Backing up your Surface RT


I recently wrote a short review about the Surface RT for business use. Well, you apparently picked one up and asked us how to back it up. So let's jump in.We all know the importance of backing up your data. This is even more important for ultra-mobile devices like tablets and ultrabooks. These devices get dropped, wet, left in taxis, pubs and restaurants. We also let our children play with them, who may install all sorts of apps with potential malware.Now there is a plethora of backup and file replication software for regular Windows PCs, so you’d think this would apply to the Tablets, right? The problem is that Windows Surface RT tablets have a different processor, as well as a tablet-optimized version of Windows 8. This means that regular Windows software can’t be installed. However all is not lost.Normally when we do a backup, we like to take an ‘image’ of the machine. This allows us to restore everything from a single file, or even the entire operating system quickly in the event of a disaster. Since there are currently no third party tools to do this on the Windows Store for Surface RT, we have to take the image manually. To do this, search for ‘recovery’ under settings (intuitive, right?), then you can back up to an external USB hard disk. Given that most users will likely not go through this process on a regular basis, Microsoft has fortunately put some rudimentary backup functionality in by default.There are three essential software components of any computer. These are: the underlying Operating System (in this case, Windows 8 RT); the applications (such as Office 2013); and user data (such as your Word documents). Each of these has backups managed in a different way.For the Operating System, the Surface keeps a 4Gb partition on the local hard disk with an original copy of the operating system. This will be used to reinstall Windows back to its initial configuration when you use the ‘restore to defaults’ option. You might need to do this if Windows update ever fails for some reason.For the Applications, you will almost always source these from the Windows Store. Every app that you purchase and download gets linked to your Microsoft Live account. So if you ever have to replace or completely reinstall your tablet, it’s simply a matter of logging onto the Windows Store with the same credentials and your apps will already be there ready to download again.Lastly, there are your data files such as your Word documents and Excel spread sheets. This is where SkyDrive comes in. SkyDrive comes free with your Windows Live account and gives you 7GB of free storage that will sync with your desktop PC, assuming you also use Windows 8 and use the same Microsoft account. The thing to note with SkyDrive is that it will keep only keep a cached copy of Office documents so you can work without wi-fi. For other file types such as PDFs, you will need to copy them out of the SkyDrive and onto your desktop or documents folder on the tablet if you ever need to access the offline.

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