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I want to verify that my backups contain an exact replica of my profile folder in Documents and Settings, with emphasis on My Documents and Application Data. I have a vague idea of recursively outputting the file size and names of everything in a certain directory, but I don't know how to accomplish it.


  • I use Windows XP on an Eee PC
  • I don't have an external CD drive
  • My external HD is connected (and powered) via USB
  • edit I use SyncToy to copy everything in a specified directory; it supposedly only copies changed files

I would prefer a stand-alone GUI application if possible (because I'd like to recommend my solution to non-tech-savvy friends), but I am willing to install Cygwin and use a script. I have read a similar question about verifying Time Machine backups, but I believe my requirements are different.

2nd edit Thanks for all of the answers so far! I've tried to clarify my question a bit, but I left my Eee at home and can't pick a best answer till I start installing and trying out some of these utilities.

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What format are these backups? – John T Dec 4 '09 at 22:20
I am using SyncToy (2.1, I think?) to do a simple copy of all files and directories in my profile folder. Does that answer the question or did you mean something else? – Miss Cellanie Dec 4 '09 at 22:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The free (and badly named for this task) WinMerge will compare the contents of two directory trees and show you the differences. You just select two starting folders and check the recursive box.

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Just about to recommend this, though i would add that you should install then restore on a separate copy of windows to do this. – RCIX Dec 4 '09 at 23:31

The way to verify a backup is to perform a restore. In professional IT, this means getting another machine just like the one you backed up and restoring to that. For personal use, it means restoring over your production system, if you can stand it. (Maybe copy your documents and applications to a CD first, or something.)

...and if you're hardcore, you'll do a clean OS install first, simulating an actual disaster to recover from.

This tells you a few things:

  1. Do I know how to operate my backup software? (MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU WOULD IMAGINE)
  2. Did my settings and files get backed up like I thought?
  3. Was my backup media corrupt? (Happens all the time.)
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Even if I do a restore, though, how do I look over the directories and see if they're there? I can't simply remember which folders to look out for, so I need a tool that does at least sanity checks, so that I haven't left out, say, my entire Photos directory without realizing it. – Miss Cellanie Dec 4 '09 at 22:30
+1: You have to do a restore. After you've done the restore, then you can compare the original with the restored version. If they're the same, then it worked. (You can use a free tool like Guiffy to do the compare.) – Satanicpuppy Dec 4 '09 at 22:43
I am only asking about personal use. Sorry if I'm repeating myself, but I still don't understand how "restoring over your production system, if you can stand it" helps me get ready for a real restoration. If I was confident in my backup, I wouldn't need to do that exercise; but I'm NOT, which is preventing me from doing it. – Miss Cellanie Dec 4 '09 at 23:12
Oh! Well, you can run what I'd think of as an old (really old) school virus scanner that basically creates a file with hashes of every file on the disk. Then you restore and run the scan again, and see if anything changed. That's sort of reaching though. Or if you have both the original and the restored copies available at the same time, try WinDiff, WinMerge, or some other developeresque file comparison program. Good luck. – Mark Allen Dec 8 '09 at 22:00

I use ViceVersa Free for this sort of thing when I do it, which isn't all that often. It's a syncing tool, but you can use it without syncing if you wish.

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Just eyeballing filesizes is not an accurate measure of a backup's success.

Since your backup source is relatively small, you could use a tool like BeyondCompare($) or WinMerge(free) to compare the directories and any differences in the files.

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i'm using Total Commander, which makes folder/drive comparison a breeze.

open target and destination and then go to

Commands > Synchronize Dirs... > Compare

another option with Total Commander is Compare by Content which will analyze each file by its content and thus can be time consuming.

Total Commander is shareware, try before you buy.

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