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Backing Up a File in FTM 2017 for Windows

Making a full manual backup of your tree file is something that you should do often. An up-to-date full backup ensures that you will be able to immediately restore your tree — including media and the link to your online tree if you have one — should something unexpectedly go wrong with your current file. For this reason you should always back up your tree file before you make any major changes like syncing, merging, updating your copy of Family Tree Maker, and so on.

It’s also a good idea to regularly store full backups of your trees outside your computer — on an external hard drive or using a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, for example. This is a sure-fire insurance policy in the unlikely but possible event of a major hard drive crash.

Full backup files are also the safest and smoothest way of moving your tree data to Family Tree Maker on another computer.

Important: Auto-Backups made by the application do not contain media, nor do they have the information needed to relink your tree to Ancestry, so you should not rely on them as your only backups.

Before you make a full backup, we recommend that you compact your tree first (Tools>Compact). Compacting removes spaces in the database that can lead to errors. Click here to learn more about compacting tree files in Family Tree Maker 2017.

How do I back up a tree file in Family Tree Maker?

With the tree you want to back up open in Family Tree Maker:

1. Click the File menu and click Backup. The Backup window opens.

2. The Backup file name is automatically listed as the name of your tree with today’s date following it. If you want your backup to be saved with a different name, you can edit the current name or enter a new one in this field.

3. Select the location where you want to save your backup file (you can always manually move it to a different location later on if needed).

  • Removable media*: Allows you to back up the tree directly onto a removable drive, such as a USB drive, external hard drive, or writable CD or DVD disc. Use the drop-down list to select the drive where your removable media is located. Make sure you have inserted the media into the correct port or drive of the computer before opening the Backup window. (If you haven’t, close the window by clicking Cancel, insert the media, and then choose File>Backup again.)
  • Working directory: Saves the backup to the working directory. This is the folder where all your family trees are stored by default (typically the Family Tree Maker folder in the Documents folder).
  • Custom directory: Lets you choose the folder where you want to save the backup file. Select the option, click the Change button, select the folder you want, and then click OK.

*Important note about removable media: If you have any difficulty with backing up your tree directly to removable media, try backing up to your computer's hard drive first (such as to the working directory, or to your desktop), then copy the file manually to the other location.  If you still have difficulty and are using a USB drive, check the properties of the USB drive for what file system it is using (right-click it in Windows Explorer and select Properties). If your tree file exceeds 4 GB (you can check this by saving it to your hard drive first) and the file system of the USB is FAT32, you would need to reformat it to NTFS or ExFAT.

4. Select what data you want to be included in your backup file.

Note: The options available in this section may vary depending on the version of Family Tree Maker that you are using.

  • Media files: Includes all media files that are linked to the tree, even if they are not copied to the tree's default media folder. If you use this setting, make sure that all linked media files are currently accessible (i.e., remote files are on an attached drive).
  • Historical events: Backs up all of the historical events that you have created or edited for inclusion in timelines.

Note: Historical events are not part of a tree file. They are saved as properties of Family Tree Maker itself so they can be used with all of your tree files. Adding them to the backup saves them in case of computer failure or if you are moving your tree to a different computer. You can also use a backup file to share the historical events you have created with a different user. On restoring a backup, the backed-up historical events will replace the historical events already in the program.

  • Web favorites: Backs up all of the web addresses that you included in Manage Favorites on the Web Search workspace.
  • Allow restored file to resume syncing: (Only available in Family Tree Maker 2017.) Backs up the file in a way that, when it is restored, you can sync the restored tree with the associated Ancestry family tree. You can also restore the backup file in FTM 2017 on a second (or third) computer to sync with the same Ancestry tree from multiple computers. If you do not select this option, you will not be able to sync the restored tree with your existing online tree, though you will be able to upload the restored tree to create a new online tree to sync with.

Important: For best results, restore and sync the tree as soon as you can. FTM 2017 will do its best to sync any changes made in the online tree. When Family Tree Maker syncs the files, it will add any new facts, but if any facts have been deleted on Ancestry, they will be added again from the backup file.

Note: With FamilySync® in FTM 2017, you can restore a backup on another computer to sync multiple FTM trees with a single Ancestry family tree.

5. Click OK to start the backup process. Once it is complete, you will see a message stating that the backup file was saved to the location you selected in step 3. Click OK to close the message.

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