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Schedule Backups with the Windows Scheduled Tasks Utility

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/28/2009

The Scheduled Tasks utility in Windows XP allows you to schedule almost any task to run automatically so that you don’t have to perform the task yourself. Scheduling a backup using this utility is a great way to apply it.

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    Using Scheduled Tasks

    The Scheduled Tasks utility in Windows XP lets you schedule almost any task to run automatically. This means you don’t have to perform the task yourself. You might want to use Scheduled tasks to start a program like Outlook Express every each time you boot the PC so that you don't have to open it manually. However, running the Backup utility every other day at 5 p.m. and running Disk Cleanup once a week at noon on Monday are certainly more useful applications.

    To run a scheduled task, the task must involve a program, script, or document that is either in the Scheduled Task list or can be browsed to. Scheduled tasks, once configured, run in the background, although some require user input to be run.

    Note: You might already have a few scheduled tasks configured if you’ve set your anti-virus program to check for updates or to scan your computer daily or weekly. You can check for yourself. Locate the Scheduled Tasks window, which can be opened in Control Panel (under Performance And Maintenance if you use Category view) and look at the list of scheduled tasks.

    Configuring a Scheduled Task

    Configuring a scheduled task is as easy as clicking Add Scheduled Task and following the prompts from the Scheduled Tasks Wizard. In this example, I’ll schedule the Backup utility to run automatically, but you can configure just about any program or task to run by browsing to it instead of the Backup utility I’ll schedule here.

    To schedule the Backup utility to run automatically on a specific schedule, follow these steps:

    1. Open Control Panel, and if you use Category view, click Performance And Maintenance. Click Scheduled Tasks.

    2. Read the first page of the Scheduled Task Wizard and click Next.

    3. In the second page of the Scheduled Task Wizard, click Backup.

    4. Continuing with the Scheduled Task Wizard, type a name for the task (you can keep Backup if you like), and choose how often to run the task. We’ll choose Weekly. Click Next.

    5. Schedule the time (and day if applicable) for this task to run. For backups, disk cleanups, and other maintenance tasks, choose a time when no one will be using the computer but when the computer will be turned on. Click Next.

    6. Many tasks must be run using an administrator’s account, and Backup is one of them. Enter the name of an administrator as well as the password. Confirm the password and click Next.

    7. Check Open Advanced Properties For This Task When I Click Finish. Click Finish.

    8. In the task’s Properties box, type in comments on the Task tab, verify the schedule on the Schedule tab, and configure any advanced settings on the Settings tab. Advanced settings can include starting the task only if the computer is idle, awakening the computer to perform this task, and more. Generally the defaults are fine. Click OK.

    With the Backup utility configured to run, you’ll need to configure it so Windows will know what you want to back up and to where.

    Tip: Make sure the scheduled task is run under an administrator’s account and that it also has a password assigned. If you have problems with the task running as scheduled, check this first by right-clicking the task in the Scheduled Tasks window and clicking Properties.