How To Use Flash Drive

Dear Computer Lady,

Just love this site, I have learned so much about computers thanks to you.

My question is about backing up files with a flash drive. I know recently you gave instructions for the right size to buy but I lost it. So could you send those instructions on how to determine the proper size flash drive.

Thank you in advance, Pat


Dear Pat,

If you want to back up all your personal files like pictures, music, documents, etc. you need to make sure you have a flash drive big enough to store all your data. I found my original article, and since it has been about a year since it was first published, I am going to repeat it here for you.

For many people, backing up files to a USB Flash Drive will more than meet their needs. Today, I am going to explain how to get started backing up to a USB Flash Drive, also known as a thumb drive, or data stick.

Before you go out and purchase a USB Flash Drive, you need to know what size you will need.

Most people store their important files in the “My Documents” folder in Windows XP. This is the best place to store your documents, since if you ever need your files retrieved, that is where most technicians will first look for your files. Here is how you check the size of your “My Documents” folder in Windows XP:

1. From the Windows XP desktop, click on “Start” and then click on “My Computer”.

2.In “My Computer”, double click on your hard disk labeled, “Local Disk”. This is usually your C: drive.

3.In the Local Disk drive, you will find a folder named “Documents and Settings”. If you do not see that folder, and you have more than one hard drive, go back and try on another hard disk. Once you have found the “Documents and Settings” folder, double click on it to open it.

4.In the Documents and Settings folder, you will see a list of users on your computer. Find the folder that has your user name, and double click to open. If you are not sure, you can try this on more than one identity.

5.In the folder you have opened, look for the folder named “My Documents”. Sometimes it is named after the user, for example, “Jeff’s Documents”. When you find this folder, right click on it, and on the menu that appears, click on “Properties”.

6. This will open a new, “My Documents Properties”, window. It may take a few minutes for the new window to index the folder, but when it is finished, it will tell you the size of the documents in the folder, the amount of space it is using on your disk, and the number of files and folders contained in the folder.

7. You want to know the size on disk measurement. If your size on disk is 2.8GB, then you would need a USB Flash Drive that is at least 3GB (Gigabytes). If your size on disk is measured in MB (megabytes) then a 1GB drive will be plenty. You should be able to get the idea.

8. When you are done checking the size, you will be able to close all the windows, and go shopping!

Once you have your USB Flash Drive, here is how you will back up both your documents, and Favorites:

1. Insert the flash drive into a USB port on your computer. It should slide right in, but only goes one way, so if you are having problems, flip the flash drive over and try again.

2.If this is the first time you have put this drive in your computer, it will take a minute or two for the computer to load software for the drive, and get ready to use it. Once it is ready, a window should appear asking you what you want to do with the drive. Just click on “Open folder to view files” to open a window for your drive. On some computers, a window will automatically open for your drive.

3.If no windows automatically open, you can still open the flash drive manually using “My Computer”. Just click on “Start”, then “My Documents”, and then double click on the drive.

4. Keep that flash drive window open, but move it over to the side of your screen if you can.

5. Now, you need to open a second window that shows your documents folder. Follow the directions above to find your documents folder. Don’t double click or right click on the documents folder.

6. Now, you need to be able to see both windows that you have open. The easiest way to do this, is to right click on a blank spot on your taskbar (at the bottom of your screen) and from the list that appears click on “Tile Windows Vertically”

7. Simply point your mouse to your documents folder, and drag the whole thing from one window to the other. Your computer will automatically create a copy of the whole folder on your flash drive.

8. While you have both windows open, you can also drag the “Favorites” folder to easily backup your Internet favorites as well.

Once you are finished, you can take the flash drive out of your computer and store it in a safe location.


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    • sulldchome
    • November 15, 2010

    I tried to follow these directions, but get the message “Windows encountered a problem when trying to copy this file. What do you want Windows to do/” I get this for each file I am trying to copy. I also tried the MOVE option and got the same message. Now what do I do??? Thanks for the help!
    Linda Sullivan

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