Specifying a Backup Location

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 4, 2014)

Gary asked if it was possible to specify a location for Word to save backup files, if you have the "Always Create Backup Copy" setting turned on. That way he could more easily perform his backups of documents, without copying the backup copy in the backup. (Sounds like a tongue-twister, huh?)

The short answer is no, Word doesn't allow you to do that. The reason is quite simple, really—it has to do with file names. When you turn on the backup feature, Word saves backup files by appending or prepending some special text to your file name. In some versions of Word, the WBK filename extension is used instead of the familiar DOC. In other versions of Word, the DOC extension is used by Word adds the phrase "Backup of" to the beginning of the document name.

Let's say that you have two directories, and in each one you have different documents but each has the same name, as in MyLetter.doc. If you have backups turned on, and Word allows you to specify where the backups are placed, then the names for the backups of the two different files would be the same (either MyLetter.wbk or Backup of MyLetter.doc), and two files with the same name cannot be saved in the same folder. The solution is for Word to simply keep the backup copy of a document in the same folder as the original copy. That way, you don't run into naming conflicts at all.

But what if you are willing to take the risk of naming conflicts and you still want the backup files stored in a different location? In such a case, you are left to your own devices, and you can approach the problem in several different ways.

First, you could use a macro to save the backup for you, rather than relying on the backup feature within Word. The following macro, which is a replacement for the Save command, will save a backup copy of the document in both C:\Backups\ and the current directory.

Sub FileSave()
    Dim docName As Boolean
    Dim templateFullName As String

    docName = ActiveDocument.name Like "Document#*"
    templateFullName = ActiveDocument.FullName
    If docName = True Then
        ActiveDocument.SaveAs FileName:="C:\Backups\" _
          & ActiveDocument.name, AddToRecentFiles:=False
        ActiveDocument.SaveAs FileName:=templateFullName
    End If
End Sub

This macro does not save a backup when you save a file for the first time, only when you do a subsequent save. Saving will, of course, take twice as long as normal, since Word is actually doing two distinct saves. In addition, the macro doesn't use the WBK extension or the "Backup of" phrase on any of the files saved in C:\Backups\. Instead, the files are saved there as regular DOC files.

The second potential solution is to still use Word's backup feature, but periodically move all the backup files to their own directory. You can do that by following these general steps:

  1. Get out of Word.
  2. Open a folder where you want the backup files to reside.
  3. In Windows, start the Find File tool. Depending on your version of Word, this is typically done by choosing Start | Search | For Files or Folders.
  4. Search for *.wbk on the drive where you store your Word documents. This will display a list of all the backup files on the drive.
  5. If no files are returned in step 4, then search for "Backup of*" (without the quote marks) on the drive.
  6. Press Ctrl+A to select all the files that were found.
  7. Using the right mouse button, drag the selected files to the folder you opened in step 2. When you release the mouse button, Windows moves the files from their original folders to the folder you specified.
  8. Close the Search dialog box.

With the backup files in their own folder, you can then do whatever you want with them.

The third possible solution, particularly applicable when making backups, is to use WinZip to only archive files ending in DOC or WBK, as the desire may be.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1701) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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