Tag Archives: backup

Using junction points to change the iTunes backup folder location

If you use iTunes on a Windows computer to manage your iPad, iPhone, and/or an iPod, you've undoubtedly noticed that every time you connect the device to the computer, the first thing the computer does is it makes a backup of the device to the computer. (If it does not make the backup automatically, you have the option to create the backups manually, too.):

The iTunes device backup screen
The iTunes device backup screen.

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If you are a responsible PC user, you know that keeping the backups of your files and devices is a good thing. You probably have a dedicated external drive to which you periodically copy your important files, documents, photos, videos, and so on, to make sure you would still have them when (not if) the hard drive of your computer dies and takes everything it has with it. So, you would probably want to keep the iTunes backup files on that external device, too. Is it possible to set up iTunes for that?

Unfortunately, the current version 11.1 of iTunes does not appear to provide a way of changing the location of the backup files it creates. (If you are reading this and using a later version of iTunes that does provide such an option, please let us know in the comments section below.) iTunes always creates the backups in the following folder on your hard drive:

C:\Users\[User]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

This folder is located on the C: drive, where your Windows and most programs are installed. If you've upgraded your C: drive to an SSD, chances are its size is relatively small, wouldn't it be nice to move the iTunes backup folder to another drive, and free up quite a few GB of space on the C: drive?

Since there is no way to configure iTunes to use a different folder for its backup files, we have to use some other method. One way of solving this problem is to move the Backup folder to a different drive and then replace the original folder with a junction point, connecting it to the new folder located on a different drive.

What is a junction point, you might be wondering? Without going into the technical details too deep, you can think of it as a low-level shortcut, redirecting all traffic from one location to a different folder.

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How to create junction point? Windows itself does not offer such a command out of the box, so we need to use a third-party utility for that. Our file manager and Explorer replacement AB Commander offers an option to create the junction points, so let's use it.

First of all, it's a good idea to do a full backup of your computer, including the C: drive, just in case something goes wrong. Then shut down iTunes and don't start it until the move is over. Also, download and install AB Commander, if you have not done so yet. (No credit card required, the download comes with a free 30-day license built-in.)

Let's make sure we can locate the original iTunes backup folder with AB Commander:

The iTunes default backup folder
The iTunes default backup folder.

Of course, replace [User] with your actual user name to get the location on your own computer. Also, if you can't navigate to the AppData folder because it does not appear in the file listings, turn on the display of the hidden files and folders using Windows Control Panel - Folder Options command, and then press F5 to refresh the file listing in AB Commander.

Once the original backup folder is located, decide where you want it to be moved. In this example, we will move it to the drive Y:, into the folder Y:\iTunes\Backup. If you want to move the iTunes backup folder to a different place, adjust the following instructions accordingly. Note that in order for the junction point to work properly, both the original and the target drives must be the local (rather than network) drives, and they both must be formatted with the NTFS file system. To actually move the folder with AB Commander, make the second panel display the content of the target folder, which in our example is Y:\iTunes:

Preparing to move the iTunes backup folder

Switch back to the left (source) panel, select the Backup folder, and press the Move button on the toolbar, or choose Command - Move from the menu:

Moving the iTunes backup folder

Most probably you don't need to change anything in this window, it's preset with the source and destination folders for you, based on the selections you made before. Press OK and wait for the folder to move. (Since it's likely to have a few GB of data, it may take a minute or two, depending on how fast the disks are.)

The iTunes backup folder has been moved

At this point, the Backup folder itself has been moved to the new location, but the iTunes program cannot use it yet. We need to redirect all files that it might have saved in the Backup folder to its new location. For that, we will create a junction point. In AB Commander, switch to the left panel and choose Tools - New Junction Point from the menu:

Verify that the Current folder area shows the path to the original folder whether Backup folder used to be, the Create junction point area contains the name Backup (the same as the name of the folder that used to be there), and finally, that the Target folder area contains the new location of the backup folder.

If everything looks right, press OK to create the junction point. It will look just like a regular folder, except for the little shortcut icon in the corner, indicating that it's actually a junction point:

The junction point to the new location of the iTunes backup folder

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That's all! Now it's a good idea to restart the computer, to make sure iTunes would re-initialize with the new information after the restart. Now you can launch iTunes and do a backup of your device. The files in the target folder (Y:\iTunes\Backup in our example) should be updated or created, rather than on the original C: drive.

If the drive Y: is an external drive that you can detach from the computer, make sure you've attached it to the computer before starting iTunes. What if you forget to attach the drive? No big problem, iTunes would just display an error message like this:

Just attach the external drive Y: and try again, the error should disappear and the iTunes backup should start working as usual.

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Amazon Cloud Drive offers free 5 GB online storage

There is a new player in the online backup marketplace and it is Amazon.com: you can now have 5 GB of online storage free of charge, to store files of any kind, including music, videos, pictures, or other types of documents!

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It’s very easy to start using it: all you need to do is log in to your existing Amazon.com account (who does not have one yet?) and click on the Upload files button to begin uploading your files to the storage. Or, click on the Cloud Drive button to see the files and folders that are already there. Right, all you need is a web browser and an Amazon.com account, and you are good to go.

Before you jump in, though, take time to actually read the Terms and Conditions for the Cloud Drive service displayed when you first attempt to upload files. There are a few portions of them worth considering (and remembering!). Such as:

5.3.Security. We do not guarantee that Your Files will not be subject 
to misappropriation, loss or damage and we will not be liable if they 
are. You're responsible for maintaining appropriate security, 
protection and backup of Your Files.

That is, don’t assume the files you put in the Cloud Drive will be absolutely safe. Always have a backup of your important files elsewhere, to be able to restore them in case of a problem with the Cloud Drive service. Another interesting paragraph from the Terms and Conditions:

5.2.Our Right to Access Your Files. You give us the right to access, retain, use and 
disclose your account information and Your Files...

This tells us that the files you upload to Cloud Drive are NOT encrypted with a private key that only you have access to: Amazon can have a look into your files if they decide they want to. Keep that in mind, and if a file has a secret you don’t want anyone else to see, do NOT upload it to Cloud Drive, or encrypt the file with strong encryption before uploading it.

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Will Amazon Cloud Front create a strong competition to other online backup solutions such as Dropbox, Mozy, or CrashPlan? Not yet. Not until Amazon adds some sort of automatic file synchronization functionality, like these services offer. Still, if you don’t mind handling the backups manually, and have the discipline to do it regularly, Amazon Cloud Drive is certainly a service to consider.

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Protecting Dropbox folder with USBCrypt

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Dropbox is a popular online backup and file synchronization service. When Dropbox synchronizes files between your computers and the online storage, it encrypts the files while transferring them over the Internet, preventing other people from eavesdropping on your data. However, the Dropbox folder on your computer remains unprotected: Dropbox does not do anything special to restrict access to it. What if you lose your laptop or someone steals your computer? Wouldn’t it be nice to protect your local Dropbox folder with strong encryption, too?

You can protect your Dropbox folder using our strong encryption software USBCrypt. Yes, USBCrypt is not just for protecting the external drives, you can use it as a general-purpose encryption tool, as well. You can create a Virtual Encrypted Disk on your main C: drive, or on another drive that your computer has, and move your Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive. This will make the files you store in the Dropbox folder safe.

Let’s begin by starting the Virtual Encrypted Disk which you want to use to keep your Dropbox files in. (If you have not created it yet, now is the time to do that.) Remember that when you start the encrypted drive, it will have a different drive letter than the host disk. In this example, the host drive is G: and the Virtual Encrypted Disk is K:, on your computer the drive letters could be different.

When starting the Virtual Encrypted Disk, select the option to start is as the fixed rather than removable disk. To do that, click on the More options button (located on the same page where you enter your encryption password) and select the option “Start as a fixed (rather than removable) disk”. The reason why this is necessary is that DropBox software may refuse to setup its folder on a drive that is marked as removable by Windows.

Now create a free Dropbox account, then download the Dropbox setup file and run it to start the installation. Proceed to the very last screen, and before you click Finish, check the option that lets you choose where to put the Dropbox folder:

Select the option to choose the location for the Dropbox folder

Click on the Change button and select the Virtual Encrypted Drive you’ve previously started (it’s drive K: in our example):

Select the encrypted drive to store the Dropbox folder

Verify that Dropbox folder location is now on the encrypted drive and press Finish to complete the installation:

The Dropbox folder will be stored on the encrypted drive

What if you already have Dropbox on your computer? No problem, you can move the Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive: right-click on the Dropbox icon displayed in the taskbar notification area, choose Preferences, and then click on the Move button:

Moving the existing Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive

Dropbox will move the folder to the encrypted drive for you. If you get an error that the folder cannot be moved to the removable drive, restart the Virtual Encrypted Disk as a removable disk (see above) and try again. After that, the files you put in the Dropbox folder will be protected with strong encryption and no one would be able to get them without the correct password.

The problem that remains to be solved is that if you leave Dropbox settings as they are now, then next time you start your computer Dropbox will complain that it cannot find its folder. This is expected, because by default Dropbox is configured to start automatically when you log in to Windows, and when it starts, it tries to locate its folder right away, before you have a chance to enter the password to start the Virtual Encrypted Disk.

To solve this problem, change the Dropbox autostart option: right-click on the Dropbox taskbar icon, choose Preferences from the menu, and clear the Start Dropbox on system startup option (see the image above). Instead of starting it automatically, you would start Dropbox manually, by double-clicking on its desktop icon, after you’ve started the Virtual Encrypted Disk.

If you are familiar with the batch files, you can go one step further and make Dropbox start automatically for you whenever you start the Virtual Encrypted Disk. The AutoRun feature of USBCrypt makes it very easy to achieve: create a file named autorun.bat in the root folder of the Virtual Encrypted Disk that contains the following:

   @echo off
   if "%1"=="start" (
   path-to-Dropbox.exe 
   )

(By the way, if you have AB Commander, its built-in Quick Editor is just the tool for such a job.) Replace path-to-Dropbox.exe with the actual path that is in effect on your computer. You can determine the correct path by examining the properties of the Dropbox shortcut that you have on the Desktop. Usually it is similar to: C:\Users\Joe\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\Bin\Dropbox.exe

From now on, whenever you start the Virtual Encrypted Disk, the Dropbox software should start automatically, too.

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The last thing to discuss is stopping the Virtual Encrypted Disk that has the Dropbox folder. Before stopping the disk, you need to exit Dropbox software (by right-clicking on its taskbar icon and choosing Exit from the menu). Otherwise, if you attempt to stop the Virtual Encrypted Disk while Dropbox software is running, USBCrypt will report that the Virtual Encrypted Disk is in use and cannot be stopped. Exiting Dropbox software before stopping the drive solves this problem, unless you have some other software running that uses the files on the encrypted drive. If this is the case, you need to exit such programs, as well.

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Always have a backup of your important files

If you have files that are important to you, make sure you always have a good backup of them!

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There are many ways to lose your files. For example, your hard drive may die. (Just search for such problems on the web, you will see how often it happens!) When you replace the hard drive and use the restore discs to make your computer work again, you get the computer in the state as it was when you first bought it, without your own files that you’ve added later. Without a good backup, you won’t have them anymore.

Or, consider a virus infection: some viruses may damage your system so badly that only a complete reformat of the hard drive may get rid of the virus. Again, without a backup, you won’t have your files back after that.

Or, the software that you use (including our software!) may have programming errors that may cause your files to be lost. Or, there may be a human error: you could press a wrong button somewhere that would cause your files to disappear, and not notice that until it’s too late.

The loss of files may happen unexpectedly. For example, consider the Windows Upgrade procedure. When you upgrade to Windows 10 (or to Windows 8, or 7) from a previous version of Windows, the Microsoft upgrade program makes a copy of all files that you have in the My Documents and other such folders. However, if it encounters a file that it cannot access (because, for example, you’ve used a file protection software, such as our Folder Guard or MySecretFolder, to hide or lock the file with a password, then Windows Upgrade program may skip such a file without giving you any opportunity to unlock the file. When it finishes the upgrade, it restores all documents it had saved before, except, of course, the files that were protected by the software. As a result, you would no longer have the protected files after the upgrade.

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You may feel the desire to blame the file protection software for that, but when you think of it, the software was just doing the job it was designed to do: it was protecting the files that you wanted to be protected! It should be the Windows Upgrade responsibility to alert you about any files that it could not copy, shouldn’t it?

In any case, the easy solution to any such problem would be to just restore the files from the backup.

If you don’t have a backup of your important files yet, then stop whatever you are doing and do a backup now. And set up a schedule to keep doing the backup regularly, to have the latest updates to your files saved, as well. If you use our folder protection software (Folder Guard or MySecretFolder), do not forget to disable the protection before starting the backup, because our software may keep protecting the files from the backup program, too! Always verify that the backup set that you’ve created actually has all the important files of yours, including those protected by our software!

There are many online backup services, such as SpiderOak or DropBox, that offer very cheap or even free online backup options. If you don’t like the online services, get an external hard drive, they are so cheap these days. The number of the available options is large, and it’s inexcusable to have no backup of your important files, period.

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