September 2013 IT Business Consulting Newsletter

Saving Files on the Desktop - NOT!

By Tom K

I keep finding that many users save their most important documents to the desktop so they are easy to access. BUT, when saved to the desktop, these important files are not typically backed up! If the PC blows up, these files are gone forever...

In this month’s newsletter I show you an easy Best Practice to prevent this potential data loss.

Standard File Placement

Windows and MS Office store PC files by default in the user’s My Documents folder. Many other applications have incorporated this convention, so most of the files a user creates end up the My Documents folder. This makes it a simple matter to backup the files stored on the PC… Just backup the user’s My Documents folder.

In larger environments utilizing central storage, we store all data on a server device. Departmental and Company files are stored in their respective shared folders, and user files are stored in their private server folders. We automatically redirect the users’ My Documents folders from the PCs to the users’ private folders on the server. Everything on the server device gets backed up, so in this scenario, everything (including all users’ My Document files) gets backed up. See my October 2010 newsletter “Backup the Company Jewels!” for a thorough discussion of Backups.

In environments not utilizing central file storage, we configure a backup solution to copy and backup each user’s My Document folder.

The Problem – Saving Files to the Desktop

The key to having these backup processes work is to store all valuable data and files in places that are part of the Backup Set. If a file is not in a Backup Set location, it will not be backed up.

If a user saves files to their desktop (or to a directory structure on their PC that is not in their My Documents) those files will not be backed up. As noted earlier, the files we often find on the desktop were saved there for convenience, as they are accessed very often. As such, they tend to be quite valuable to the user.

The Solution – Shortcuts!

This Best Practice is really simple (but too often ignored)…

Use shortcuts!

Save the file within My Documents (or in a central storage location), and place a shortcut to the file on the desktop. The file remains readily accessible from the desktop, but it is stored in a “safe” place so it gets backed up nightly. You can create shortcuts to folders as well as files. And when you are done using a specific folder or file regularly, just delete the shortcut to de-clutter your desktop.

To create a shortcut on the desktop, simply open Explorer, find the file/folder you want to shortcut, right click on it, select “Send to” from the drop down, and select “Desktop”. That’s it!

If you look at the icons on your desktop, you’ll note that most of them have little arrows in the lower left corner. The arrow indicates that the icon is a shortcut. A “proper” desktop should have very few icons without arrows. The only icons on my desktop that are not shortcuts are the Computer and Recycle Bin icons, placed there by Windows.

If you have any questions concerning using shortcuts, backing up critical data, or setting up structured storage systems, I’d be happy to discuss them with you at your convenience. Feel free to contact me at, or via my cell 443.310.5110.

Next month I’ll present the first part of a two part series discussing Dealing with Disaster: Prevention and Preparation.