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Backup your DATA!

By StormBringer · 27 replies
Jul 1, 2004
  1. With the recent epidemic of failing hard disks, I thought it might be a good idea to make a thread with basics of backing up data. It seems that lately HDDs just don't last very long, many not making it more than a few months before dying and taking out all your data with it. While you can usually RMA the drive, or have it replaced undert a service contract if you have a prebuilt or a portable system, you can't get those precious files back that were on the drive, and data recovery is not an option for many users. Data recovery is very expensive and is not a guarantee that you'll get the files back you needed(if any)

    There are several methods of backing up your files and many utilities that can help you do this, as well as WinXP Pro having a backup wizard that can assist you, so I won't go into specific apps, rather I will concentrate more on what you need to include.
    The basics are pretty logical, personal files, your document files, music, videos, images, etc... but youy will also want to include your Bookmarks, your address book, contact lists, and any settings that can be exported to a file. It would also be a good idea to create a txt file with any special settings or workarounds you've had to make in order to compensate for conflicts.

    I mentioned earlier that there are many utilities designed to assist you with htis, but all you really need is a CD burner, burner software, blank CDs, and of course the files you want to make copies of.
    Personally, I keep a disc with all my settings and contacts on it, as well as lists of all tweaks and hacks I've used on the system. I keep other discs according to the types of files and/or the subject matter of the files.
    A backup utility will usually just make copies of the directories you specify, as well as the exported files such as bookmarks and contacts.

    If you choose to turn your nose up at the suggestion of backing up your files, just remember that you are the only one to blame for losing your data next time you have a drive die. I laugh at clients on a daily basis when they ask what I'm going to do about the data they lost, while explaining that DATA is not covered by a warranty, and I'll laugh at you as well.

    Any additional info or resources pertaining to backups is more than welcomed
  2. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +7

    The best thing I can suggest is for all of you to use the RAID controllers that are built onto those high end mobos you all keep buying.

    Make a RAID 1 mirror (I know it wastes disk space but is your data important or not?). Then you don't have to worry about anything.

    Don't install any OS or put any games on this RAID 1 mirror, just store important data that would make you cry if you lost it. Important documents, favourites, saved games, code, important downloads (pr0n), etc.... You know the drill.

    AFAIK, in 99% of cases, even if one of the HDDs and your RAID controller (or motherboard) somehow failed, you can still plug the surviving disk into another HDD controller (doesn't have to be RAID) and get your stuff back.

    If its REALLY important, back it up with a DVD burner. Man, they are cheap now. Come on there is no excuse.

    On my home network, I use this RAID 1 volume as the central repository for all important data that I have.

    For example, I also have a Linux box, and I schedule a cron job to run to backup certain, important data up to the RAID 1 machine (windows xp box) by connecting with samba and then running code something like this:


    if [ -w /mnt/xp_box_drive_d/linuxhome/ ];

    #---Log Begin Backup In Log File---#
    echo "" >> /var/log/homebackup.log
    echo "Backup Started" >> /var/log/homebackup.log
    date >> /var/log/homebackup.log

    rm -fr /mnt/xp_box_drive_d/linuxhome/*
    cd /home/

    for FILE in $(ls | grep -vi store | grep -vi lost+found)
    tar -zcvf /mnt/xp_box_drive_d/linuxhome/$FILE.tar.gz $FILE

    #---Log End Backup In Log File---#
    echo "Backup Completed" >> /var/log/homebackup.log
    date >> /var/log/homebackup.log

    #---Copy Log File to Windows Share In Correct Format---#
    cd /tmp
    unix2dos /var/log/homebackup.*
    cp /var/log/homebackup.* /mnt/xp_box_drive_d/linuxhome/
    dos2unix /var/log/homebackup.*


    #---Log Failure Of Backup In Log File---#
    echo "" >> /var/log/homebackup.log
    date >> /var/log/homebackup.log
    echo "Backup Did Not Run. Destination Directory Not Accessible." >> /var/log/homebackup.log


    save the above as /usr/local/bin/homebackup

    I then schedule a cron job that runs - I dunno, weekly? - that looks a bit like this:

    /usr/local/bin/homebackup > /var/log/homebackup.last

    Or something like that.

    Similarly, I schedule backups on the other XP machine - my multimedia server, to run to copy important files over the network to my XP machine with RAID 1 as well.

    Well, you DO have to worry about accidental deletion, but you can backup things to DVD-R once a month or something.
  3. MrGaribaldi

    MrGaribaldi TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,512

    I can't do anything but agree with this after spending 2 days recovering data from a dead computer (faulty OS and disk).

    It was the database for our netshop, and we didn't have any backup since the first version I put up.
    (And that was actually all I could recover, but I didn't find that out until later, and had to recreate all using what was on the net :( :mad: )

    After that I've started backing the data up to a separate drive, and will buy a cd-rw to take the backup either once a week, or when a large update has happened to the site.

    And now all I'd need is a DVD +-RW so I could backup my own files...
  4. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +7

    If you are doing this manually...
    I've tried that and its annoying. You will forget to manually make the copy and then have to restore and find your backup is annoyingly out of date.

    You need something that does this without you having to think about it.

    However, an approach like this would avoid the problem of accidental deletion that is inherent in raid 1 setups.
  5. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,350

    No problems with a hard drive here in 13 years, other than that time I accidently used a flashlight with a huge magnet while looking into my old 386SX :-D
  6. bakertime361

    bakertime361 TS Rookie Posts: 34

    haha, too bad cause most aren't effected by magnets...at least according to MSN's article about "Technological Myths"
  7. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    Talk about no excuses!

    I use Acronis True Image 7 to backup my drive while in Windows. I don't even have to click on it.. It does for me.. And only when I'm not using the computer! :)

    Worried about long backup times? Not a problem... Acronis supports incremental imaging, cutting my usual image time from 2 hours to a mere 15-20 minutes after the initial backup you create.

    How simple does it get?

    As far as erasing data with magnets, I have been yet to prove it. I've used some incredible neodymium 40 and 50 earth magnets without any luck (or misfortune) attempting to purposely erase drives of all shapes and sizes.

    Drives theirselves have extremely powerful magnets which drive the actuator, so I'm not sure I understand how that's OK, but an external magnet is not.
  8. Goalie

    Goalie TS Booster Posts: 616

    Rick.. thanks for your suggestion of Acronis.

    For those who haven't tried it, it's like a simplified and glorified Ghost. Easy to use, configure, and fairly reliable. Had a few issues in installing it, but uninstall/reinstall fixed that.

    Lets you create incremental images as he said, as well as lets you specify the image file size for spanning- IE you can burn them to CD as a backup, and then use their propietary boot media to recover from an image should **** hit the fan. Uses Linux for booting, and they even give credit to that on their website.

    Has a built in image explorer for retrieving a single file, and can do background scheduled incrementals.. very neat.

    It's a bit of a resource hog, not unexpected.. but overall I recommend it (so far).
  9. kahsaim

    kahsaim TS Rookie

    Problem with my CD-RW

    I am having problems when I tried to copy from HD (C:\) onto E:\. The error message is as follows "E:\ is not accessible. Incorrect Function". As a matter of fact, I used the E:\ drive to copy a folder to C:\ drive. Hence, I know it works; but I do not understand why I am getting this error message. Besides, I know that my disks are not damged. Can any one help or suggest for solving the problem.

    Tx a lot!
  10. HopiTac

    HopiTac TS Rookie

    I think it is the problem of file system,and you are adviced to format it again。
  11. HoopaJoop

    HoopaJoop TS Rookie Posts: 90

    About Acronis

    Is is incremental or differential backups that Acronis does?

    Incremental backups aren't as nice to restore as diffs, or fulls.

    PRELUDiCON TS Rookie

    I had a drive fail on me spontaneously. Funny thing is I was actually using it as a temporary backup of a drive I was formatting. After formatting that drive I find the backup drive is inaccessible and upon inspection has some weird partition/file system info which made no sense. The only 'lead' I had was that I used a MAGNET tipped screwdriver to bolt it into the case :confused: ...

    Fortunately, after some determination, I came across the GET DATA BACK software and used it via BART's PE BUILDER [stand-alone XP environment on a boot CD]...both are great tools, and worked wonders, was able to read the drive and effortlessly recover ALL the files which I needed without any errors.

    Bottom line, backups are extremely important, however, I found that 'simple' data recovery is quite inexpensive if you do your research, meaning there is alot of things you can try to get your data from a drive before you submit to a 'professional'.

  13. HoopaJoop

    HoopaJoop TS Rookie Posts: 90

    A magnet tipped screwdriver isn't strong enough to do any damage to a harddrive....unless you beat it savagely with it.. :knock:
  14. cdeep1

    cdeep1 TS Rookie

    Thanks for the lecture on Hardrive Maintenance. I have never had a HD fail but the OS I use is a pain in my but. Good thing its a common OS that everyone uses. I should have no problems finding a solution!

    Any help on my post from this morning!! :wave:
  15. diptendub

    diptendub TS Rookie

    I have an HP DAT Drive installed on an SCSI card in a Windows XP Pro PC, which is part of a serverless LAN (a workgroup). The DAT drive is working, it shows up as a tape drive in the device manager, and I can back up local PC data using the bundled 'Tapeware v7.0 backup software by Yosemite Technologies. But I did not find this software very user-friendly, and certainly not for layman users.
    But I want to share the tape drive over the network, so that other PCs on the LAN can map it, and then use the simple windows backup utility to backup their important data.
    But I am not able to put the tape drive up on share, since it does not show up in 'my computer' as a drive (like A, C or E).
    Can anyone please help me?
  16. flamer2204

    flamer2204 TS Rookie Posts: 28

    what program could i use to back up my music collection but be able to synchronise the files so i dont have to keep track of all new songs in my library or burning the whole lot again? could anyone help me?
  17. DriverJosh

    DriverJosh TS Rookie

    yea I use a few differnt backup programs just in case, now here is the scary part I've lost disks for some of my stuff thats where you have the problems.
    I had an entire CD Case disappear. odds are that my room mate former room mate decided it was hers.
    oh well I'll find it or get it back.

    but my main program is norton ghost
    I'm out
  18. Phoenix56

    Phoenix56 TS Rookie

    I'd like to **** in here for a moment guys.

    Can someone or anyone clairify for me and others about this.

    The Nivida Nforce4 has options regarding RAIDS, ok,,

    Now, Can a user install his OS on a non-raid and still have a RAID in his system ?

    I have the HD's for this, so maybe am just not thinking here.

    C: Drive= Seagate 80gig SATA
    D: & E: Drive in a RAID configuration, both 160 gig Seagates SATA or PATA
    H: External Backup Drive with a Maxtor 160gig useing Firewire

    I have my system configured except for the D & E Drives which am just useing them as reg drives now. I have 4 Seagates 160 gig, 2 in SATA and 2 in PATA.
    I hope I explained myself here or better yet, can someone tell if am off the deep end now ! :grinthumb
  19. MrGaribaldi

    MrGaribaldi TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,512

    <removed due to P66's post>
  20. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +7

    Of course. Its just like having an extra hard drive, only its a group of hard drives acting as one unified storage device.
  21. Phoenix56

    Phoenix56 TS Rookie

    If thats correct, The I am basing this on experienance alone here.
    1. install the os first with that drive being connected
    2. install the 2 drives that are going to be RAIDED and then setup the config

    I hope I got that right.

    1 last question, and this is why I havent done it yet. Can someone really FUBAR there drives id they make a mistake ?

    I know this question doesnt belong here but this POST was and still is about backups and it entered into RAID.

    Am learning just as much from this as the next guy, I hope :slurp:
  22. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 2,244

    Personally, I regard any and all partitioning, RAID, or other HDD strategies as being only first line backup. Since I already separate most of my personal data files from my OS by using multiple partitions and drives, I use CDs and DVDs to make "permanent" backups of my important files. I use RWs for files that are subject to being updated or otherwise changed, and with the low cost of writeables these days, I make two copies of all my other files in case one gets misplaced or damaged. This might seem a bit anal or redundant to most, but I've had to attempt to retreive data from client's machines before when they had lost both HDDs, the main, and their backup drive.
    The odds that you'd lose both drives in one shot are pretty slim but the possibility is real enough that if your data could cost you money, you should rely on something more than the same type of device you are subject to losing to electronic or mechanical failure.
  23. giyad

    giyad TS Enthusiast Posts: 59


    I totally agree, you need some sort of backup! Its probably been redundant if you even get to my post, but you need to keep hearing this. I lost my data, all 120GB of music, 70GB of Movies, 8GB of pictures. This was due to a hard drive failure, my external hard drive. I got one thinking not only do I need to expand my capacity, but its also a backup, some backup that was!!

    All I am trying to say is, even though its inconvenient to get a DVD-R and backup all the time, its the only thing you can do to save your data, or else you end up spending 4 days straight trying to recover your data. In my case I got very lucky and downloaded Easy Recovery Professional, which is an awesome tool! I got all my data back, but I learned my lesson!

    Get an external hard drive with a good cooling system, either back that up with DVD's or back it up with another external hard drive. BUT BACK UP YOUR DATA!!!
  24. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

    registry backup issue

    Data backups come in many flavors from simple drag-n-drop replication to neat
    software that implements, Full, Incremental, and Differential copies.
    Programs are data too; they're just executable as well. So of course these
    can be captured by your favorite backup technique. There are issues
    that need to be considered however.

    For example, some systems will not allow a file that is being used to be opened
    a second time. You can see this for yourself by attempting to copy a running
    program to another location and the file size will be ZERO.

    A Windows program is almost useless without the corresponding registry entries
    created at install time. Some backup programs will 'do the right thing' and others
    may not. If your backup technique is via data replication, then you're going to need
    a manual backup of the registry. Here's how You're going to need one each
    time you make a replication, so a naming convention will help you coordinate
    the registry to the data.
  25. gooderguy

    gooderguy TS Enthusiast Posts: 68

    What to backup and how?

    The following is part of an earlier post of mine in the https://www.techspot.com/vb/topic8356.html "How to: Repair Windows XP/2000 if you are unable to boot into Windows" thread.

    CDRs and DVDRs are great to backup stuff if you don't have too much data. But when it come to larger amounts of data you might consider other solutions for backups.


    If you want to backup your files:

    Here is a simple and cheap suggestion. Buy an external USB hard drive enclosure, they can be found for around $29. This way, you can temporarily remove your hard drive from your computer, install it in the USB enclosure and connected via USB to any other system and copy over your data. Note if your file system is NTFS, as is the case most of the time with Windows XP and 2000, you won't be able to access the files if you plug it onto a Windows 9x/ME system.

    The files you want to backup will likely be within your user(s) profile. After connecting the USB enclosure with your hard drive in it to another system preferably running Windows XP or 2000, it will assign a drive letter for it. You can then access that drive through “My Computer” or Windows Explorer. You might want to scan that drive for viruses before going any further. Once you open your drive, go to “Documents and Settings” folder then find your username folder, it may have your name or be called “Owner” or “User”. If you have more than one user you obviously will have more than one username folder. Don't worry about the following four folders if they appear: All Users, Default User, LocalService and NetworkService. Once in a “username” folder, you probably want to copy the Desktop (may contain only shortcuts but some people save files there), Favorites and My Documents (may be called Username's Documents) folders. Save those onto the hard drive your USB enclosure is connected to. Do this for any other user you may have.

    Also if you use Outlook Express for email and want to save your email and address book you can. These are located in hidden folders, to be able to see hidden folders, click on “Tools” in the top menu of Windows Explorer, then click “Folder Options”, click the “View” tab, go down and click to select “Show hidden files and folders” and click “Ok”.

    To save your address book, still within the “Local Settings\username folder, go to “Application Data”, then “Microsoft” and then copy the “Address Book” folder.

    To save your email, again within the “Local Settings\username" folder, go to “Local Settings”, “Application Data”, "Identities”, next folder is a big long number like “{0C99E7CD-2119-4A33-8C58-FF498AAA4A0B}”, “Microsoft” and copy the “Outlook Express” folder.

    If you use Mozilla Firefox like I do and want to save your bookmarks, they are within a folder similar to mine which is c:\Documents and Settings\Pete\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\yoh9r35k.default\bookmarkbackups


    Also for more advanced users with more than one computer on a network you might consider a Bytecc Landisk. This is basically the same as an external enclosure except it connects directly to your network instead of USB. Very easy to setup, similar to a router. I have sold these to some of our small business customers as an alternative to a file server. My cost from wholesaler in Canada is $73CAD which would probably be about the same retail in USD. Much cheaper than a whole new system with keyboard, mouse, monitor and OS.

    I have pretty much always backed up my files manually and regularly but there are many ways to do automatic backups with third party software or using the Windows backup utility located in Start\Programs\Accessories\System Tools\Backup.

    I have seen some people literally cry over lost data such as personal pictures, accounting and other important files. There is a little secret that gives you a small chance of getting data back from a crashed hard drive. Sometimes, and I stress that word sometime, if you physically freeze the hard drive in the freezer for a couple of hours, you may have a couple of minutes of precious access time to backup your data. This has worked for me on several customer's hard drives even when the drive would constantly make the deadly clicking noise. What I use on my tech bench is an external USB bay but I ripped the enclosure off and spliced longer power connectors and a 18” IDE cable and just plug in a frozen hard drive, then turn on the USB device and then, if accessible, copy documents as fast as I can from the failing hard drive.
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