Tutorial Thursday

The biggest reasons that I hear as to why people don’t perform backups is that they are either too lazy to set them up, or there just isn’t a good time to schedule them. The later excuse is often because they don’t want to “waste” their computer’s processing power and memory performing a backup when they are actually trying to use their computer. Sure they could leave it on overnight, but that just seems silly to leave a computer on for an extra 8 hours when all you need is 20 or 30 minutes to perform an incremental backup.

If you use one of those two excuses I’m hoping that the free Windows application I’m going to show you today will solve both of them. The solution is called IdleBackup, and as the name implies it can be used to backup important files and folders on your computer. The thing that really makes this unique is that it will check to see if the computer has been idle for at least one minute before performing a backup.

Once you get IdleBackup installed on your computer you’ll be presented with a window that looks like this:

idlebackup setup
(Click to Enlarge)

As you can see it is a pretty simple program without an over abundant amount of things to confuse you. All you have to do is check the box(es) corresponding to the areas on your computer that you want to backup. Each folder that you designate will be listed below the selection area for easy viewing.

The next thing that you’ll want to configure is the destination location for the backup files. This can be a location on the current hard drive, an external drive (memory card, USB drive, etc…), or another computer on the network:

idlebackup configure destination

idlebackup timer And lastly you’ll want to set how often the files should be backed up. Check the Automatic on box if you want IdleBackup to stay on a set interval, otherwise backups will only be performed when you manually start them. If you do decide to enable the automatic backups you’ll want to specify how often the program should check to see whether the files have changed or not.

Backups, unless manually started, will only begin once the computer is idle for one minute regardless of whether the timer has hit the magic number you specified. That means if you schedule a backup for every 15 minutes, but use your computer for four straight hours the backup won’t begin until after you’ve finished.

The countdown area will show how long you have to wait before another backup is performed, but if you see it “stuck” on 60 seconds (like in the screenshot to the right) it’s because the computer is not idle. Once there is no activity on the machine the countdown will wait 60 seconds to ensure that the computer is idle, and then it will begin the backup process.

By default the IdleBackup will check keyboard/mouse usage and CPU activity to determine whether the computer is idle. I’m not sure how low the CPU usage needs to get before being considered “idle,” but if you find that backups are never being performed it might be good to disable the Cpu activity check feature.

There are some things that would be nice to configure, such as the amount of time the PC has to be idle before initializing a backup. However, that is a tradeoff you have to make for getting an application that is extremely simple to use.

Note: The first time that you run a backup it may take awhile depending on how many things need to be transferred. After that it will only copy changed files, and will never delete a file from the destination even if it is deleted from the source.

Get IdleBackup