Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Backup if you Only Have One Hard drive?

It is possible in Windows 7 to back up to the same hard drive that Windows is installed on.  In order for this to work, you first need a hard drive that is large enough for the operating system, your files, and the backup and secondly a second partition on the operating system hard drive.  Personally I would not recommend trying this on a hard drive much smaller than 320 GB.  Also like I mentioned in a previous post, I do not recommend using this as your only backup method: http://www.computer-skills.info/2011/08/backupsdo-you-have-one.html.

Just note if you have a second hard drive, you should by all means use that for the backup! You can use the same directions below; just skip the first parts about creating a second partition and go down to Next Step – Setting Up the Backup.

This does not work in with the Windows Vista or Windows XP backup applications.  If you want to backup in Windows Vista or XP, you will need a third party program to perform the backup to the same hard drive.

Creating a Second Partition

First off, we need to create a second partition, if you don’t have one already.  Some manufactures will split the hard drive into two partitions so you might be all set.  Creating a partition basically splits the hard drive into 2 hard drives or more.

Go to Start, right click on My Computer and go to Manage.


Once the Computer Management Console opens, go to Disk Management, which is under Storage (it may take a few minutes to load the hard drive information).  In my screen shot, you can see that my hard drive is already split into 4 partitions, all originally created by Acer for the purpose of system restoration.  My hard drive is a 750 GB hard drive.


Right click on the Windows partition and click on Shrink Volume the Windows partition should be the only one with boot in the status and will most likely be the largest partition.


It will take a few minutes for the computer to figure how much it can shrink the Windows partition by and present you with its results.  In my case 324,824 Mega Bytes (MB) or 324 Giga Bytes (GB) can be freed up.  Results will vary considerably here especially if you have had your computer for a while, hopefully you can get at least 100 GB.


Enter a size for the amount of free space you want to create for the new partition.  In my case I am going to go with 200,000 MB or 200 GB, which should be more than enough for me.  Once done entering size, click Shrink and Windows will shrink the partition, shrinking the partition may take some time.


When the computer is done shrinking the partition, disk management will show the free space created.  Just a note about hard drives at this point, you are only allowed 4 partitions per hard drive, so you may be wondering how I am able to have 5?  The last partition on my hard drive is a logical partition (the Windows partition, designated by the fact that it has a green outline around it), which is capable of holding volumes (instead of partitions).  A logical partition is basically a partition holding more partitions or correctly called volumes within itself.  So, depending on how your hard drive is setup, you will be creating either a partition or volume.


Right click on the free space and click create New Simple Volume or New Partition.


Click Next in the New Partition Window.


Enter a Value for the size of the new partition, unless you need something special you should be able to just accept the default number and click Next.


Choose a Letter to assign to the new hard drive.  Again you can just accept the default and click Next


For formatting the new partition I recommend using the NTFS file system, Default allocation unit size, add your volume label – in my case I am going to call it Backup; and check the box next to Perform a quick format; click Next when done.


Click Finish.


Once you click finish, Windows will create and format the partition/volume.  This may take a few moments.


Next Step – Setting Up the Backup

First go to Start and then go to Control Panel.


In the Control Panel go to System and Security

Control Panel

Under System and Security in the control panel go to Backup and Restore.


Click on Set Up backup in the right top corner.


It will take a few minutes for Windows Backup to start, once it does select the hard drive to back up to, in this case hard drive (partition) Backup (D:), which we created in the previous steps.  You should receive a warning that the partition is on the same disk as the operating system.


In the next screen you can choose what to backup.  You should be able to just leave it as Let Windows Choose what to backup.


On the next screen you can review the settings and change the schedule.  If you need to change the schedule click Change Schedule.  When done click Save settings and run Backup.  Windows will then run the backup for the first time, which may take a few hours.




  1. This piece of information about offsite data and website backup is really good. I work with multiple companies and I need to have a secure backup for my corporate documents. Please share your backup plans with me. Thank you.


    1. If you are looking for a secure offsite backup then I would suggest checking out Mozy: http://mozy.com. If you looking for a secure onsite backup then most backup programs will allow you to password protect and encrypt backups. If you need more info let me know.

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