive files.

By default, as you can see here it chooses your C:\Users folder but this isn’t keeping your files away from Windows.  So why does this matter?

This matters because in order to upload new and additional files to SkyDrive you drag and drop them into this folder on your hard disk and the SkyDrive sync software takes care of the rest.  If you have to wipe your Windows installation, you then have to wait for everything to sync back down from the cloud again before you get your files, as this will be your own local copy.

This is where you hit the Change button and you point the SkyDrive app at your new SkyDrive folder.  This already contains all the files you want to store and keep a backup of in the cloud, but they’re safe and away from your copy of Windows.  This would be the D:\SkyDrive folder we created earlier.  Remember if you have already installed SkyDrive you can uninstall and reinstall it to change the default store folder.

SkyDrive doesn’t mind that the files are here and will merrily sync the files in these folders up to the cloud and your new online backup.  I hope this helps you get the very best out of SkyDrive online backup.  This is a great new service and with the correct set-up you can be trouble-free for years.

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