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Automatic Backup of Microsoft Word
& Other Documents

A reader wrote to ask if a document created in MSWord is still in existence if the file was closed without having been saved. Well, a portion of it might be, depending on certain options that were previously chosen. To see these options, go to Tools>Options>Save. Here I recommend choosing "Always create backup copy," "Allow background saves," and "Save AutoRecover info every 10 minutes."

The second two options combine to automatically save your work every ten minutes (or whatever time frame you choose) regardless of whether you do periodic saves or not. The first option means that every time you do a manual save (by going to File>Save, or by doing Ctrl+S) your previous save is set aside in a file named Backup of [Filename] and is give an extension of .wbk.

Always Start Any New Document by First Giving It a File Name

All the above is predicated, of course, on your having given the document a filename in the first place. Beyond all this, MSWord always maintains a "temporary" copy of any file that is currently in process with a cryptic name such as "~WRL3857.tmp." All of these files are stored, by default, in your My Documents folder and can be accessed with a double-click. These "temp file" names do not appear in your list of recently modified documents under the File menu — look for them inside My Documents.

WordPerfect users can find similar options by going to Tools>Settings>Files. Users of the MSWorks word processor, however, have no similar options for automatic saving. However, there is one option we all have for protecting files in progress, whether using a word processor or any other kind of program; "incremental file name changes."

Here's how it works: save your work periodically with a filename bearing a number that changes with each save. Let's say you're writing a story called My-Story.doc. Start by going to File>Save As and naming the document something like My-Story-1.doc. After writing a few paragraphs (or a few pages, depending on how often you want to update your saved files) name the document My-Story-2.doc and so on.

In this example you might end up with nine documents, with the final one named My-Story-9.doc. The other eight would be backups of what you had written up to a certain point, and could be deleted whenever you are satisfied with the final version. In the meantime, you will have given yourself extra insurance against a file being lost due to a power failure or having accidentally deleted it.

Saving Files to Other Media for Extra Insurance

For added security, important files should be copied to an external hard drive or a flash drive or a CD, or sent to another computer. When writing these columns, for instance, I often email myself whatever has been written up to a certain point, and use one of my web-based email accounts such as Yahoo or Gmail. In case of a computer crash I could then retrieve the email copy of my work on another PC.

Copying a file to a flash drive or external hard drive is simply a matter of dragging it from My Documents onto the appropriate icon in your My Computer folder. Copying to a CD is similar, depending on the options chosen with your CD-burning software.

Another great way to save backups of important documents is to send them as email attachments to yourself via a service such as Gmail (Google Mail). Google offers 2.5+ gigabytes of free email storage with each account. I have four separate Gmail accounts, which translates to 10+ gigs of free storage. This helps me sleep well at nights.

The text on this page was created with a Google Chromebook
(purchased at
and edited with Google Drive & Google Docs.

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