Windows – How to backup entire installations of a program, instead of just manually backing up individual files

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It seems pretty straightforward to backup individual files, such as pictures, saved games, or settings files – just copy them straight over to your 2nd HDD or to an online service like DropBox. However, is there any way to backup entire installations of a program?

For instance, my Firefox directory has a lot of personal customizations and add-ons. I don't want to go through each item and decide to back it up or let it go. So my next option is to copy out the entire directory for backup.

But, if I copy the entire directory back onto the HD after a format, it is not an integrated installation and this seems like it could be troublesome. I would assume Windows cannot detect the directory for uninstallation, or would not let you choose Firefox as your default browser, right? I'm no pro, but this sounds like a bad idea.

So my question is whether there is a good way to preserve all necessary files, while also preserving the full installation process of an application. This is not specific to Firefox – I would like to know how to do this for any application.

Thank you.

Best Answer

In the case of Firefox, you are close in your description. Once you install Firefox, you can transplant your profiles directory and then Firefox will be back the way it was when you backed up that directory (you'll want to transplant the contents of the directory not the directory itself since that name is randomly generated and linked in the registry).

Microsoft Office also has a "Save My Settings" wizard that creates a file you can use to export/import your customized Office settings.

You can also use the "File and Settings Transfer Wizard" in Windows to transfer some of the OS and program settings.

In general though, there isn't a way to backup your program settings. Too many things are in too many locations to allow that kind of restoration at a program level. What you can do is image your drive.

To do this you setup your computer exactly how you want it and then you run an imaging program (such as Clonezilla for freeware option) to take a snapshot of your system. If you need to restore your system or set it up on another location you can just restore that image. This would keep all of your programs and OS settings in place. As your program needs change, you can also create new image backups.

This seems like the most viable option for what you seem to need but the options above for specific program setups are an option. You'll want to decide what works best for you.