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How to Compact and Back Up a Tree


Whether you are getting ready to update your copy of Family Tree Maker, or about to embark on any other significant event such as using a new synching technology like FamilySync® for the first time, it's a good idea make sure your main tree is protected with a full restorable copy that’s not in your computer.



If you are using TreeVault* which automatically saves changes every fifteen seconds into Family Tree Maker’s secure cloud space, you’re all set. 

* TreeVault is for FTM 2019 users. Learn more here, or click here to upgrade from FTM 2017.



You should compact and save your main tree manually into a location other than your computer. 

Here's how:



Simplified instructions:

  1. Open your tree, then select Compact File from the Tools menu. 
  2. In the window that appears, click Compact.
  3. In the window that appears confirming that compacting was successful, click OK.


For detailed illustrated instructions click here.



Simplified instructions:

  1. Select Backup from the File menu.
  2. In the Backup the Tree window that appears, check boxes to include Media files, Historical events, and if your tree is linked with one on Ancestry.com, make sure that the the checkbox “Allow restored file to resume syncing” is selected.
  3. Click Backup.
  4. In the window that appears to confirm a successful backup, click OK.


For detailed illustrated instructions click here.



All too often we hear from users who have lost their tree file in a flood, fire or hard drive crash — including all their backups. That can be completely avoided by moving a copy to a location away from your computer. 

  1. Using File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (macOS), locate your backup where you saved it. Unless you've changed the suggested name while creating a backup, it would be named after your tree, plus the date of backup, and will have an .ftmb extension.
  2. Connect an external drive to your computer, or connect to a cloud storage service of your choice, like Dropbox.
  3. Copy the backup file to the external drive or cloud storage service.
  4. If you are using a physical external drive, make sure to eject the drive properly to avoid having an incomplete or corrupted copy. If you have Family Tree Maker installed on another computer it's a good idea to try copying the file onto that computer and opening it. Keep the drive in a safe location away from your computer, like in a safe deposit box at your bank.



Q: Doesn't my Ancestry tree count as a full backup?

A: No. There are a number of elements of your FTM tree on your computer that do not get synced with your Ancestry tree (click here for details). So while your Ancestry tree contains much of your family history records, you should not rely on it as your only backup. 


Q: I use TreeVault.* Does the Emergency Tree restore service replace my full tree if my hard drive crashes?

A: Yes. TreeVault keeps an exact copy of your main FTM tree to hand back to you if disaster strikes. Everything is saved, even your Turn Back Time* change log that can roll back your last thousand changes. 

* TreeVault cloud services and Turn Back Time are available only in FTM 2019. 

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