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How to Backup Your Data with jFileSync

Backing up data is something everyone knows should be done, but often don’t due to laziness. That is, until disaster strikes and important data is lost. Those who have experienced such a scenario quickly learn to make regular backups to prevent a re-occurrence in the future.

Even if you know you should, backing up data can be time consuming and inefficient. Many data backup programs compress archives, which both takes a long time (and much processing power) to create and also makes the data harder to retrieve at a later time should you just need a missing file or two.

This guide shows you a method to easily backup your important files using jFileSync, free software that synchronizes files between different locations. I also recommend an external hard drive. Should you happen to already have a hard drive or other place with which to perform the backup, skip down to step 2. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Find a Backup Drive or Location

An external hard drive is the easiest backup location to set up. I have been using and recommend the Seagate FreeAgent Go, for the reasons posted here.

Step 2: Acquire and Setup jFileSync

The next step is to download jFileSync. You should get the latest “End-User Release” on the download page. Note that the program requires Java as well, so install it beforehand if you don’t already have it.

Installation is not automated, unfortunately. The download package comes as a ZIP archive, so unzip it to a location like your program files folder (probably C:Program Files). You should create a shortcut at this time to the main JFileSync.bat file on the desktop, start menu, or another easily accessible location.

Running JFileSync.bat will launch the program. When the main window appears, you can setup a synchronization profile (only needs to be done once). Go to Tools > Edit Profile and add the source and destination directories you want to backup. The source should be the location of your data and the destination should be the backup location.

Finally, under the Mode menu, you can choose the action to be performed with the source and destination directories. My preference is to have it Force Source Structure, which makes the destination a mirror image of the source every time it runs. Updated and new files are copied from the source to the destination and deleted files are removed. You can also choose another mode if you prefer. You are now setup to use jFileSync!

Note on Alternatives

Why did I choose jFileSync? A more popular alternative may be the freeware version of Syncback. However, I have found that no other backup software comes with the clean interface and feature support of jFileSync. In particular, jFileSync supports Unicode filenames (international character and language support), which Syncback Free Edition and most others do not. It also provides very good synchronization options and file comparison views.

Step 3: Run Backup

Now you can run the backup. From the Tools menu or the icon buttons, access the Compare command. The window should fill with all the file differences between the source and destination folders along with the actions the synchronization will perform. Review the list and if satisfied, use the Synchronize command to perform the actual backup.

After the first time, only changed files and folders will be copied to or deleted from the destination. This is much faster than creating a new backup archive every time and allows quick retrieval of individual data files if needed.

Step 4: Rejoice!

You have now successfully backed up your files! Celebrate a little, and then make a reminder for your self to run jFileSync on a regular basis. It is a good idea to get into the habit of running (through a convenient shortcut placed in an obvious place on the desktop or elsewhere) it at least once a week or whenever you modify data files.

The program currently does not support automated backups, though you can use a tool such as task scheduler to launch jFileSync at predefined intervals should you be the forgetful type. I personally prefer to run it manually whenever I feel data has changed enough to warrant a new backup. This also reduces the possibility that a file was accidentally deleted and the backup running (and deleting the file from the mirror) before I can recover it.

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