It's the age-old problem with Windows and something I get more email about than anything else. All the time people are emailing me saying that Windows has failed and they're at risk of losing all their files and data.
It is really appalling to me that this is still happening. After all, the focus of your PC has for too long appeared to be Windows itself, but it just isn't. The main focus of your PC is your files and documents surely!
Windows is designed to be installed on single disk systems, it's always been that way. You install Windows onto your C: drive and a folder will be created for your files. Your 'personal' folders will automatically be stored there (Documents, Pictures, Music and the like) and any new files you copy over to your PC will be put there.
The problem is that as and when something goes wrong with Windows, which is inevitable eventually, you risk losing all your files and data if you don't keep regular backups. I get emails from people all the time asking for help with this and how they can get their data back, or at least not lose it to begin with.
Now you're probably saying at this point that people should always keep regular backups of their data, and you won't get any argument from me. It's not always that simple though, especially if you have a lot of critical files that change regularly. There are also personal, financial or other circumstances that mean people won't have regular backups or backups at all. Let's not forget that while Windows 7 might nag you to back up your files, millions of people are still using Windows XP and Vista which don't, and most of those people and the people using Windows 7 aren't technically minded and may not even know what this means.
This should therefore mean that Microsoft need to guide people and help them to keep their files and data safe. They've made precious little progress here in the last decade though, having only added the ability with Windows Vista to cut and paste your 'user folders' to another location easily. There's no indication you can actually do this however, no help on the matter and no nagging from the Windows 7 Action Centre to remind you to do so.
With Windows 8 I'm beginning to feel the gloom setting in that nothing more will change. What we desperately need is one of the following two scenarios but I'm doubtful somehow that either will happen.
Scenario 1 : Separation at Installation- It wouldn't be too difficult for the Windows installer to ask you, when times comes to install Windows. "Do you want to install Windows and your user files onto this 1Tb hard disk in your computer or would you like to separate them", before going onto explain why seperating them is a good idea.
The installer could then do one of the following, ask what you want to use your computer for (light use, music and photos, work, gaming) and create two partitions of recommended size. Alternatively it could split the hard drive by proportion, 50/50, 30/70 and so on or finally it could ask you what size you want the two partitions to be and make recommendations to you.
All of these options would be simple enough for people to understand and it would be easy and simple for the Windows installer, on a clean install anyway, to do this for you.
Scenario 2 : Separation after Installation - Windows already has the ability to grow and shrink partitions. Why doesn't it suggest to you after you install it through an Action Centre message that "You can greatly decrease the chances of losing files and data by moving them away from Windows, would you like to do this now?"
Here there would again be several options. It could shrink the current Windows Partition and then move the user folders for you. Alternatively, if you have a separate hard disk it could simply move the user files there. It's easy for Windows to determine what is internal and external storage so this wouldn't be at all difficult. This would also mean that if you're reinstalling and have already moved the folders in the past, the pointers will be updated in Windows to where you've put them.
Are either of these scenarios likely to happen though? Moving your files and folders away from your Windows installation is something I feel very strongly about and it's something I write about at some length in my book Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out.
There are ways to make sure you don't ever lose your files and data (unsurprisingly I write about those as well, and will write additional articles on the subject here in the coming weeks) but in the mean time keep the emails coming to mike@MVPs.org.Advertisement
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.