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How to Use SyncToy and a Flash Drive As a Backup System

Ellen Davis

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Microsoft's SyncToy and a large capacity flash drive can be used as a system to back up your valuable computer files. Here's how to use these tools to perform a quick and easy backup.

  1. Download the SyncToy Powertoy from the Microsoft website (Go to and search for Synctoy). Install it and create a shortcut for it on your desktop.
  2. Buy a large capacity flash drive (I'd recommend an 8 GB capacity). I just bought one at a large office supply store for $35. Plug the flash drive into one of your computer's USB ports. Windows should recognize it and load it as a separate drive.
  3. Open Windows Explorer by right clicking on the Start button and left clicking on Explore. Verify that the flash drive has set itself up as a separate drive letter. (D, E or F, etc. . ) Remember the drive letter, as we will use it later.
  4. Now start SyncToy. The first time you run the SyncToy program, it will ask you if you want to participate in the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program. I click No and OK, because I think the question is silly to ask when I haven't used the program yet.
  5. The next screen will be the Welcome page. At this point, you are going to set up the folders you want to back up. You will be “echoing" files from your C: drive to the flash drive, which might be D: drive or E: or F: drive. Click on “Create New Folder Pair".
  6. The left folders will be the folders that are on your C: drive. The right folders will be folders that you create on the flash drive. Each folder pair will be set up as a separate sequence.
  7. Click the Browse button for the first left side folder. On the Browse for folder dialog box, find the first folder on your C: drive that you want to back up. I chose My Documents. Note: My “My Documents" folder is very large, and I'll bet yours is too. Make sure your flash drive is large enough capacity to hold all your digital pictures and the other files you have stored in My Documents.
  8. Click Next. Now click the Browse button for the Right side folder. Navigate to your Flash drive letter and click on it to highlight it. If this is a new flash drive, you'll have to create a folder to match the one you are backing up from C: drive.
  9. Click the Make New Folder button. (Make sure the new folder is on the flash drive. ) Give the new folder the same name as the folder you chose to backup from the C drive. (In this scenario, that would be My Documents).
  10. Click Ok, then Ok again. Click Next.
  11. Now click the circle next to Echo and click Next.
  12. On the next dialog box, name the folder pair (i. e, My Documents Backup) and click Finish.
  13. You'll see your folder pair listed on the left side of the dialog box.
  14. Repeat these steps for all the folders you want to back up.
  15. When you are done, you can run a preview, or just run the back up. The first time you run it, it will take a long time because all the files you chose to back up have to be written to the flash drive. But after that, on the subsequent runs, the SyncToy backup procedure is very fast because it only writes the files and folders that have changed, instead of writing the entire backup set over again.
Don't forget to take your backup with you when you leave your office or home!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you create multiple pairs of folders, make sure you choose All Folder pairs when you run your backup. Otherwise, it will only back up the files in the first pair.

Also, if you unplug the flash drive, and then plug it back in, it may set it self up on a new drive letter. (For instance, it may become F: drive instead of the previous E: drive). If it does this, Synctoy will stop working because destination drive changed to the new drive letter. You can either force the flash drive to the previous drive letter using Windows Disk Management, or reset all of your synctoy folders to the new drive letter. (If you go the Disk Management route, be very careful, and make sure you only change the flash drive letter, not your C: drive!)

So that's a basic SyncToy/flash drive back up tutorial. I hope it helps you keep your data backed up consistently.

Ellen Davis is the owner of Computer Sense, a website and computer consulting company in Cheyenne, Wyoming. You'll find more expert technical advice and computer assistance on her website at


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