PC laptop backup FAQ

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About this article

This article includes a list of frequently asked questions about backing up the WSU PC laptop you received through the e-Warrior Digital Life and Learning Program. Consult this FAQ in preparation for a laptop exchange or re-imaging. It is intended for both students and employees.

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to back up my laptop manually?

That depends. WSU does not does not support automated backup services, such as Windows Backup and Restore. During the two or three years that you have your laptop, you use such services at your own risk. However, when you exchange or re-image your laptop, a manual backup will be required. Laptop exchanges in particular often involve migration across operating systems and backup tools designed for one version may not work well on another.

Can I back up my files when I come in for my laptop exchange or re-imaging session?

No. This is something you need to do before you come to your session or you will have to reschedule. We provide backup training and answer backup questions throughout the year.

Can I just back up my entire laptop hard drive?

You can, but don't. Your hard drive contains volumes of operating system and application files that you do not need to back up. When you are assigned a new laptop or have your laptop re-imaged, it will come with these files pre-installed. You just need to worry about the files that you created. Rather than making a copy of your entire hard drive, a much better approach is to back up your Home directory.

What doesn't need to be backed up?

  • Any files already stored in your WSU network drives or OneDrive for Business cloud storage.
  • Applications that you have installed on your laptop. Your new or re-imaged laptop come with some applications already installed. Any applications that you installed on your old laptop yourself will need to be re-installed.
  • Web browser plugins and extensions. If you have modified your web browser by installing plugins or extensions (e.g., Diigo, Zotero, various toolbars), you will need to re-install these on your new or re-imaged laptop. One notable exception is the Google Chrome browser. If you use Google Chrome with a Google Account, then your extension information is stored in the cloud and is applied to any instance of the browser on any device.
  • Web applications. Tools like D2L and Qualtrics that you access on the web are not installed on your laptop and do not leave any related files on your hard drive.
  • Unarchived Outlook email, calendar entries, contacts, and tasks. Email messages that are in your username@winona.edu mailbox, including the Inbox, Drafts, Sent Items folders and custom subfolders, are not stored on your laptop and do not need to be backed up. Note that this does not include mailbox archives which may be stored on your laptop. These archive .pst files are stored on your laptop.
  • Printer drivers. You will re-install any WSU network printers on your new devices. You will also need to re-install any personal printers.

How much data do I actually have?

It's important to know how much of your laptop's hard drive space you have filled with files and how much space you have left. Check the status of your hard drive before you back up your files.

Where on my laptop are all my files?

You have full administrative rights to your laptop, so you have the ability to save your files just about anywhere. When you received your new or re-imaged laptop, there were default file folders (e.g., Documents, Pictures, Music) already in place, which is where you probably saved most of your files. However, you may have installed applications that stored things in other locations and/or you may have put things in other locations (e.g., your Desktop) yourself. Consult the following articles to learn more:


Where should I store my backups?

WSU supports two, university-managed storage solutions, Microsoft OneDrive for Business for everyone and network storage for employees. Although it's a common solution. WSU can provide only limited support for file storage to external media (e.g., DVD, flash drives, external hard drives). You use external storage at your own risk.

Do I need to be worried about data security?

Yes, especially if you are an employee who is handling student grades and has access to other private university data. You cannot store student grades on external media (e.g., external hard drives), for example. If you do have such access, please consult our policies and guidelines for storing private university data.

How often should I back up?

If your laptop fell in the river right now, would you lose any important data? The answer should be, "no." That's your litmus test. Safeguarding your data should not be an event; it should be part of your daily routine. Use network, cloud, and external storage to house your important files. Think of your laptop as a desk, not a file cabinet.

What if I need help or have related questions?

You can contact us for training or questions on how to backup your personal information before your exchange session. This wiki also provides extensive online documentation that you can access yourself at any time.

What if I forget something?

With re-imaging, your laptop's hard drive is erased immediately and there is no recovery. For laptop exchanges, student hard drives are erased immediately. Employee hard drives are retained for two weeks following your exchange session just in case you missed anything. Contact the Technical Support Center (AskTech@winona.edu, 507-457-5240, Somsen Hall 207), to schedule an appointment to access your old hard drive if needed. A staff member from TLT will be present if needed to assist you when you visit the Technical Support Center.

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