Community Soapbox: Back up your saved games often – here’s how

The Guy Who Didn't Backup His Games

By on March 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Welcome back to another Community Soapbox article! If you’ve got something you’d like to say to our community, check here for more information about how to get your thoughts up in lights.

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Backups are a vital part of any computer lifestyle, especially when games are involved. Who wants to lose their 100+ hour Skyrim save game? Some may simply forget to back up regularly, some may even just think its too hard and give up entirely.

If you are any of these people, then I have a juicy treat for you — and it isn’t an apple.

The batch file method:

Advantages:

  • You can exclude or include whatever file/folders you wish.
  • You always know exactly what’s backed up.
  • You can use the built in Task scheduler to schedule backups.
  • The capability is built directly into Windows.
  • Removes the need for manual backing up via copy and paste.

Disadvantages:

  • Manual editing required for each game .

Now this is the method I prefer to use so I have full control over my own files — backing up all the save games with a batch file. This batch file is a simple and effective script that runs command prompt commands using xcopy. This method isn’t without its disadvantages however, and the biggest disadvantage is that most of the work for this method has to be done by you personally.

Now that the intro and pitch is out of the way, lets get into the guts of making this method a reality. Those who have had sufficient experience with command prompt commands will find this very easy to grasp. If not then do not fret — I will explain every step in detail, and at worst you can just copy paste (I wont tell anyone).

Step 1: Creating the batch file

For this task you will need to open Notepad, or any similar text editor (I prefer Notepad ++). Once that is done save the file. Now once the save menu pops up make sure you change the file type to ‘All Files’, which lets you replace the .txt at the end of the file name with .bat. This is required for it to be treated as a batch file.

Step 2: Adding the commands to the file

Now this is one where most people would save time by copy and pasting — which is okay! Go right ahead. I will not go into great detail explaining what each command variable does, so if you want to know more, you can find out here. Type or copy and paste these into the batch file you made earlier. This helps by giving you a sort of template to work with.

@echo off
:: variables
set drive=M:\Backups\SaveGames
set backupcmd=xcopy /s /c /d /e /h /i /r /y
::My games folder
%backupcmd% “C:\Users\%username%\Documents\My Games” “%drive%\”

::Steam User Data folder( steam cloud saves etc)
%backupcmd% “J:\Games\Steam\userdata” “%drive%\SteamUserData”

::Games for windows live
%backupcmd% “C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\XLive” “%drive%\GFWL”

::Minecraft
%backupcmd% “C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft” “%drive%\.Minecraft”

::non edited templates

::backupcmd% “…source directory…” “%drive%\…destination dir…”

::%backupcmd% “…source directory…” “%drive%\…destination dir…”

pause
echo Backup Complete!
exit

This should be your end result:

Step 3: Re-saving and running the batch file

Once you save the batch file and run it you will notice the command prompt window come up, and the xcopy dialogue will say that it is now copying all the files you specified. My template backs up folders in My Games, Steam userdata (AKA cloud data), and the Games for Windows Live appdata folder.

This batch file can be added to Windows Task Scheduler or run as a service to enforce backing up — these however are not included in the scope of this article.

Step 4: Add file or folder exclusions (optional):

The /EXCLUDE switch links to a text file that has a list of things not to back up, which is handy to make sure that large unneeded files don’t get backed up. The file needs only display a folder or file-name like so. You can easily add this functionality to your existing file by adding the following to your file.

/EXCLUDE:C:\Users\%username%\Documents\batfiles\SaveGameExclusions.txt

Put this at the end of the set backupcmd=xcopy /s /c /d /e /h /i /r /y linem so it looks like this:

set backupcmd=xcopy /s /c /d /e /h /i /r /y /EXCLUDE:C:\Users\%username%\Documents\batfiles\SaveGameExclusions.txt

Now that is done, create a simple text file called SaveGameExclusions.txt and within that type any folder or file name you do not wish to back up. Note that wildcards like *.sav should work.

Here’s what each line does:

set drive links the backup location you want to the %drive% variable

set backupcmd is the command that copies the files as you can see there is a host of switches all of which enforce file backups but you can tweak that to how you want it based on your needs.

The /EXCLUDE switch links to a text file that has a list of things not to back up which is handy to make sure that large unneeded files don’t backup. The file needs only display a folder or filename like so.

GameSave Manager method:

Advantages:

  • Easy backup of save games
  • Simple to use interface
  • Task scheduling

Disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t detect every game without manual configuration
  • Automation means you may not notice if a game is truly backed up

Now this is a much easier tool and is available for free on the GameSave Managers website. Whilst I do not necessarily or easily trust tools such as this to reliably back up, it does offer easy compression of your files as well as being able to add timestamps to each file backed up. Installed games get detected as being present most of the time, however it also allows you to manually say you have a game installed by pointing to its file path.

One downside is that it doesn’t help you know for certain that a saved game is backed up. You can spend the time to manually add each game to this program ensure you have the files.

Step 1: Installing and running the program

On first run you will get a window like the one below. Installing this program is entire optional so you can choose to run it directly from a folder or install it. What you choose does not really matter as the program seems to function the same either way.

Step 2: Configure the program

Once you get to the menu as below, you can then click on Backup — but for now lets change the backup location manually.

Go to the Edit menu and then into Program Settings. Then select Backup Settings from the list on the left.

Step 3: Backing up your game games

After the previous step comes the list of games that it detects as being installed. At this point it may be a good idea before you begin to set a backup directory to a custom location in Properties, so you know where the files go to. Refer to the below image for the layout

Alternatively, you can simply tick the Select All Games button and then click Backup. The process could take a while as it has to turn all the files into compressed files.

Addendum:

Some may be aware of a similar command known as robocopy, which is more sophisticated but not necessary for simple file backups. NOTE: Some people may need to use robocopy on Windows 7 or later on some prebuilt machines (e.g HP computers) which do not have full administrator rights by default and can get access denied errors to locked files.

Save file locations:

The locations of your save files should be in fairly easy to find places in recent games such as My Documents or in Appdata. If you are unsure where save files for a particular game go, simply searching via Google will come up with an answer or heading to Savelocations Wikia.

Dislaimcer: I am of course not responsible for any user error when creating the batch file or using any other tool in this article — especially if done incorrectly. Use entirely at your own risk!

21 comments (Leave your own)

Steam aside, can’t you just copy and paste your save folder to another drive?

Doesn’t Origin ‘cloud save’ ?

Anyone?

 

I dont think there is a steam folder called ‘save’/ origin and some steam games do cloud back ups yes, thats good
but recently i lost all my saves during a format and reinstall. the article would of been a life saver,

god, starting Rage from the beginning for the upteenth time, kills my life i swear to god. same with crysis 1,

 

I now copy and save my “saves” to my dropbox folder, which automatically stores them online, then if missing from my pc it automatically syncs it.

Dropbox is worth many internets!

 

mearehear:
I now copy and save my “saves” to my dropbox folder, which automatically stores them online, then if missing from my pc it automatically syncs it.

Dropbox is worth many internets!

I have a seperate batch file to backup my saves to Dropbox.
Also if anyone else has any questions relating to batch files just PM me I will be happy to help you out.

Cloud saves do not always backup/save properly and as you may notice in my batch file example that backs up Steams ProgramData which backs up cloud saves just in case (I have had Steam revert saves plenty of times).

 

I have a second PC sitting under my desk that I use as a network storage device, it’s usually used as my backup device as well. Not that I keep regular backups, it’s more like irregular backups. (this is the part where you go “yewww eeedeeeot!”)

 

I would suggest that the best way to backup is by using the batch file stated above to backup to a portable HDD. This is a much more power efficient way too, as opposed to having a dedicated backup machine.

 

ungstein:
I would suggest that the best way to backup is by using the batch file stated above to backup to a portable HDD. This is a much more power efficient way too, as opposed to having a dedicated backup machine.

Especially great use of this method and it gives you complete control over the content as well.

If anyone wants more methods I have been working on a way getting batch file 7zip compression to compress all your files into archived .7zip with a variety of options.

 

ungstein,

Yeah it’s probably more efficient, but I also use the extra computer to run stuff I don’t want to clog my main PC with. It just also helps that it’s got a lot of storage left over so it doubles as a network storage device.

 
MuscularTeeth

brilliant work there mate!

 
ihavenewshoes

GameSave Manager can backup to Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive or a private FTP for you. I run it as a portable app manually when I need to.

 

ihavenewshoes:
GameSave Manager can backup to Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive or a private FTP for you. I run it as a portable app manually when I need to.

Oh yes I forgot to mention that fact.

 

Btw great to see such a “functional” article, its excellent to have different info topic things like this.

 

GameSaveManager?
You can use pretty much every folder-synchronization tool for the job.

My minecraft profile for example gets automatically synched with my U3-stick.

 

Whilst I generally will just copy/past saves I want to backup for prosperity reasons (like an ongoing Bioware saga) I use symlinks on games I want cloud saves for.
For the uninitiated, thats: mklink /d LINK TARGET

I tend to use:
mklink /d “…/game/saves” “…/dropbox/cloudsaves/gamename”

I would suggest using quotes for those paths… space characters in folder names will mess with the syntax otherwise.

 

….I just copy-pasta the game data itself onto an External, label the folder, put saves + main game. done. not the most….clean method but it works for those who dont want to fart arse with fancy programs.

 

I don’t back up. Yolo.

 

Skydrive with junctions…

 

I use junctions with Dropbox too. This means your saves are automatically synced with any other device connected to your Dropbox the moment you save the game, and once you’ve set it up for each game you never have to do manual backups again!

Here’s how (it’s easy!!)

1. Install Link Shell Extension
2. Reboot
3. Locate the folder containing the save games for the game you want to keep backed up and synced.
4. Copy and paste the save-folder to wherever you want to keep your saves in Dropbox
5. Delete the original save-folder but keep the window open (you’ll be putting a “junction” to the copied save-folder back here in a second).
6. Right click on the save-folder copy on Dropbox and select “Pick Link Source”
7. Right click in the background of where you deleted the original save-folder from and select “Drop As… > Junction”

Done! Your save games will now back up to Dropbox automatically any time you save the game. To sync the save game to other computers, just repeat steps 5 to 7 on the other computer.

Also, if the save-game is a file and not a folder, you need to select “Hardlink” instead of “Junction”.

 

Directly linking folders to a backup location sounds risky to me. If it automatically syncs/links the files/folders then a corrupted save file would just sync across and replace a good one.

 

True, which is why I still do separate backups. Dropbox also lets you restore old versions of files.

 
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