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  • There goes another excuse for not backing up

    Home Forums AskWoody blog There goes another excuse for not backing up

    This topic contains 80 replies, has 25 voices, and was last updated by  anonymous 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    • #192121 Reply

      woody
      Da Boss

      Just got a message from Noel Carboni. I just ordered another new backup drive from Amazon (via your home page link), a MyBook 8 TB drive. The price wa
      [See the full post at: There goes another excuse for not backing up]

      10 users thanked author for this post.
    • #192127 Reply

      Noel Carboni
      AskWoody MVP

      By the way, for those on Windows 8.1 or 10 who no longer have the graphic user interface to the Windows Backup subsystem that Windows 7 provided, it’s STILL possible to do VSS-integrated System Image backups of your critical volumes (e.g., C:, your recovery partition)…

      For example, on my Win 8.1 workstation I schedule the following command to run every night:

      wbadmin start backup -allCritical -vssFull -quiet -backupTarget:G:\
      

      Some of the great parts about doing VSS-integrated System Image backups are:

      • The backup is integrated with the Windows Recovery Environment (i.e., that mini-Windows environment you can boot into if you press the right key during bootup or boot from a system recovery disc).
      • Once the initial system image is stored, subsequent runs are incremental – meaning even if your C: volume is huge, your backups finish fairly quickly, just depending on how many files you’ve changed. I have 1.5 TB of files on C:, and my nightly backups often take less than an hour. The Windows Backup facility takes care of maintaining as many snapshots as the drive will hold.
      • If you’ve run the command multiple times, if you DO go to recover files, you’re given the option to restore any of the snapshots the drive has had room to store. With an 8 TB drive, that could be a very large number of snapshots. In layman’s terms, this means if something goes horribly wrong on Wednesday, but you don’t discover it until Monday, you can choose to restore Tuesday night’s backup.
      • This form of backup is ALSO integrated with the System Restore and Previous Versions features, meaning that files can be recovered from all the snapshots you’ve backed up onto an always-connected external drive.

      -Noel

      • #192142 Reply

        Cascadian
        AskWoody Lounger

        I had long ago given up on MS’s own tools in this area. Had reverted to slow copy individual files for data, and thirdparty full image solutions. But here you have given me reasons to reconsider. Thank you.

      • #192406 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody MVP

        Noel, you have some large drives you need to back up.  Do you have any large (<2GB) GPT volumes in your setup?  When I tried the Windows 7 backup program, it balked at the large volume I had at that time.  I doubt they changed anything from 7 to 8 in terms of the “guts” of the program, but I would be curious to know whether that really is the case.

        Group L (Linux): KDE Neon User Edition 5.14.4 (based on Ubuntu 18.04) + Windows 7 in Virtualbox VM

    • #192132 Reply

      geekdom
      AskWoody Lounger

      I wish I could convince people to backup; it’s so easy compared to the other alternatives.

      Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
      2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #192131 Reply

      anonymous

      I know it is mainly for backups but I think I’d be too terrified to put 8Tb of data all in one place!

      • #192136 Reply

        geekdom
        AskWoody Lounger

        Drive space just keeps getting bigger. Remember when 10KB was a bunch?

        Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
        • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  geekdom.
      • #192418 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody MVP

        If your concern is having all that data in one place (vulnerable to a thief, for example), you could always encrypt the data.  I do on all of my backups, just in case.  Macrium Reflect free won’t do it (that’s one of the perks you get for upgrading to the paid version), but Aomei Backupper free will, and it does it with greater speed than any other backup program I tried (including most of the free programs and Acronis, which I bought; I never tried Macrium paid despite my liking for the program because of its cost… at $69 per PC, it’s prohibitively expensive when you have as many PCs to back up as I do).

        If you’re concerned about losing 8TB of data at once… well, whether the drive is a primary drive or a backup drive, the answer to that is… backups!  If my backup drive fails, I do have a backup for that… the PCs whose backups are on the failed drive.

        I have two kinds of backups.  My day-to-day backups are stored on a spare PC with a bunch of hard drives in it, which I refer to as my backup server, though it really is just an ordinary Windows 7 PC.  It has about 10.5 TB of storage among all the drives.  I’ve restored from it numerous times; it’s always there if needed.  Most of the issues that can cause data loss (hard drive failure, laptop theft, something going wrong with an update) are not going to spread to another PC in the house.

        Other things, like ransomware or a fire, definitely might.  I also have backups on portable HDDs that I keep inside a fire-resistant lockbox, and they’re offline at all times except while a backup (or restore) is being performed.

        I haven’t found a good way to do off-site backups yet.  My internet connection is too slow to make use of any “cloud” storage; the backup would be obsolete (too old) before I was even a third of the way through uploading it, and that’s if I am using 100% of my upstream bandwidth 24 hours a day.  I could mail (US mail) a hard drive to a relative or friend, but if I needed to restore, it would take days to get it back, and it would get more and more out of date as time passed, which would require me to send more hard drives (and try to convince my helper to send the old ones back?).  It makes incremental backups difficult too (there are workarounds, but they just add to the hassle).

        Group L (Linux): KDE Neon User Edition 5.14.4 (based on Ubuntu 18.04) + Windows 7 in Virtualbox VM

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #192138 Reply

      EstherD
      AskWoody Lounger

      I know it is mainly for backups but I think I’d be too terrified to put 8Tb of data all in one place!

      You don’t keep all your data in one place.

      You buy two drives and alternate between them, so you are less likely to lose everything if one of them goes belly-up. In fact, if you’re really paranoid, you buy two different models of drives, just to minimize the possibility that both drives will fail more-or-less simultaneously, and from the same cause.

      And then you make a third copy, which you keep off-site, either physically or in the cloud, just to be really safe!

      9 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192140 Reply

        wdburt1
        AskWoody Lounger

        The rule of three is well-accepted.  Example: One backup on the desk, in case your computer goes down.  One, probably on a portable hard drive, stored away, perhaps offsite, but where you can get to it without jumping through hoops.  And one on an online service.

         

         

        2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192141 Reply

        anonymous

        Yes, so 3x 2Tb might be more practical than 1x 8Tb

        • #192157 Reply

          Cascadian
          AskWoody Lounger

          The question of adequate size is best considered case by case for each user to decide their own need. Noel’s intent is to say even something as HUGE as 8TB is significantly less [cost in price] than a new machine. I would hazard a guess that this same drive might still be in working order when your backup demands will be twice the size. And a lot more expensive.

          [fingers faster than brain, the cost in money of a top of the line backup drive is less than cost to replace an unusable machine]

          • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  Cascadian. Reason: noted [in brackets]
          1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #192390 Reply

          jelson
          AskWoody Lounger

          Yes, so 3x 2Tb might be more practical than 1x 8Tb

          Yes, the Rule of Three, indeed! but instead of buying 3 external USB drives, I got an USB 3.1 hard drive dock and 3 bare SATA drives.

          • I can just plug a drive in, copy over my data to it, and pop it out.
          • Repeat twice.
          • Then I have 3 drives containing all the data files that I feel are important:

          Two drives on-site to guard against ransomware, surges, hardware failure, etc.; and

          One drive  off-site to guard against fire, theft, etc.

          P.S. using an hard drive dock also makes it easier to keep the drives running cool (external USB drives tend to run really hot after a bit: the lack of air circulation)

      • #192168 Reply

        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody MVP

        Good advice.

        This is my 6th backup drive purchase, actually.

        Each solves a different potential issue (from accidental file corruption, overwrite, or erasure to catastrophic loss of everything in the office). This new one, since it’s big enough to hold all my data several times over, will assume the position of being permanently connected and getting nightly system image backups. That position is currently held by a 3 TB MyBook USB drive, which will assume another role.

        I probably regularly wrangle more data than most insofar as I keep a fair number of virtual machines on hand for testing. I have, for example, a VM for each of the released versions of Win 10, averaging more than 100 GB each, and others for XP, Vista, Win 7 32 bit and x64, Win 8, some experimental OSs…

        -Noel

        2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192211 Reply

        MrJimPhelps
        AskWoody MVP

        On the other side of the coin, you need to make sure that you will actually use the 2nd and 3rd drive. I think most people (myself included) wouldn’t do backups if they were too complicated. But if it is kept simple enough, people are more likely to actually do backups.

        Myself, I would go with the one 8TB drive, and do a backup about once every month or two. Hey, it’s better than nothing; and at least I’ll actually do it.

        Group "L" (Linux Mint)
        with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #192160 Reply

      RetiredGeek
      AskWoody MVP

      While we’re on the subject of backups: Image Backups for the Non-Technical User’s Tech Support Person.

      HTH 😎

      May the Forces of good computing be with you!

      RG

      PowerShell & VBA Rule!
      Computer Specs

      7 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192200 Reply

        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody MVP

        Macrium sounds like a nice alternative, though if it works well why not consider paying for the commercial version? Backup software developers’ families have to eat too. 🙂

        Can you describe the process of restoring a Macrium backup?

        -Noel

        • #192205 Reply

          samak
          AskWoody Lounger

          After many folk here recommended Macrium, this non-geek downloaded it, read the excellent manual they provide and now I use it frequently in addition to using W7 backup. If I can do it then it must be straightforward. I’m on a tablet with a dodgy connection so I won’t try and post a link, but just go to the website and look at the bit about restoring, it looks really simple (which is why I downloaded it).

          W7 SP1 Home Premium 64-bit, Office 2010, Group B, non-techie

          1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #192262 Reply

          Sessh
          AskWoody Lounger

          I use Macrium myself and did a few restores initially to make sure all is well. What I do is schedule two jobs in the program. The first runs a full backup every Friday and the other runs incremental backups on the other six days. You also burn Windows PE to a CD from within the Macrium program which will contain all the drivers it will need to access all the drives and whatnot in your system along with a PE environment to boot into to restore images.

          So, you reboot into the PE environment from the CD, select the incremental or full backup you want to use and click restore. It takes about 20 minutes or so on my rig to restore a full image, but never had a problem at all. Very easy to use and schedule jobs which are reliably run without issue. You can also easily mount these images and pull individual files or folders out of them to copy back to your main drive which I’ve done many times as well without issue.

          I only wish there was a similar backup program for Linux that could do these automated backups every night. I know there’s some good ones, but I don’t recall any of them being able to do that. Perhaps I am wrong. 🙂 It seems all of them needed to be done manually and couldn’t back up the system without shutting it down first, but haven’t gotten around to trying any yet.

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #192420 Reply

            Ascaris
            AskWoody MVP

            I only wish there was a similar backup program for Linux that could do these automated backups every night. I know there’s some good ones, but I don’t recall any of them being able to do that. Perhaps I am wrong. ?

            Timeshift (part of the Mint installation) has an easy to use UI for setting up an automated schedule.  There’s also Terabyte Backup for Linux, which should also be able to do that.  Both of these are able to do “live” backups of the Linux installation they’re running under.  Timeshift is free and open-source, while Terabyte is a paid program with a trial version available.

            Group L (Linux): KDE Neon User Edition 5.14.4 (based on Ubuntu 18.04) + Windows 7 in Virtualbox VM

            4 users thanked author for this post.
            • #192473 Reply

              Sessh
              AskWoody Lounger

              I was aware of Timeshift, but I would never use it as anything more than a Plan C since there’s always the possibility of not being able to boot Linux at all in times of strife.

              Terabyte is one of the ones I plan on using and potentially purchasing, but I was not aware that it could do the scheduled backup thing from within Linux. I was under the impression that it could only do backups from outside the OS (rebooting into a CD image) and doing it from there. I did read into a lot of backup programs for Linux around then, so perhaps they all bled together and that information got lost in the shuffle.

              If Terabyte can indeed do that, I will certainly be purchasing it in the future. Thanks for the tip!

            • #192492 Reply

              Ascaris
              AskWoody MVP

              It’s true you may not be able to boot Linux at all to use Timeshift, but if that’s the case, you can simply reinstall Linux (the same version) and use Timeshift to restore from there.  Timeshift will happily save its backups on an external drive, as long as it is formatted in a Linux file system like EXT4, and reinstalling a base copy of Linux from the USB installer is pretty quick.

              I am not 100% certain that Terabyte contains a scheduler, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t.  It definitely has the ability to image its own drive while online… I have used that during the trial and it did work.  I haven’t tested the restore function, though.

               

              Group L (Linux): KDE Neon User Edition 5.14.4 (based on Ubuntu 18.04) + Windows 7 in Virtualbox VM

              2 users thanked author for this post.
            • #192584 Reply

              jelson
              AskWoody Lounger

              Terabyte is one of the ones I plan on using and potentially purchasing, but I was not aware that it could do the scheduled backup thing from within Linux.

              Terabyte’s Image For Linux will do what you want. Note that it comes in both GUI and Command Line (CUI) versions. (Comes with Image For DOS & OSD Tool Suite, powerful scripting tools; for $20 more, the Bundle includes Image For Windows & BootIt Bare Metal too.)

              If you want to be totally sure it will do everything you want, then simply post to the Terabyte Forums (link) or to the “IFW” thread on Wilders Security Forums (link).

              FYI, I did a quick search on Terabyte Forums and found a discussion (link) where a user was wanting to do scheduled system imaging in Linux

    • #192161 Reply

      Cee Arr
      AskWoody Lounger

      Thanks Noel and Woody.  I too have been pondering an external WD USB drive for a newish Windows 10 Asus computer.  My old faithful Windows 7 desktop finally gave up the ghost. My question/request is…  please do a KISS (keep it short and simple) description on backing up a Windows 10/8.1/7 computer for those who may need help.  There would then be another reason not to back up.  Thanks to you both for all your helpful input and advice.

      • #192167 Reply

        woody
        Da Boss

        Windows backup works well in Win7 and 8.1. In Win10 it doesn’t work so well, but there are many excellent FREE backup programs available.

        • #192253 Reply

          AlexEiffel
          AskWoody MVP

          Do you have more precisions on this important topic, Woody?

          Is only the GUI depecrated or is the command Noel uses is too and then we can’t expect reliability for sure with each new version of Windows?

          Is this command still present and maintained (not deprecated) in other versions of Windows? Then maybe it could indicate it might still work fine on other versions.

          I would have trusted more Microsoft than third party to not break compatibility with each feature upgrade of Windows, but now I can’t say that no more. In the past, I used Easeus, Macrium, all of them failed me at some point when time to restore on some computers. We were doing both a Windows system image and a third party backup. Now, for a long time, we only used Windows and it was fine. I am very disappointed by Microsoft decision to not support this essential OS feature. I guess they just want people to reinstall from scratch like IOS when it fails to clear up any possible corruption due to many upgrades over one another.

          • #192258 Reply

            Noel Carboni
            AskWoody MVP

            Hi Alex,

            I verified that the wbadmin command still worked in Win 10 around probably v1511 though I haven’t tried it lately. One of the things I plan to do with my new backup drive is move half a TB of my “too old to be important but not something I want to just delete” VMs off to backup storage, to free up enough flash storage to easily try an install of Win 10 v1803. One thing I’ll try is whether wbadmin works.

            Other than taking a little time, using a little storage, and forcing you to wrap your brain around a new activity, there’s little downside in trying it yourself. Got a Win 10 system (ideally one in a VM) you’d like to back up then try to restore? Please give it a try and report back here. 🙂

            -Noel

            1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #192329 Reply

              anonymous

              Still works on my 1709 vitrual machine.

              1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #192491 Reply

              AlexEiffel
              AskWoody MVP

              My concern with deprecated is having something that hasn’t been tested at all, seems to work, but has hidden issues like some corrupted files that I would easily see. I use ReFS still although it is removed from newer version of Windows Pro (you need Windows for Workstation) and I wouldn’t be surprised issues with uncommon configurations like this.

              If they still support the tool on server versions, I would tend to think it would still work and adapt to other changes they do on Windows, but if the whole tool is deprecated, it is a bit scarier.

      • #192202 Reply

        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody MVP

        My experience so far is with the Windows Backup subsystem, which I mentioned above. I guess Microsoft no longer thinks it’s their responsibility to provide a decent backup solution. In my mind it’s a good reason NOT to consider using Windows 10 at all on a hardware system, though choosing to try to keep an older version running will have more and more downsides as time goes on, and I know many new systems can’t be purchased without Windows 10.

        I do run Win 10 in virtual machines, and for that VMware itself provides a “snapshot” facility I’ve been using, in which a backup of an entire running system can be made literally in a few seconds, so I haven’t verified what problems there are in recent versions with trying to use Windows Backup.

        -Noel

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #192208 Reply

          anonymous

          Because you’re talking about a WD drive, there is also “Acronis True Image WD Edition Software” only for WD drives, on this page:  https://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx

          If someone has tested this, if would like to hear it!

          I still use the built-in Windows 7 System Copy function, but the highly annoying thing is when you restore a System Copy, Windows Media Player preferences are reset and worse of all, ALL hidden updates are BACK in the normal list (KB2952664 and MANY MANY more…)

          • #192373 Reply

            jelson
            AskWoody Lounger

            Because you’re talking about a WD drive, there is also “Acronis True Image WD Edition Software” only for WD drives, on this page:
            https://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx

            If someone has tested this, if would like to hear it!

            I’ve tried the WD edition of Acronis. I bought new versions of Acronis for 4 years… got sick of the buggy updates and all the bloat. There’s much, much better imaging programs.

            Hands down, I recommend Macrium Reflect to everyone but the super geeky. It’s simple, well designed and reliable. Plus, they make it extremely easy for to create the Recovery Media (something that many users found difficult.)

            • #192523 Reply

              wdburt1
              AskWoody Lounger

              +1!

              I used Acronis for several months before switching to Macrium Reflect.  Acronis has a slightly more user-friendly interface, but once you’re in the groove with Macrium, it’s easy.  Scheduled images take care of themselves.  For the others, open the program, click whichever one of the “Backup Definition Files” you want to run, right click “Run Now” and choose “Full,” “Incremental,” or “Differential,” and you’re off to the races.

              Acronis had a bug that prevented the user from shutting down Windows, forcing the user to cut the power.  Some research showed that the bug had been complained about in multiple versions of Acronis, but remained.  This was a couple of years ago, so perhaps things have improved.  But I switched to Macrium and haven’t looked back.  I love its no-nonsense, it-just-works style.  A case study in value versus hype.  Microsoft could learn a thing or two from these folks.

               

              1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #192218 Reply

          John in Mtl
          AskWoody Lounger

          I guess Microsoft no longer thinks it’s their responsibility to provide a decent backup solution.

          Yeah but in Win-10 you absolutely have to have Candy Crush, now THAT is important.

          (Sorry, couldn’t resist taking a jab at MS and that OS)

          • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  John in Mtl.
          2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #192171 Reply

      Marty
      AskWoody Lounger

      Having good  backup hardware is essential, but having a practice of actually doing backups is equally essential.  I maintain computers for a couple of  friends who are still running Windows 7.  Each recently experienced hard drive crashes, but I had regularly created recent Win7 images for them on their backup drives.  I installed new internal WD drives, and used Windows 7’s image restore in both cases.  The result was perfect, and the process was seamless.

      3 users thanked author for this post.
    • #192175 Reply

      jelson
      AskWoody Lounger

      While we’re on the subject of backups: Image Backups for the Non-Technical User’s Tech Support Person.

      Very nice job… great choice of using Macrium Reflect Free… thanks. Just 2 “Heads Up” items:

      1. You’ll need to register for a free account on Windows Secrets Forum in order to download the package. Not a biggie.
      2. Macrium Reflect Free 6.3 is required since ver 7 will not return control to the script. This in turn presents the issues of
      • where to find a copy (at least I don’t know how to download old versions directly from Macrium)
      • and making sure it’s unaltered by checking the file size and the hashes (MD5 and SHA-1)

      I found a site offering the 64-bit  6.3.1745 version here and I verified the file size and the MD5 & SHA1 hashes against a copy I had archived in March 2017 when it was the version directly available from Macrium:

      filename:reflect_setup_free_x64.exe
      file size: 46,599,824 bytes

      MD5: 15A97BDC0FE1C79A74DBC3EA3C218438
      SHA-1: E8FB2D23F6DD1ABECA3AC2534670C34573A3CA75

      • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  jelson.
      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #192260 Reply

        RetiredGeek
        AskWoody MVP

        jelson,

        Thanks for the information and research. I’ll be including this in the documentation and updating the download on WSL. With accreditation of course! 😎

        Update: BTW: You can use PowerShell to verify your hash.

        PS> Get-FileHash -Algorithm ‘SHA1’ \\MyBookLive\CMShared\NAS-Downloads\NoLongerAvailableSoftware\reflect_setup_free_x64v6-3-1745.exe | fl

        Algorithm : SHA1
        Hash      : E8FB2D23F6DD1ABECA3AC2534670C34573A3CA75
        Path      : \\MyBookLive\CMShared\NAS-Downloads\NoLongerAvailableSoftware\reflect_setup_free_x64v6-3-1745.exe

        HTH 😎

        May the Forces of good computing be with you!

        RG

        PowerShell & VBA Rule!
        Computer Specs

        • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  RetiredGeek.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #192233 Reply

      Grond
      AskWoody Lounger

      Howdy all.

      I use an external USB BD burner for my backups, Verbatim BD-R 25GB blanks, and ImgBurn as my software.

      Anyone see any holes in this approach?

      • #192252 Reply

        Noel Carboni
        AskWoody MVP

        Hi Grond,

        Let me start by saying that if you feel you can restore the data you’re likely to miss if it gets lost, any backup is good.

        That being said, I have a blu-ray burner myself, and I do actually do some long-term backups (e.g., of my raw digital photos) to BD-Rs. I have thought through several issues that make me also want to use external USB drives for backup…

        In my case, because of what I use it for I regularly and actively access several TB of data on my system (it’s a big system). The sheer number of BD-Rs to back that up at 20 to 25 GB per disc would be prohibitive. The size of stored data always seems to grow. You might find that over time you’ll need more and more discs until it becomes a problem.

        Just the facts that you’re paying for the physical media and that it takes some time and effort to insert/write/remove discs means you’ll likely avoid doing very many backups as time goes on. Presuming its a desktop system, an always-connected external USB drive can be virtually “set it and forget it”, and backups can be run all the time. I have several scheduled backup jobs that run on 3 hour intervals. Even laptops can just be as simple as “plug in the USB cable, start the backup, and get up to find it finished the next morning”.

        BD-Rs are not super reliable. I hope you don’t experience a failure if you do have to restore critical data. I also worry that the ability to read the format may not survive a very long time into the future.

        But as I said, whatever backup provides you the peace of mind that your data can’t be lost in an instant of failure is a good backup!

        -Noel

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #192386 Reply

        jelson
        AskWoody Lounger

        I use an external USB BD burner for my backups, Verbatim BD-R 25GB blanks, and ImgBurn as my software.

        Anyone see any holes in this approach?

        I agree with Noel on this; the reliability Blu-ray discs (unlike archive-grade DVD+R discs) is very questionable. Likewise, I’d suggest using external mechanical hard drives.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #192819 Reply

          Grond
          AskWoody Lounger

          Hello Noel & jelson, and thank you very much for your replies and advice.

          I wasn’t very explicative in my particular backup needs, so I will attempt to clarify. I purchased the USB portable BD burner for two reasons:

          (1) [and this is the least important reason] To watch Blu-Rays on my one and only PC, an i5-3470 home-built desktop, 1 TB spinner HDD which is a bit over a third full, internal DVD burner is toast, Win7 x64 SP1, Group A (modified, which is to say, update when Defcon is at 3), and

          (2) For portability of backups. I do folder/file backups on my PC, not system images, though that is something I *need* to start doing, and for which an external HDD (or an array) is probably the best answer.

          The reason I need portability and BDs is that my girlfriend has several Windows desktops that are in various states of disrepair, inherited from her late mother and father (who is now in assisted living), who, along with her younger (but adult) son were horribly imprudent web surfers. They clicked on any and everything which caught their wandering eyes. I looked at these PCs when they were “working,” told them they were likely infested with viruses/malware, and made suggestions on how to ameliorate the problems. This advice fell on deaf ears. These PCs have mostly IDE HDDs, and my girlfriend would like the family documents/data/pictures from them. So I am going to have to find the most reliable of these (some don’t even have USB ports), mount one or two HDDs at a time, and back up what I can, while keeping the contents as air-gapped as possible from my main PC. I’ll either try to use one of the seat licenses from my AV and malware suites or use freebies to deep-scan the resulting collected data before burning it to BDs. I then have an AIO Dell PC (inherited from my recently late uncle) that my girlfriend can have for her own
          use. She *is* a prudent Web user, after some gentle advice and hand-holding from yours truly.

          Also, please correct me if I am misinformed, but don’t BDs have a much longer blank *and* burned shelf life than CDs/DVDs? I can’t afford Sony or Panasonic or archival-quality blanks, but Verbatim has a pretty solid reputation. I’ve always been extremely careful in my handling of my optical media.

          Thanks very much for any advice and help!

    • #192255 Reply

      Seff
      AskWoody Lounger

      The question of whether or not backups are essential depends entirely on what the computer is used for, and specifically what data is held on it. For business users, constant backups on at least a daily basis are clearly essential, but for domestic users the position isn’t quite so clear-cut.

      I run two home desktops (Windows 7 x64), with one primarily used for gaming and the other primarily used for admin including Office 2010 documents etc. All emails and their attachments are downloaded to both machines, so they’re backed up as well as being present on webmail. Any particularly important documents I either print off and/or copy to a different webmail account. There are no documents that I couldn’t manage without or that I could not ask to be sent again. Similar considerations apply in all respects to other stuff like family photos etc. I have got a USB stick that will take all of these things and more besides but I’ve not yet encountered a reason to use it as everything I “need” already has multiple backups.

      All save files for offline games are stored on my machine with Steam or GoG holding synchronised saves on the cloud. Online games don’t have local data saves (other than for game settings which are easily and quickly reset) and are saved purely on the game server.

      For me, and doubtless many other domestic users, having a computer break down loses nothing beyond the cost and inconvenience of getting it repaired, or indeed replaced as the process involved in reinstalling games etc is no different to what happens when I buy a new machine. My local repair shop can usually manage to transfer things like the documents, pictures, and emails across to a new drive or computer as needed, unless the existing drive is totally mangled.

      If I compare the cost and time implications of running complete backups on both machines, neither of which has separate drives or partitions for the OS, with the cost and time implications of an occasional repair then there’s really no contest. The few things I need are already routinely backed up in multiple ways, the rest is neither here nor there.

      As long as home users make sure that they keep a copy somewhere of any irreplaceable documents and photos etc, nothing else much matters and it can easily be restored once the computer has been repaired or replaced – which is going to be required if the computer fails anyway, even if you’re a home user with the level of knowledge and expertise to deal with it yourself rather than paying someone else to do so.

      • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  Seff.
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      • #192288 Reply

        geekdom
        AskWoody Lounger

        Tax returns? Financial information? Legal documents? All are good reasons for home users to backup their computers.

        Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
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        • #192299 Reply

          Seff
          AskWoody Lounger

          If you use the computer for those purposes (which I don’t), then those are documents you need to keep backed up – quite different from backing up the whole computer.

      • #192319 Reply

        Peacelady
        AskWoody Lounger

        Hi Seff – Quite awhile ago I decided not to leave anything on my computer.  All emails are deleted and if they are important copied and put in a folder in my desk.  (Very few people have my email address and I have separate throw-away accounts for online things like signing petitions, etc.) I do not take any photos.  I copied my “contacts” list and put that in a folder in my desk.  I have no financial documents on the computer.   I have a few “documents” that I made a hard copy of in another folder in my desk.  I’m not a gamer.  My on-line banking is done from it’s own dedicated email account as are my few online store purchases.  Also, I only use my desktop for computing – I have a “flip phone” used only to make and receive phone calls and do not text.  I know that the younger generation could not exist without their smartphones, etc. – but since I never had one I don’t miss it!

        I do realize that not everyone could pare down the way I did – but if you can, it is very comforting to know that even if my computer completely broke down I could start again on a new one.  Call me crazy/paranoid but I have seen far too many breaches – Facebook, Last Pass, Equifax, Verizon, Yahoo, Target, the Cloud, etc.   Just sayin—:-)

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    • #192269 Reply

      anonymous

      Because the article is about a WD drive, there is also “Acronis True Image WD Edition Software” only for WD drives, on this page:  https://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx

      If someone has tested this, I would like to hear it.  (I don’t know if i can mix the System Copy’s made with the built-in Windows 7 function with the backups made with the WD Acronis Software on my only backup drive, and can’t risk losing months of backups)

      Thanks for reading anyway.

      • #192330 Reply

        anonymous

        Sorry i typed System Copy, my Windows 7  isn’t in English…

        I use “Create a system image” to backup to an external WD Drive,

        and “Create a system repair disc” to write a bootable disc (once).

        I did some restores already in the past and it worked always, but the main thing that is very frustrating is that ALL hidden Windows Updates appear again!

        But now i’m stuck with this method ofcourse…

        So I don’t write everything to discs like Garbo‘s method was.

      • #192382 Reply

        jelson
        AskWoody Lounger

        Because the article is about a WD drive, there is also “Acronis True Image WD Edition Software” only for WD drives, on this page: ….

        If someone has tested this, I would like to hear it. (I don’t know if i can mix the System Copy’s made with the built-in Windows 7 function with the backups made with the WD Acronis Software on my only backup drive, and can’t risk losing months of backups)

        You might not have seen my earlier reply about the “WD Edition” here. Short version: ditch Acronis… use Macrium Reflect Free.

        But no, you can’t mix images made by different programs. What I suspect you’re concerned with are the data files in your “backups.” I’ve changed “imaging programs” several times over the years — currently I use 2 programs so all my eggs are not in one basket — and simply kept the old images made with other programs along with their Recovery Media, just in case.

        In these days of SSDs, I keep my “Windows drive” rather lean by regularly moving  my data files over to a big internal mechanical drive. Typically, my “Windows system drive” (C:) uses less 90 GB of space. This makes it very easy and fast (typically about 10 min) to make a full system image — which contains  the “system reserved,” the “C:” and any other partitions needed for a bare-metal restore — which is saved to an internal mechanical drive: my “Data drive” (E:).

        BUT I don’t use “imaging programs” to back-up data. Currently, I use SyncFolders (portable and free) to routinely copy my data files to a couple of external archive drives (so I have multiple copies of the same data). And if you have any super important data files, it’s a simple matter to have an additional archive drive that you keep off-site, like in a safety deposit box.

        Since my data is kept on another drive, a bad Windows Update or a bad printer install means that my system can be fully restored in about 15 mins. MUCH faster than having to do a fresh install of Win7… installing programs… getting current with Win Updates… and getting it set back up the way I like it.

        I just have to periodically move stuff from My Documents, My Pictures, etc over to my data drive (E:). And then I “back-up” it to my archive drives. Actually, I “sync” my Data drive with an archive data (only new and updated files are copied over.) Note that SyncFolders, like many “Back-up” programs, allows you save ‘older versions’ of data files too, aka “versioning”.)

        • #192449 Reply

          anonymous

          Thank You Very Much, jelson!

          I’m not concerned about losing data files, they are on a second external drive.
          I use another external WD HDD Drive reserved only for System Images of my C: drive (It takes about 30-60 minutes if I do it every month, because I have only USB 2.0 and no SSD, just HDD)
          For my Windows 7, I do create a full system image this way:
          https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/4241/how-to-create-a-system-image-in-windows-7/

          Because I will lose all full System Images made with the built-in Windows 7 funtion if I use the same drive,
          I can’t use Macrium Reflect (or any others) for making new System Images yet because you said “mixing” on the same external drive isn’t possible.

          When my current System Images made with Windows 7 let me down, or when I switch to Windows 10, I will try your recommendations.
          I’ve read all of your comments and bookmarked and wrote down the very useful links you posted. Now I know what to do. Thanks again!

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          • #192585 Reply

            jelson
            AskWoody Lounger

            I’m not concerned about losing data files, they are on a second external drive. I use another external WD HDD Drive reserved only for System Images of my C: drive (It takes about 30-60 minutes if I do it every month, because I have only USB 2.0 and no SSD, just HDD)

            Perfect! And yeah, that’s about right for USB 2.0 speeds

            Because I will lose all full System Images made with the built-in Windows 7 funtion if I use the same drive, I can’t use Macrium Reflect (or any others) for making new System Images yet because you said “mixing” on the same external drive isn’t possible.

            OOPS! Sorry, I completely misunderstood what you meant by “mixing.” Other imaging programs don’t hide their image files the one built-in Windows 7 does (all in the name of ‘idiot-proofing’….? don’t get me started.)

            Anyway, sure you can do system images with Macrium: just create a folder for its images on your external drive. And as far as the W7 built-in imaging program is concerned, those Macrium images will be just files that don’t pertain to it, just like any other files you put on your external.

        • #192545 Reply

          jburk07
          AskWoody Lounger

          @jelson,

          Thanks for your comments (and thanks to the other posters on this thread). I’m wondering about one thing, though; could you explain this statement a bit?

          But no, you can’t mix images made by different programs.

          Do you mean that you can’t store Macrium Reflect images on the same external hard drive with a Windows Backup image? If yes, why is that? I don’t currently have both types of image files on the same disk, but I do have Macrium images along with other types of files and folders on one external hard drive. Then on another disk I have a Windows file backup, along with the Windows “system image” that you can opt to include with such a backup, and on that same drive I do have other, regular folders and files. So what would happen if you put a Windows Backup system image on the same drive with Macrium images?

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #192586 Reply

            jelson
            AskWoody Lounger

            I’m wondering about one thing, though; could you explain this statement a bit?

            > jelson wrote:
            > But no, you can’t mix images made by different programs.

            Do you mean that you can’t store Macrium Reflect images on the same external hard drive with a Windows Backup image?

            @jburk07

            You’re quite right… of course, you can. As I mentioned in a reply a minute ago to him, I totally misunderstood what he meant by “mixing.”

            Naturally, you can have files made by different programs co-existing peacefully on a drive — even in the same folder! Of course, it would be a much better practice if the image files made by different programs had their separate folders.

            Macrium Reflect will simply save its image files to the location and with the name that you choose. Likewise, to restore an image, you have to tell it image file’s name and where it’s located.

            1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #192815 Reply

            jburk07
            AskWoody Lounger

            @jelson

            Great, thanks for the clarification!

            1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #192289 Reply

      anonymous

      I see that there is some enthusiasm for the built-in Windows backup mechanism in earlier comments, so here is my cautionary tale against using the built-in “create a system image” mechanism which I assume (I may be wrong) is a special case of the backup mechanism.

      I used to burn such system partition images to write once (-R or +R) DVDs every few months as a back-up mechanism. (I keep most data in a separate partition and copy this to an external drive as appropriate). The images usually needed 2 or 3 DVDs. The 1st time I needed to restore such an image, the Windows recovery mechanism reported a failure and would not restore the latest image. By that stage I had accumulated 10 or 12 such images, so as an exercise to see if there was a systemic problem I worked my way through them all and found that only about half successfully restored and booted up successfully. There was no indication why some worked and others didn’t. I kept the most recent successfully restored image on the PC – the 3rd most recent by chance.

      Clearly a 50-ish % backup and restore success rate is unacceptable!

      I decided that in future it would be better to use a mechanism to back-up and restore a system image which is entirely separate from the Windows in the system image being backed up and restored (to reduce the probability of it becoming entangled within itself – I know it shouldn’t, but why take the risk?) and is as simple as possible.

      So I now use a bootable “partition manager” program on a CD to start the PC completely separately from the system partition to be backed up. This program is used to “copy” the system partition to either a disk which can run in the PC in an external USB enclosure (or to an unused slower part of the internal disk, similar to a “factory” restore partition, only it is the latest version I backed up rather what the PC manufacturer put there).

      I currently use AOMEI partition manager 5.6 from a few years ago which has never let me down. (There have been later versions of this program which I have not tried.) After either copying a previously copied system image back to the PC drive or swapping the PC disk drive with the disk in the external enclosure, the PC is back up and running. (BTW: When copying I suggest ticking the “align for SSD” option even if you have a HDD because an aligned HDD will perform a little faster than an unaligned HDD so why not align it?)

      I previously used EaseUS partition manager (from memory 9.1 was the latest version I used), but found with it the PC would not immediately boot up and I needed to run the Windows recovery disk to “fix” the system partition after copying back a previously saved image. So a 2 stage process – copy back + recovery, whereas with AOMEI it is just a 1 stage process – copy back and it will boot up successfully. I don’t know if later EaseUS versions still require the extra “recovery” stage. And as they say “other, similar products are available”.

      It is possible to create a bootable “partition manager” on a USB stick and boot from that, although I have not done that myself. If my PC’s DVD drive fails before the rest of the PC, I will look at the bootable USB stick method then.

      I believe that AOMEI and EaseUS have specific backup programs to do this sort of thing, but I assume that they will just be more complicated versions of their “partition manager” programs, so have more things to wrong and be inconsistent with my “keep it simple”/”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” motto. I did briefly look at Macrium a few years ago and from memory it falls into this category of product.

      I always make a system image before every Windows monthly update (and I was doing this years before the recent deterioration in Windows update quality). If such an update causes a problem I prefer to copy back the saved image rather than uninstall the Windows update – I do not trust the Windows update uninstall to completely restore everything to the state before the update after getting into a tangle unsuccessfully trying to uninstall IE updates some time ago. Before making any major change to the PC e.g. installing a different anti-virus program I also make a system image. Again I do not trust program uninstallers (plus Revo) to completely remove everything.

      So far this approach has served me well.

      HTH. Garbo.

       

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      • #192400 Reply

        jelson
        AskWoody Lounger

        @Garbo

        I see that there is some enthusiasm for the built-in Windows backup mechanism in earlier comments, so here is my cautionary tale ….

        [horror story elided]

        So I now use a bootable “partition manager” program on a CD to start the PC completely separately from the system partition to be backed up. This program is used to “copy” the system partition ….

        [lots of details elided] .

        It is possible to create a bootable “partition manager” on a USB stick and boot from that?

        I think I understand your question. I’m amazed by all the loops you’ve had to jump through. (I never have used the imaging program built into Win 7 since started doing system imaging on XP.)

        You’re totally right, a “bare-metal restore” IS the most reliable way to restore a system image. Back in the XP days, imaging programs typically created a either Linux-based or BartPE recovery CD which allowed you to boot the machine and then restore the system back to the original boot drive or a new drive (if the original failed).

        This represents the truly difficult step for most users when it comes to system imaging. Most people can simply understand how to click on a short-cut to start an imaging program and saving a “system image” it to a different drive (burn-able DVDs, secondary internal drive, external USB drive, etc.)

        One of the main reasons I recommend Macrium Reflect to friends and family is that they make so EASY to create the Recovery Media (on CD/ DVD or USB flash drive) needed to 1st boot the machine and then run the system imaging program. Nowadays, the Recovery Media of most imaging programs are based on WinPE* (Windows Preinstallation Environment)

        *Due to changes in Microsoft licensing restrictions, developers can no longer provide pre-built, WinPE-based recovery media that end-users can download. They have to be built on client’s machines.

        With Macrium, it will go out and download from Microsoft the needed WinPE files for you — so you don’t have to download and install one of the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kits yourself — and then create the Recovery Media for you.

        So, yes Garbo, you can create a Macrium Reflect Recovery Media on a bootable USB stick (which does offer partition information). In the Recovery Media creation process (as shown in this article) you have choices of using “CD/DVD burner” or “USB Device” There’s also an option under “burner” to “Create ISO image file”:  a file that can be later burned to CD/DVD using ImgBurn or can be used to write a bootable USB stick using a program like Rufus.)

        Another reason I recommend Macrium Reflect is because it has an option to include extra drivers from your machine that might be welcome in the Recovery environment (For instance, WinPE 3 (Windows 7-based) doesn’t natively support USB 3 ports.

        As you can read and see in the article below, Macrium really does make it easy:

        How to Create a Full-Disk Backup of Your PC with Macrium Reflect

        An advanced technique* that you might interested in, is to use EasyBCD** to provide a Boot Manager choice between a).  a normal Win7 boot or; b). to boot a Macrium Reflect WinPE ISO image that loads in and runs from RAM.*** (It boots much, much faster than it does from USB or CD, plus I don’t have to go hunt for the stick or CD) Of course, this is only an option if your Windows 7 system is booting properly — otherwise,  then a bootable CD or USB Reflect Recovery Media will be required.

        Note Well:

        * Only recommended for end-users who are knowledgeable enough to comfortably do things like editing the registry and running scripts like the ones that abbodi86 sometimes offers.

        ** Free “Only for personal, non-commercial use”

        *** You need to set it to boot from RAM instead of disk (since during the restore you will be overwriting the location of the Reflect ISO on drive C:)

        Plus, a solid introduction to system images (written in 2014; doesn’t mention Macrium):

        What You Need to Know About Creating System Image Backups

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      • #192482 Reply

        anonymous

        @ielson

        Thanks for your interest. Prompted by your words and with a couple of hours to spare I haved tried out a few things:

        1) I have finally created a bootable version of AOMEI 5.6.3 on a USB stick. This does use WinPE, but the program creates the complete thing after a few button presses and there is no need to download WinPE files from MS separately which was the case with earlier versions of the program. After changing the boot order in the BIOS I was able to boot from this. As an exercise I copied the system partition to a spare HDD in an external USB enclosure and after swapping this HDD with the PC HDD I was able to successfully boot up and run the copy with no further intermediate steps. It is important to change the BIOS boot order back again afterwards because if a different USB stick not containing a bootable program is connected to the PC before switch on later, there will be a Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). Still even with this slight complication using a USB stick is as I had assumed a viable alternative to a bootable CD.

        BTW: The program estimated that it would take about 7 minutes to copy the ~13GB system partition (my data is in a different partition), but it actually took about 13 minutes via the slower USB communication. I’ve found that its estimates for copying elsewhere on the same internal HDD are fairly accurate, the estimates for copying elsewhere on the same internal SSD in my other PC are longer than reality and the estimates for copying to external drives using USB are usually too short (and it took about twice as long on this occaion).

        2) I was intrigued by your suggestion about including a WinPE based .iso version of the program in the PC’s boot options. (I’m currently dual-booting both W7 by default and W8.1 while considering it as a possible replacement for W7, so I’m familiar with EasyBCD.) I created the .iso (the AOMEI Partition Assistant “create bootable media” wizard includes all 3 options burn CD, copy to USB or create a .iso file). I created a small new partition in the slowest innermost parts of the HDD just large enough to hold the ~260MB .iso and used EasyBCD to set up a new boot menu option pointing at it.

        I was able to boot into this and again copy the system partition to the spare HDD and again when swapped into the PC this again ran 1st time.

        To reduce the probability of this new partition being interferred with I removed its drive letter and made it “hidden”. I was still able to boot into it. (This is similar to the hidden recovery partitions which PCs are delivered with.)

        Although this is in a separate partition to the system partition, consistant with my philosophy that the backup/restore software should be separate from the software being backed up/restored, the boot information for it added by EasyBCD uses the file C:\NST\AutoNeoGrub0.mbr in the system partition to access this separate partition, so this mechanism is not totally isolated from the system partition, so not quite as good as the bootable CD mechanism. Still this is a viable alternative if the DVD/CD drive fails in the future, so thanks for the suggestion.

        3) All of the above has been based on the paid for AOMEI Partition Assistant Pro Edition 5.6.3 from mid-2015 which I had picked up at that time from one of the giveaway sites. To see if any of this stuff is still applicable to the latest AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition 7.0 (standard is what AOMEI call their free offerring), on the spare HDD I replaced 5.6.3 pro with 7.0 standard and created the USB version on a different USB stick and was successfully able to boot up from this. I did a few simple operations and it did these successfully.

        The standard version does not include some of the more exotic operations available in the pro version, but does include the basics needed for simple backup of a partion e.g. delete partition (or change size of partition) to create some space for the copy, copy partition, change label (I include the date of the backup in the copied partition’s name), change drive letter (I set to none for a backup on the same drive) …

        In summary I now have 3 methods to use AOMEI partition assistant for partition backup (this applies to data partition as well as system partitions) and in order of preference I believe these are 1) bootable CD, 2) bootable .iso, 3) bootable USB (slightly messy because of the need to adjust the BIOS boot order before and after).

        Thanks for your suggestions.

        Garbo.

        PS: From memory the EaseUS partition master programs from a few years ago used Linux in the bootable CD versions. Again from memory only the paid for EaseUS program could create a bootable version of itself – I had picked up such a pro version from a giveaway site. Both free and paid for versions of AOMEI use WinPE and both can create bootable versions.

         

         

        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #192590 Reply

          jelson
          AskWoody Lounger

          @Garbo

          Thank you for sharing your experiences with AOMEI. I’ve read a lot of very good things about their Partition Manager and their imager, Backupper, especially in the last 2 yrs.

          BTW, I too used to only do “cold” system imaging (system-independent boot from live CD or USB.) Decisively more reliable. In last few years I’ve started doing “hot-imaging” (while in Windows itself) due to the extreme reliability (IMHO) of the two programs I routinely use now: Image For Windows and Drive Snapshot. But that’s a convenience_vs_risk choice every user has to make for themselves.

          PS: From memory the EaseUS partition master programs from a few years ago used Linux in the bootable CD versions.

          Indeed! That’s why I lack experience with Aomei. I’ve been using EaseUS PM (lifetime license) since back when they used Linux for bootable CDs. Later, they offered a WinPE version that you could download from them. Then Microsoft changed their licensing policies for WinPE. 🙁

      • #193034 Reply

        anonymous

        For the sake of completeness (and with yet another couple of hours to spare) I tried using Macrium Reflect free version in the bootable .iso way suggested by @ielson above.

        I installed it under Time Freeze (I did not want to keep it installed permanently). The installation is a little more long-winded than AOMEI because you need to download a small online installer, which in turn downloads the real installer and it then needs to get the WinPE software (the AOMEI installer is the actual installer and just installs directly).

        I ran the installed program and created both 32 bit and 64 bit bootable media (I have PCs of both types). The option to create the .iso was not obviously listed – it is necessary to select the burn to CD/DVD option in the left hand settings and then using the right hand drop-down menu select the (hidden, non-default) .iso option (the AOMEI create bootable media wizard lists all 3 options CD/DVD, USB or .iso equally prominantly at the same level of option). I added this Macrium .iso to the partition I’d created for the AOMEI .iso above and used EasyBCD to set up a boot option for this also.

        On rebooting the PC (Time Freeze deleted the installed Macrium Reflect and) I was able to boot into the Macrium .iso.

        The GUI looks quite different to the various partition manager programs (AOMEI, EaseUS, Minitool …) which all look very similar to each other, but I soon found my way around it. I thought it best to try to 1) “clone” the system partition i.e. make a direct copy similar to the partition tools, and 2) “image” the system partition i.e. create a compressed version of the partition similar to the Windows “create a system inage” mechanism:

        1) I “cloned” the W7 system partition to a spare disk in an external USB enclosure. I selected the “verify” option, but did not see any obvious indication that this had occurred (the GUI did give quite a lot of information about what was happening – more than the partition manager programs). After swapping the disk drives the “cloned” copy started the PC 1st time without any need for further processing (like AOMEI, but unlike old EaseUS as described in my 1st post above).

        This operation took about 23 minutes (compared with 13 minutes for AOMEI), not a problem for a small (program only) partition, but if scaled up for a much larger (programs plus data) partition this might be an issue for some. Overall I’m quite impressed by this.

        2) I booted into the Macrium Reflect .iso again and this time made an “image” of the system partition keeping the default “medium” compression and again asking it to “verify” and to save this in spare space in my data partition. The copying/compressing took about 12 minutes (comparable with the AOMEI copy) and the verify (visible this time) a further 3 minutes and the overall 15 minutes is comparable with AOMEI.

        I went back into the system partition itself and “damaged” it by uninstalling the AV (the deepest integrated 3rd party software), deleted some portable programs, some folders in the “C:\Program Data” folder, some “C:\Program Files” folders without uninstalling the programs, deleted some Windows folders (e.g. photo viewer) and changed the windows firewall settings. So it was pretty well “damaged”, just the sort of thing to “recover” from 🙂

        Re-booting back into the Macrium Reflect .iso I then did a “recover” using the compressed image I had saved earlier. This only took an impressive 9 minutes (significantly less than a straight copy  – which seems strange!). There is no means to “verify” this, but then there isn’t with the partition managers either. (I guess that Macrium would need to re-“image” again and compare the 1st “image” with the 2nd re-“image” to do this, which could get messy if there was insufficient space for the 2nd re-“image”.)

        I was able to successfully reboot into the system partition again and the “damage” caused earlier was no longer present (AV present, deleted folders were back, photo viewer worked and the firewall settings were back to their pre-damage values).

        So overall I’m quite impressed by Macrium, although the GUI is not as intuitive as the partition manager programs which are all similar in appearance (although maybe I’m confusing “intuitive” with “familiar to me” here?). I think that I will keep the bootable .iso and boot menu option in place and maybe use the “image” backup as a 2nd backup mechanism (I do not think that the Macrium “clone” option is better than AOMEI “copy”).

        As a further exercise I started to try the latest Paragon partition manager program, again under Time Freeze. This is a larger installer. As part of the installation it installed Visual C++ 2015 and performed an update for this in the background – it made an unrecognised outgoing firewall request which I temporily allowed. After what seemed a long time the installation completed and the program was a large 375MB (and the 64 bit version would be even larger). On running this 1st time it wanted me to “activate” it by creating an online Paragon account (name, e-mail …), but as I’m not by instinct a “joiner” (as my alias indicates) I abandoned Paragon and discarded the installation using Time Freeze.

        HTH. Garbo.

        PS: I found an EaseUS partition manager version 9.1.0 .iso dated September 2011 so I have been using this “partition manager” method for backups since before that time (I had used several earlier versions before 9.1.0). I’ve copied this EaseUS 9.1.0 and setup a boot option for it and run it. It does use Linux rather than BartPE/WinPE.

         

         

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        • #193173 Reply

          walker
          AskWoody Lounger

          @anonymous:  Thank you for the information relevant to Macrium, etc.   I’m sure it is far over my head (I’m the  epitome of “computer illiterate”), however I am keeping it to review, and perhaps “someday” I may have the confidence to attempt it.  Thank you for sharing this information with us all.   🙂

          • #193181 Reply

            JohnW
            AskWoody Lounger

            Please don’t let the detailed, geeky, descriptions of image making cause you to put off doing it.

            With Macrium it really is as simple as:

            1. Connect an external USB hard drive with enough free space to hold a complete image of your C: drive.

            2. Download and install Macrium Reflect Free. https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree

            3. Setup a backup definition (choose source partitions/drives and destination drive location).

            4. Run the backup!

            5. Create the bootable Macrium rescue media.  This option is in the menu, and will run a wizard which will download WinPE and any necessary drivers for your system, and setup a bootable DVD or USB stick for you to restore your image with if necessary.

            Also recommend that you schedule the backup to automatically run periodically, and this is easy to do in the Macrium GUI.

            Simples!  🙂

            4 users thanked author for this post.
            • #193196 Reply

              walker
              AskWoody Lounger

              @johnw:  Thank you very much for the detailed, and simple manner in which you have set forth using Macrium.   I am one of those “computer illiterates”, so when I see something that I think I can actually understand. that would be beneficial, it is very much appreciated.  Thank  you for sharing your expertise with using Macrium!!    🙂

              1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #193224 Reply

          anonymous

          Sorry if I have caused confusion. My comments here have gone further than I originally intended, but I have learnt a couple of things along the way, so I thought I would share what I have learnt. Clearly this is not of interest to everyone 🙂

          My original point: Based on my experience do not rely on the built-in Windows backup “create system image” mechanism. In my experience there is a 50-ish % chance of it not recovering. Use an alternative!

          Just one final point with respect to JohnW’s instruction “1. Connect an external USB hard drive with enough free space to hold a complete image of your C: drive”, I think that he and I might be trying to achieve slightly different things (which may be where some confusion is occurring 🙂 ). I want to create a complete, identical duplicate or “clone” of my PC’s internal disk drive (or at least the system partition on the internal drive) on another identical disk drive as a backup. Then if my internal disk drive fails (electrically/mechanically) I can just spend 5 minutes or so with a screwdriver replacing the failed drive with the exact copy backup and be able to start-up the PC again in the state it was in when I made the backup.

          So I buy an identical 2.5 inch disk drive to that in my laptop and fit it into an external USB enclosure or “caddy” (search online for “2.5 HDD SATA to USB External Enclosure Caddy” to see the type of thing I mean). I then “copy” the complete internal drive (or one or more individual partitions on the internal drive) to this external drive as a backup. The partition manager type tools are (in my opinion) simplest for this, but the (new to me) Macrium Reflect tool using its “clone” option can be used to achieve the same thing as I learnt during this exercise (in my paragraph 1) above). <span id=”productTitle” class=”a-size-large”></span>

          My guess from JohnW’s instruction 1 is that he may be referring to those sealed in plastic “expansion portable drive” type of products which people use to store their extra data (and if they had one already they would not need to spend money on a spare drive and caddy). In this case in order to recover your backup you need to follow JohnW’s point 5 “…setup a bootable DVD or USB stick for you to restore your image with if necessary” i.e. put it back onto your internal disk drive (instead of spending 5 minutes with a screwdriver swapping disks).

          Others with much more experience with Macrium Reflect such as JohnW are much better placed to advise about it than me 🙂

          HTH. Garbo.

           

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #193257 Reply

            JohnW
            AskWoody Lounger

            Just for clarity I will try to briefly explain the difference between cloning and imaging, as these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

            The process is nearly identical, but the end result and intended uses are very different.

            #1. Cloning a drive makes an identical image of the source drive on a replacement drive.  This is usually done to make a replacement drive that can be physically swapped into place of the original source drive.

            #2. Imaging a drive makes an identical image of the source drive into a portable image file container on a separate drive.  This image file can be stored on any storage medium that has space for one or more copies of the image file.  Then you can use the bootable rescue media to boot the system and restore an image onto the original drive (in the case of malware or data corruption) or a replacement drive (in the case of a hard drive failure).

            I used method #1 to replace my HDD with an SSD.  Works great by connecting the new drive to a spare port, creating the clone, and then by physically swapping in the new drive.

            I use method #2 to image my main system drive DAILY onto an external 1TB USB drive.  I keep an archive folder of multiple image files, so that I can revert my system back to a selected point in time if necessary.  If I used the cloning process for this purpose, I would need a new physical replacement drive for each daily image.  My conclusion has been that imaging onto a larger USB drive is far more practical for regular scheduled images.

            1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #193273 Reply

              anonymous

              True! We are now on the same page 🙂

              I “clone” using a partition manager/assistant tool at least every month before Windows updates or more frequently before making any big changes to the PC. My aim is keep the PC going for as long as possible, changing the disk drive quickly as necessary, to avoid buying a new PC with W10 pre-installed. (It is possible to use the “clone” option in Macrium Reflect as an alternative to a partition manager tool if I felt like changing.)

              My original point was to warn against using the built-in Windows backup “create a system image” mechanism to restore software to an internal (replacement) disk drive because I have found that this mechanism is unreliable.

              If I was using the PC to make important changes to a lot of data on a regular basis e.g. for business purposes like Noel (where this strand started) I would also “image” on a more regular basis, maybe even daily (and as a result of discovering it during this exercise, probably use Macrium Reflect for this). But I’m not using the PC for such a purpose, so I’m a bit more relaxed about things. Horses for courses.

              Garbo.

    • #192370 Reply

      wdburt1
      AskWoody Lounger

      WD also offers the MyBook Duo, which I have.  Two WD hard drives side by side in one “enclosure”–your choice as to how big.  Your choice, also, as to whether to set them up so that one backs up the other or they function as one big hard drive.  The drives are replaceable, so if like me you are set up in a RAID1 configuration where one backs up the other, you still have access while you replace a failed drive.  (If you do not take service interruptions well, buy an extra drive.)

      Online “experts” never fail to intone that RAID1 is not a backup.  Of course it is, although having both drives under the control of one controller is the vulnerability.  They are correct that it does not replace other backups, but if you really want to minimize the risk of service interruption, go for it.

       

    • #192393 Reply

      JohnW
      AskWoody Lounger

      Just a quick comment here about file/folder backups vs. system images:

      I currently rely on system images to handle both requirements.

      Simply put, I now use Macrium Reflect Free 7 to image my Win 7 and Win 10 computers daily.

      This covers both hard drive failures, and application or OS corruption due to updates gone wrong.  Or even a fat finger delete command.

      Coupled with an inexpensive 1+TB external USB3 drive, you cannot go wrong!   I save a weeks worth of daily images on my external drive. You can set an automatic schedule in the Macrium app for each image backup job.  No need to use Powershell or Windows utilities to do this for free!

      Macrium will also let you mount an image file as a virtual drive, so that you can copy any files/folders from a complete system image back to your C: drive as needed, which makes file backups rather obsolete. You can even use 3rd party apps for specific file backups.  I use Dropbox to back up project folders during the day for files that are modified between daily images.

      Or if your system drive fails, you can replace the drive with a new one, and restore your entire system using the latest image using the bootable Macrium rescue disk(DVD or USB stick).  Just connect the external image drive and boot from the rescue disk.  Then select the image you want to restore and the target drive.  Done!

      This method works best for me now, after having used various backup and imaging programs for several decades.

      3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192448 Reply

        wdburt1
        AskWoody Lounger

        After muddling through for decades I finally created a written backup plan a few years ago.  After using Acronis for a few months and experimenting with Aomei and a couple of other contenders, I settled on Macrium and have been very happy with that choice.  I use both the free and paid versions for disk imaging.

        I also run a daily files-and-folders backup on one computer using the software that Seagate bundles with their external and portable hard drives.  I read somewhere that it was developed for Seagate by Acronis.  It offers one convenience not offered by disk imaging: if you want to quickly find a previous version of a file, you can go into the Seagate backup folders and copy it without “mounting” a complete disk image or “detaching” it later on.  The Seagate software creates a full backup when you first create a backup plan, then makes incremental backups after that.  Only the files that have changed since the last backup day are backed up.

        Disk imaging can do incrementals as well, but the difference with the Seagate software is that you do not need to wait for the computer to create and “mount” the image.  You can flip through the daily backups as if they were file cards, looking for the file you need, then open and copy it.

        With other software, the ability to restore a disk image or backup as of a certain incremental date depends on the viability of the initial full backup or image and all of the incrementals between it and the selected incremental backup or image.  If anything in that chain is corrupted, it may be impossible to restore the selected incremental.  That is why the experts usually recommend limiting incrementals to a week or a month, then starting over with a full backup.

        With the Seagate software, each backed-up file is complete and stands on its own. It can still be accessed even if a previous backup is corrupted.  You can even delete the initial full backup and intervening incrementals.  However, the Seagate software lacks an automatic delete-the-oldest-backups feature, so every so often you need to manually do that.  (For me it’s about once a year.)

        3 users thanked author for this post.
    • #192478 Reply

      JohnW
      AskWoody Lounger

      I forgot to add that in addition to using Macrium Reflect for daily images, I still use the Microsoft “Create a system image” tool to take an extra image once a month.  That’s just in case of someday that I can’t open a Macrium image in their proprietary image container format.  Maybe due to a change in Windows, or Macrium no longer being supported.  Maybe unnecessary, but it makes me feel better!  🙂

      All 3rd party image applications use a proprietary image container file format, and you will need that 3rd party software to access your image archives.

      At least with the Microsoft image files, they can be directly attached using the “Attach VHD” command in Windows Disk Management.

      I like having 2 options.

      4 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192587 Reply

        jelson
        AskWoody Lounger

        @johnw

        Smart move. I also use 2 imaging programs — Image For Windows and Drive Snapshot* — just in case.

        * Note: Drive Snapshot isn’t well known — earned about it here on Wilders — but it’s super reliable, extremely fast and… wait for it…. it’s portable: just a single 400 KB file! A big plus is that any WinPE disc or stick will work as the Recovery environment… even a Windows Repair CD will do (just get to command line)

         

    • #192500 Reply

      anonymous

      And I was so eager to submit this comment before I forgot what I had done, that I forgot to re-adjust the BIOS boot list at the end of activity 3) as I described in activity 2) above, so when I next started the PC with a non-bootable USB connected the PC gave the error message “missing operating system” and would not boot! “Less haste, more speed” as my Gran used to say.

      So it appears that leaving the “boot from USB” device ahead of “boot from internal HDD/SSD” will either give a BSOD as described in 2) above or this “missing operating system” message.

      Garbo.

       

      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192501 Reply

        anonymous
      • #192554 Reply

        RetiredGeek
        AskWoody MVP

        Garbo,

        You should only get the No Operating System message if you still have a USB device connected that does NOT contain a bootable OS partition. If there are No USB devices attached the boot process will just proceed to the next item in the BIOS Boot List. At least, on every machine I’ve ever owned. ?

        HTH 😎

        May the Forces of good computing be with you!

        RG

        PowerShell & VBA Rule!
        Computer Specs

        • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  RetiredGeek.
        3 users thanked author for this post.
        • #193192 Reply

          Bill C.
          AskWoody Lounger

          I would also recommend to anonymous to re-check the boot settings for the UEFI/BIOS. My UEFI/BIOS’s have two sections under the boot settings. One sets the boot device order, the second sets the default actions if there is nothing bootable. I have it set in the following order: USB, CD/DVD, Boot HDD. In day to day use, it will go to the HDD. I have never received a BSOD or no OS warning if I have left non-bootable storage media (thumb drives or external HDD) in the USB ports. Both will flash and it will move down the boot list to the first bootable device.

          Another thing I have found, that is dependent on the age of the system and motherboard, is some older systems may not have native USB3.0 hardware support since the USB3.0 software drivers are not loaded until the OS loads. On my one box I can easily boot with the USB2.0 ports, but not the 3.0 ports.

          • #193242 Reply

            Ascaris
            AskWoody MVP

            On my one box I can easily boot with the USB2.0 ports, but not the 3.0 ports.

            You might find an option in the BIOS/UEFI setup to enable legacy support for USB.  If you do, that should enable USB3 during bootup.  It may be called something else on your system, but it should be something close to this!

            Edit: Here’s what it looks like on my Sandy Bridge desktop UEFI:

            legacyusb3

            Group L (Linux): KDE Neon User Edition 5.14.4 (based on Ubuntu 18.04) + Windows 7 in Virtualbox VM

            • This reply was modified 6 months, 4 weeks ago by  Ascaris.
            • This reply was modified 6 months, 4 weeks ago by  Ascaris.
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            2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #194088 Reply

            anonymous

            Thanks for the suggestions.

            My PC BIOS only has simple boot order setting, nothing more. It is an old mid-2000s, XP-era 32 bit laptop which only has USB 2 ports.

            I keep it going because it is rock-solid mechanically and I trust it. It runs W7 better than the pre-installed XP did, W8 as well as XP and even runs W10 should I ever decide to downgrade to it permanently, but much too slowly to be really tolerable (ignoring all of the more general W10 problems).

            My newer, faster 64 bit laptop is much more flimsy. It has lost a couple of keys, has some loose cable sockets, a temperamental DVD/CD drive etc. It was either a “Friday-afternoon” product or quality is not what its used to be 🙂

            Thanks. Garbo.

    • #193241 Reply

      JohnW
      AskWoody Lounger

      Another thing I have found, that is dependent on the age of the system and motherboard, is some older systems may not have native USB3.0 hardware support since the USB3.0 software drivers are not loaded until the OS loads. On my one box I can easily boot with the USB2.0 ports, but not the 3.0 ports.

      That is a good point, which I have also encountered on my system!

      My USB2.0 ports are completely integrated with my Intel based chipset, so never had an issue booting from them, however the USB3.0 controller is a 3rd party add-on by the motherboard manufacturer.

      So my BIOS will easily recognize a bootable device on a USB2.0 port, but not the 3.0 type.  Although it seems that USB3.0 is still usable for attaching drives as source or target for images, once the system has booted.  USB3.0 is much faster for large files and greatly speeds up image backup and restores.  🙂

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #193476 Reply

      anonymous

      Some important points to add here:

      I’ve found (and am welcome to additional input) that WD brand external drives have the USB interface as part of the hard drive controller board rather than having a SATA to USB converter inside (this is hard to know without tearing the drive apart). This means that if your (USB) drive goes bad and needs data recovery (and full professional clean room class data recovery isn’t in your budget) they your data recovery options are:

      Recovery data via USB: effectiveness poor
      Recovery data via SATA by soldering a SATA port to the correct pinouts: hope you are good at fine soldering and are correct about the pinouts and they aren’t disabled.
      Spend money: send the WD USB drive away for recovery before trying anything.

      A good (and surprising uncommon these days) drive allows easy access to the drive’s SATA port (which has to exist first) just in case something goes wrong. Anyone know any USB drives for sale that still allow SATA port access?

      I think this would be the right section of the forum to talk about troubleshooting defective hard drives (and more importantly discovering that the drive you are using now is defective and you didn’t even know it):
      https://www.askwoody.com/forums/forum/askwoody-support/pc-hardware/questions-how-to-troubleshoot-hardware-problems/

      GSmartControl is a great program for getting diagnostic details about hard drives (some times it needs some nudging to check a USB drive)
      https://gsmartcontrol.sourceforge.io/home/index.php/Downloads
      Best way to get a full log is to open the drive in question then click “view output”, then “save as”. Users may/should want to edit out their drive serial number before posting logs. It tends to save logs with unix line endings so a user might want to open the log with wordpad first and save once (wordpad opens files with unix line endings properly and saves with windows line ending).

      • #193494 Reply

        JohnW
        AskWoody Lounger

        That is an interesting observation about the current crop of external USB hard drives, and one that I recently discovered.

        I currently depend on WD hard drives, both as internal SATA and external USB3.0.

        I’m not sure why WD switched the controller interface on the small form factor external drives, but I’ve heard rumors that end users were buying them at sale prices, cracking them open, and using them as conventional internal SATA drives.  And if that isn’t the reason, it is possible that doing so lowers the unit cost to manufacture.

        So if you shop around, there are many external USB drive enclosures for all HDD form factors, so you can always DIY with an internal SATA drive if you feel the need.

        But I am fully satisfied with my latest WD external drives without the internal SATA connections.

        Why am I satisfied?  Because all drives will eventually fail, and the rule of 3 mitigates this problem.  Backup your data in 3 locations, and you will never feel the need to replace a drive controller, or visit a data recovery specialist.  It is all in your hands.  Yes the drive controller may fail, but just as likely the hard drive itself will fail, so in that case no SATA interface will make all that much difference vs. USB only.

        I rotate 3 drives for my backup images, so besides the data on my computer itself, I have 3 other copies.  Plus a few important documents tucked away on cloud servers.  🙂

        The peace of mind for having a backup solution is priceless.  And at the same time is actually very inexpensive these days.  Considering what folks may pay for their computer, and possibly a fancy monitor and a gaming GPU, spending $50-100 for backup drives is a no brainer.

        • #194173 Reply

          anonymous

          Backups are good, but people don’t bring me fully working drives with no problems to recover data from, they wait till it breaks and ask me to fix it.

          Also I wasn’t worried that the USB interface would fail (in the case where it is separate), I’ve found with software based data recovery over USB is vastly inferior for reading data from a SATA port.

          Try convincing someone who has trouble with the whole concept of “drag and drop” to copy files to an external drive to even buy a drive let alone buy one AND use it without reminding.

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

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