Internet Tip - How to Backup and Restore Data Files

Created: September 17, 2007
Last Edited: November 19, 2010
Subscribe to Internet Tips and Tools Feed
f Share
-
G+ Share
-
Tweet
-
in Share
-
P in it
-

This document will show you how to backup your important data files for many popular windows programs. It will show you the most popular

file locations

for the different programs and applications.

Recommended backup program: VersionBackup Free Edition

Unhiding hidden files and folders

To get started, many of these file locations are in folders that are hidden in windows, so first of all you need to set Windows to Show hidden files and folders. It is also good to set Windows to display the three letter extension for data files. The instructions for this are below:

Windows XP, Windows ME and Windows 2000 [+]

Windows Vista [+]

Windows 98 [+]

Windows 95 [+]

Searching for Files

Some of the data files, such as outlook, are kept in hidden folders that we need to search for. So when we use Windows Search we need to set it to search hidden files and folders. Follow the instuctions below:

Windows XP [+]

Windows Vista [+]

Windows Environment Variables

There are some Windows system environment variables that you should be aware of while reading this backup document. Often times we need to find the Application Data folder, or your Windows Username folder, or the Program Files folder. Windows keeps track of these folders in certain variables as follows:

%APPDATA% Usually in XP: C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data
Usually in Vista: C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming
%PROGRAMFILES% Usually C:\Program Files
%USERNAME% Your windows user name
%USERPROFILE% Usually in XP: C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%
Usually in Vista: C:\Users\%USERNAME%
%ALLUSERSPROFILE% Usually in XP: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users
Usually in Vista: C:\Users\All Users
%WINDIR% Usually C:\Windows

An easy way to get to these folders is by clicking on START -> Run... and then typing in one of the variables above including the % and pressing OK. NOTE: %username% will not get you to a folder because it just contains your username, but it can be used in connection with the other variables. For example: Typing in C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings will open up your Local Settings folder.

My Documents

Most of your important documents are stored in My Documents. But you can't just select the My Documents folder from your Desktop or your Start Menu because those are just shortcuts to My Documents and you would only be backing up a shortcut. Also, in your backup program usually you have a Look In or Location field with a drop down arrow. The first option is usually My Documents. But if you click on it then you have to select all your folders and files seperately. So here is the location of the My Documents folder for different operating systems:

Backup

Copy My Documents folder from
OSLocationAlternate Method
Windows 95, 98 C:\
Windows ME C:\My Documents
or
C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%

Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME% %USERPROFILE%
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%
Note: In Vista the folder is called Documents. Also in Windows Vista the folders my music, my pictures, and my videos are no longer placed within the Documents folder. So in this location you may also want to copy the Music and Pictures and Videos folders. As a side note, while you are there you could also backup the Contacts, Desktop, Downloads and Favorites folders if they are not too large.
%USERPROFILE%

Copy the My Documents folder from the location above to your backup device.

Restore

To restore your My Documents, copy the folder you made a backup of to one of the locations above.

Shared Documents / Public Folder

In your backup program usually you have a Look In or Location field with a drop down arrow. Click on this drop down arrow and navigate to:

Backup

Copy Shared Documents or Documents folder from
OSLocationAlternate Method
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\All Users %ALLUSERSPROFILE%
Windows Vista C:\Users\
Note: In Vista the shared folder is called Public

Copy the Documents or Public folder from the location above to your backup device.

Restore

To restore your Shared Documents, copy the folder you made a backup of to one of the locations above.

iTunes

The iTunes music folder is usually contained in the My Music folder. Your playlists are located in the iTunes folder in a file called iTunes Music Library.xml and iTunes Library.itl. To backup the iTunes music copy the iTunes folder from the location below that is appropriate for your operating system:

Backup

Copy iTunes folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows XP/2000 C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\My Documents\My Music\ %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Music\
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Music %USERPROFILE%\Music

Restore

To restore your iTunes music copy the backup you made of the iTunes folder back to the appropriate location above.

Desktop

Many users put important files and folders right on their windows desktop. The desktop folder is usually located at %USERPROFILE%\Desktop

An easy way to copy all the files on the desktop is to copy the folder Desktop from the location below for the appropriate operating system:

Backup

Copy Desktop folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\
or

C:\Windows\Profiles\%USERNAME%

Windows XP/2000 C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME% %USERPROFILE%
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME% %USERPROFILE%

Restore

To restore your desktop copy the backup you made of the desktop folder back to the appropriate location above.

IE Favorites

All of your Internet Explorer Favorites or Bookmarks are located in a folder called Favorites usually at %USERPROFILE%\Favorites

Backup

An easy way to backup all your favorite website locations is to copy the Favorites folder from the appropriate location below according to your operating system:

Copy Favorites folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\
or

C:\Windows\Profiles\%USERNAME%

Windows XP/2000 C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME% %USERPROFILE%
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME% %USERPROFILE%

Restore

To restore your IE Favorites copy the backup you made of the Favorites folder back to the appropriate location above.

America Online

Backup

America Online (AOL) puts your emails, personal filing cabinet and AOL Favorites in a folder called organize. The best way to find this folder is to do a search for it. But first make sure you have set windows to view hidden files and folders and have setup search to search hidden folders. Then click on Start -> Search -> All Files and Folders. Then type in organize and click on Search.

You may have had to reinstall America Online a few times, so there might be a few organize folders. Right click on the first one and select Properties. Look at the size. Then click Ok. Right Click on the next organize folder and keep going down the list until you find the biggest one. That is the organize folder you will probably be wanting to back up.

Below are the different locations for the organize folder in different versions of windows and AOL:

Copy organize folder from
OS and VerLocationAlternate Method
AOL 5 & 6 C:\America Online 5.0\Organize
AOL 7 & 8 C:\Program Files\America Online 7.0\Organize
AOL 9
Windows XP/2000
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\AOL\C_America Online 9.0\organize %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Application Data\AOL\C_America Online 9.0\organize
AOL 9
Windows Vista
C:\Users\All Users\AOL\C_AOL 9.0\organize %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\AOL\C_AOL 9.0\organize

Copy the organize folder from the location above to your backup device.

Restore

To restore America Online organize folder copy the backup you made to one of the locations above.

Firefox

Mozilla Firefox puts your profile settings and bookmarks (favorites) in a folder called Profiles. This folder is in different locations for different operating systems.

Backup

To backup your firefox profile use the chart below. Copy the Profiles folder to your backup device. An easy way to get to the folder is by copying the information below and pasting it in START -> Run...

Copy Profiles folder from
OSLocationAlternate Method
Windows 95, 98, ME C:\Windows\Application Data\Mozilla\
or
C:\Windows\Profiles\user name\Application Data\Mozilla\

Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox

For more information about profile folder locations for Mozilla Firefox see: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Profile_Folder#What_is_in_my_profile? and http://kb.mozillazine.org/Profile_folder_-_Firefox

Restore

To restore your Firefox profile settings and bookmarks, copy the Profiles folder you backed up to the same locations above.

Outlook

Microsoft Outlook stores your Inbox (all your email messages), your Calendar, and your Contacts in a .pst file. This file is usually called outlook.pst. If you backup this file you will NOT be backing up your Outlook bar shortcuts, your signatures, your rules, or your mail account settings. But we will show you how to back these up separately.

Outlook Inbox, Calendar, and Outbox (outlook.pst)

Backup

Most web pages show you how to find the location of your outlook.pst file by using Outlook. But I want to show you how to find outlook.pst in case Outlook will not start, or in case the computer will not start and you are accessing the hard drive from another computer. There are a couple of standard locations listed below, but you may also search for outlook.pst as follows. First make sure that Search is set to Search hidden files and folders. Then click on Start -> Search and type in outlook.pst in the search box. If there are multiple users, you may find multiple outlook.pst files. Also, the file may have been renamed. In that case search for *.pst and it will find all outlook .pst files. When you find the file you are looking for, click on it with the right mouse button and select Open containing folder. Then you can copy the file to your backup device.

The usual location for outlook.pst is in a folder called Outlook in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\ or %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\

Copy outlook.pst from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\Profiles\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
or
C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
%USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
or
%APPDATA%\Microsoft\Outlook
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

Restore

If you are copying Outlook to a new computer or restoring Outlook on a computer that crashed you can just copy the outlook.pst file back to the locations above.

However, if you already started an outlook.pst file on the computer and you still need to get your backup you can Import the backed up file into your Outlook as follows:

  1. In Outlook click on File -> Import and Export... -> Import from another program or file -> Next.
  2. Click on Personal Folder File (.pst) and click Next.
  3. Browse to your backed up .pst file and click Next.

Outlook Bar Shorcuts, Rules and Nicknames

To backup Outlook Bar Shortcuts, Rules Wizard rules, and Nicknames, you have to backup all the files in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Outlook. This will include:

A .FAV file      Outlook Bar Shortcuts
A .NICK file      Nicknames file
A .RWZ file      Rules Wizard rules
outcmd.dat      Toolbar and menu settings

The Outlook folder containing these files can be found in the following places:

Copy Outlook folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Microsoft
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Microsoft

Outlook Signatures

Your Outlook Signatures can be found in a folder called Signatures in the following folder: %APPDATA%\Microsoft\

Copy the Signatures folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Microsoft
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Microsoft

Outlook Mail Account Settings

The Mail Account Settings are the settings for your email including POP3, SMTP, port and login settings for your mail server. These settings are kept in the windows registry instead of in a file. If the computer you are working on can start then you can access the registry using REGEDIT. [+]

However, if the computer can't start and you are accessing the hard drive from another computer (possibly through networking or with a windows PE boot CD) then you need to be able to access the registry of another computer. For instructions on how to do this click on the plus symbol below:

Accessing another computer's registry file

[+]

Backup from Bootable Computer

Export Outlook Mail Account Settings Key

  1. In Regedit, navigate to the key below:
    Outlook Mail Account Settings Key
    Version Location
    Outlook 2000 HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Outlook\OMI Account Manager
    Outlook 2002 and up HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook
  2. To export the key, click on File -> Export... Under File Name type in a filename such as outlook-settings

For more info see the following web pages:
http://safari.oreilly.com/1565927044/out2000ian-APP-B
http://www.techspot.com/vb/all/windows/t-8927-Outlook-2003-Accounts-File.html
http://www.whoisdeep.com/2006/03/07/backup-email-accounts-in-microsoft-outlook-2003/

Restore

To restore the Outlook Mail Account Settings, on the computer you want to restore to, find the file we exported above. Should be named something like outlook-settings.reg. Double click on it and then answer Yes. When you run Outlook all the settings will be there but you will have to retype your password.

Possible Error Messages

Note:If when you start Outlook you get an error message that reads similar to: "The path Specified for the file ... outlook.pst is not valid", that means the username is different on the computer then it previously was. Just navigate to the outlook.pst file under the new username to fix the problem. (Usually %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook)

Note:If when you start Outlook you get an error message that reads similar to: "Unable to logon to the server using Distibuted Password Authentication", then in Outlook click on Tools -> Accounts -> Mail. Then double click your account's server name. Click on Servers and uncheck "Log on Using Password Authentication" and click OK.

Outlook Express

Microsoft Outlook Express stores your email messages (inbox and outbox) and you contacts in a folder on the hard drive. But this does not always contain your .WAB file (Windows Address Book) or you mail account settings for Outlook Express. We will show you how to backup all of these serparately.

Outlook Express Emails

Backup

Make sure your windows explorer is set to view hidden files and folders. There is a hidden folder in %APPDATA%\Identities\{0DBE7094-4096-4B5A-B538-C54D129A60E4}\Microsoft called Outlook Express. This folder should contain files that look like:
Inbox.dbx
Outbox.dbx
Contacts.dbx

Note that {0DBE7094-4096-4B5A-B538-C54D129A60E4} can be any random characters and numbers.

Copy the Outlook Express folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Identities\{random}\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Identities
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\Application Data\Identities\{random}\Microsoft

Copy the Outlook Express folder to your backup device.

Restore

To restore your email messages, copy the Outlook Express folder that you backed up to the locations above. Remember that the random numbers and letters above ({random}) will be different on a new installation of windows.

Outlook Express Address Book

The Outlook Express address book is stored in a file that is called %USERNAME%.wab . It is in a folder called %APPDATA\Microsoft\Address Book

Backup

Copy the Address Book folder from
OSUsual LocationAlternate Method
Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Microsoft %APPDATA%\Microsoft
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft
or
C:\Windows\Profiles\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Microsoft

Copy the Address Book folder to your backup device.

Restore To restore the Outlook Express address book, copy the Address Book folder that you made a backup of into the locations above.

Outlook Express Mail Account Settings

Microsoft Outlook Express does not put your mail account settings (pop3, smtp, login, server, port) in a file. Instead it stores this information in the registry. The location of this key is HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Account Manager

If the computer you are working on can start then you can access the registry using REGEDIT. [+]

However, if the computer can't start and you are accessing the hard drive from another computer (possibly through networking or with a windows PE boot CD) then you need to be able to access the registry of another computer. For instructions on how to do this click on the plus symbol below:

Accessing another computer's registry file

[+]

Backup from Bootable Computer

Export Outlook Express Mail Account Settings Key

  1. In Regedit, navigate to the key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Account Manager
  2. To export the key, click on File -> Export... Under File Name type in a filename such as oe-settings

Restore

To restore the Outlook Express Mail Account Settings, on the computer you want to restore to, find the file we exported above. Should be named something like oe-settings.reg. Double click on it and then answer Yes. When you run Outlook Express all the settings will be there but you will have to retype your password.

Windows Mail (Vista)

Microsft Windows Vista Windows Mail program stores your emails in one location and sores your mail account settings in another location and your contacts in another location. We will show you how to back up each folder.

Windows Mail Emails

Backup

To backup your Windows Mail Emails:

  1. Go to:
    C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft
    or
    %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft
  2. and back up the Windows Mail folder.

Restore

To restore Windows Mail Emails, take the backup of the Windows Mail folder that you made and copy it to the location above.

Windows Mail Contacts

Backup

Windows Mail Contacts are stored at %USERPROFILE%\Contacts. To backup contacts:

  1. Go to:
    C:\Users\%USERNAME%
    or
    %USERPROFILE%
  2. and backup the Contacts folder.

Restore

To restore your Windows Mail contacts go to the location above and paste in the Contacts folder.

Windows Mail Account Settings

Windows Vista stores the Windows Mail Account Settings including server login, pop3, smtp, and port information in files with an .oeaccount extenstion. They are stored in a folder called Windows Mail in %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft. You already backed up these settings if you backed up all your emails in the Windows Mail folder by copying the Windows Mail folder to your backup drive. However, Windows will not know how to access these settings without having information inserted into the windows registry. So you will want to back up two keys in the Windows registry:

Backup

Open regedit by clicking on start and typing in regedit into the "start search" box and press ENTER. Navigate to the following key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Mail
then click File -> Export. Type a name like windowsmail. It will be saved as windowsmail.reg. Save it in your backup location.
While in regedit also navigate to the following key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Mail\IAM
then click File -> Export. Type a name like iam. It will be saved as iam.reg. Save it in your backup location.

Restore

To restore the windows mail account settings on a new PC or a freshly installed Windows Vista find the two .reg files you created. Double Click on the first one. And answer Yes to import it into the registry. For example, double click on windowsmail.reg and answer yes to insert it into the windows registry. Do the same for iam.reg. Restart Windows and then access Windows Mail. Note: You will still have to re-enter your mail account password to send and receive mail.

Quicken

Intuit Quicken Data Files are stored in different folders depending on the version of Quicken. The main data file has a .QDF extenstion for Quicken Data File. Is is usually called QDATA.QDF. You can search the hard drive for *.QDF files to find the location. You may want to backup the entire folder that contains your Quicken Data File because they also have some .QSD, .QEL, .QIF, and .QDB files that may be created with your data file.

Backup

The default location for Quicken Data files for different versions of Quicken are listed below:

C:\QuickenW
C:\Program Files\QuickenW
C:\Program Files\Intuit\Quicken
C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\My Documents\Quicken

Since Quicken could be in different places, it is best to use Windows Search to search for *.QDF

Quickbooks

Intuit Quickbooks usually places the data file in:
C:\Program Files\Intuit\QuickBooks
or C:\Program Files\Intuit\QuickBooks Pro
or C:\Program Files\Intuit\QuickBooks Premier

But users often times save their Quickbooks data file in other locations. The extension is .QBW so it is usually best to do a search for *.QBW to find all the Quickbooks data files.

Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird stores your messages, address book and settings in a folder called Profiles. This folder can usually be found at %APPDATA%\Thunderbird

Copy Profiles from
Windows 95/98/ME C:\Windows\Application Data\Thunderbird
or
C:\Windows\Profiles\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Thunderbird

Windows XP/2000 C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\Thunderbird %APPDATA%\Thunderbird
Windows Vista C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird %APPDATA%\Thunderbird

Copy the Profiles folder from the location above to your backup device. For more information see: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Profile_folder_-_Thunderbird

Restore

To restore your Thundbird emails and settings copy the Profiles folder you made a backup of into the appropriate location above.

Back to www.seabreezecomputers.com
Subscribe to Internet Tips and Tools Feed

Back to www.seabreezecomputers.com
Subscribe to Internet Tips and Tools Feed        

User Comments

There are 5 comments.

Displaying first 50 comments.

1. Posted By: RENIR - - August 6, 2008, 8:16 pm
wow,this is very helpful

2. Posted By: Shirley Marie Bradby / English_For_You - - October 30, 2008, 4:24 pm
Thank you! This was just what I was looking for! You explained everything very clearly! Thumbs UP! Thanks a million! : )

ESL teacher,tutor, and translator
Shirley Marie Bradby
English_For_You
Buddy School.com

3. Posted By: data recovery softwares - - June 30, 2011, 4:55 am
The good article assisted me a lot! Bookmarked your blog, very great categories just about everywhere that I read here! I really appreciate the info, thank you.


4. Posted By: Aravind - - February 7, 2012, 1:47 am

Please try to include pictorial representation of the trouble shooting steps.

Anyway nice website, my issue got resolved. Thanks!!!

keep on posting.

5. Posted By: david - - November 23, 2012, 10:08 pm
thanks for your help and information. It was very useful. I was able to fix the problem.

thanks once again,

david