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Need advice for backing up my system

By JLVB ยท 11 replies
Apr 26, 2009
  1. Recently, I had some sort of catastropic failure. I'd been having lots of little problems for months and this pushed me over the edge, so I ended up ordering a new tower. I am going all out this time; battery backup with AVR, extra cooling, etc. I even bought an external drive so I can back up my important files. I am an aspiring author and lost over 400 pages of type for a few novels I am working on because I kept procrastinating when it came to backing up my system. I'm not making the same mistake again. Here's my question:

    I purchased and formatted a portable 40gb drive. What is the BEST method of backup that ensures the quickest and most thorough recovery in the event I need to start from scratch and how do I do it?

    Thanks so much!
  2. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    :'( My condolences.

    If you are simply looking to back up your text files, you can just copy and paste them into your new hdd. You could even email them to yourself for safe measure if they are small enough. This will not preserve any programs or anything else aside from what is on you Windows install CD.

    Now if you want to back up your ENTIRE operating system along with files, you could use a hard drive imaging software. If you are not worried about reinstalling the OS as long as you still have your files, I the easiest way is to just copy those on the external hdd, save it in email, or burn them on disk, possibly all three.
  3. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    My personal advice: The ounce of prevention (and a few extra $$) is worth the pound and pain of cure when disaster strikes. Absolutely, invest in disk "ghost" image backup software vs. traditional file/folder backup software.

    Ghost backups will:
    => Create a ful snapshot of your disk image allowing you the option to simply restore the full disk image as-it-was at the time of the backup. Thus if need be you could simply restore the disk image
    => It also provides the option to do the traditional file / folder backup / retores as well so you get the best of both worlds
    => Aside from the software be sure you also buy a dependable storage media (e.g. external hard drive) AND IMHO only buy an external drives that come with its own AC adapter (NOT one that must rely on the USB port for its power)
    => Absolutely do NOT rely on a flash disk / memory stick for your backups!

    Two popular ghost software products:
    => Norton Ghost
    => Acronis True Image 2009 (my personal choice)

    IF you buy the online version (then you can just download it) BE SURE YOU IMMEDIATELY create a rescue CD. This allows you to boot from the rescue CD and use the product if your machine suddenty becomes un-bootable
  4. JLVB

    JLVB TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the advice. I was going back and forth between saving the whole OS and just saving the files, but I was smart enough to put the discs that came with my new tower in a SAFE place this time in case I need to start over. Can I save programs without saving an OS on the portable drive? I'd like to save the work I've transcribed from hard copies and the program I use, which is just Microsoft Works but at least if I need it I would have the program again. I'm not real good with software stuff, so I want to make sure I do it right.
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

    imo; ghosting an image of the whole drive is wasteful;

    you want (imo) frequent backups of YOUR data, not the OS itself.

    On XP, your login %profile% is at \Documents and Settings\yourLoginId
    and on Vista it's \Users\yourLoginId

    Backup that area (even with the default windows backup) and you will have versioned,

    Another technique is simple Replication (ie simple drag-n-drop copy) of a folder.
    If you create the destination folder name with a date in it -- you get versioned copies.

    An automated copy-what-has-chaged is my favorite using
    Allway Sync
  6. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    As far as I know, It is fairly complicated to save just a program and some files, probably best to go with either a full image, or just save the files.

    The reason I think simply saving the files is better is that text files are relatively small and it won't take long to save or copy back the files. Imaging on the other had can be a little more complicated and take a while longer.

    Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image are not freeware programs, although there are plenty of reliable free programs you can use too.

    Beat me too it by a few seconds :).
  7. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Ghosting allows you not only full backups but incremental and/or differential as well. Also consider the case where you have a disk that's failing and you're not certain of the state of the filesystem. Only ghosting the disk image guarantees your best shot at recovering EVERYTING (including unallocated sectors which may well include the data you need to recover before it's lost!)

    Belive me!@ I've been there!

    /* EDIT */
    And consider that ghosting may not be free but the $50 USD cost is a small , small investment when the alternative is losing software installations PLUS data on corrupt disk drives

    /* EDIT2 */
    Please also understand i'm not suggesting you necessarily even have to ghost the ENTIRE drive each time. Ghost software still gives the option to only back up personal files as well. But you need ghosting s/w to have the ghosting option to run it periodically or as needed. All available in one single integrated software backup/recovery app!
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

    Imaging once makes sense to avoid large delays in getting the system running again.

    In a total replacement of the hardware it will be useless.

    (1) You should have the Windows Install disk and it can be used to create a runnable system; ergo backup of \Windows over and over and over is a waste of time and media space

    (2) You should have the install CD for all purchased software or at least a copy
    of any downloaded software: ergo backups of \Program Files over and over and over is ....

    (3) your data is irreplaceable and needs frequent backups to protect your time and effort at authoring material.

    those are my thoughts and practice for protected my systems since our first PC in 1989.

    I'm done on this thread and unsubscribed to any further debates

    Best wishes and every success to the O.P. :)
  9. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    Allway Sync License Agreement (snippet): https://allwaysync.com/license.html

    Allway Sync Free
    Actually the program does look good and syncs to a USB drive as well
    Not sure what happened to just creating data backups on CDs DVDs and external drives normally, as in Nero and other burning softwares (including built in Windows backup and burning abilities) But oh well, everyone wants more :)
  10. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Having the OPTION to ghost your entire disk at a moments notice and as needed IMHO is invaluable. Not to mention preserving a filesystem when the fact is you don't know if it's corrupted or not (so simple file/folder recovery can leave your backup incomplete as it never backups unallocated sectors). And when you ghost (at least with Acronis) you have the choice of
    => Only ghosting allocated sectors (other then pagefile, etc. i.e. a SMART ghost!)
    => Telling it to do a sector-by-sectory copy (with compression of course) when you don't know what the heck the problem is but you sure as heck know you want to preserve an image of your disk before it crashes or who-knows-what

    I find what someone should have and what someone does have are two different things. Especially if talking about a system that's been up and running and collecting software installs for several years.

    Another important consideration in all this is cost. Assess $$ vs. grief/aggravation/uncertainty/potential task of reinstall all software, applications, file settings, drivers, etc. etc. etc.
    To have the covenience and option of ghosting when / as needed is priceless. Added to the fact you also get a RESCUE CD to use for backup/recovery when your computer won't boot and you still get the disk imagef/files/folders backup and recovery options all for a price that translates into a real world cost of $50USD.. Has save my hide and MUCH time (and helped others i know) do be well worth the $$. But whatever works best for someone. is always a personal choice.

    /* EDIT */
    P.S. I'm talking full disk recovery with a couple mouse clicks, walk away for an hour, and come back to a perfectly restored disk vs. MANY hours and days HOURs reinstall and update and do everything by hand


    One final note.. For a different way to look at this issue

    How many times in these forums have people have corrupted/BSODing/non-booting/crashed Windows systems when the answer is "Reformat your hard drive, reinstall Windows and start over from scratch"

    How nice if the answer could always just be: "Do a few mouse clicks and restore your disk image to your last ghost backup. You only need reinstall your machine from your last snapshot. Then you're done!"
  11. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    I generally "Ghost" image every computer I load Windows and install all MS updates; Office; Adobe; ... really there is a reasonable list of applications, followed by all the optimizations to Windows including removing many temp files before creating the image.

    I've found the entire (image Boot DVD) process sits close to 4hrs work, from inserting the Windows Setup disc for the first time (although it does vary on systems) all the way until the end (cleanup) then image.
    Restoring the image is such a breeze. Boot from the Restore DVD, and then around 30 to 40mins later (this varies too) without any user intervention, is a godsend ! putting it mildly.

    Therefore to all those new fresh installs out there, I'd recommend the same. Install all updates and apps and then cleanup and optimize, and then image. It will save you many hours of, "Where's the CD?" and "What do I do about this virus?"

    I also recommend that data (being all user docs pics etc) be on a separate backup media (ie I've used my flash drive, but when returning a computer to someone, I usually provide a data DVD, with all their info on (and a little note to what's happened ;))

    Image and data backups are two different things, in my view. Both are imperative. :)
  12. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    Meh, only for power users, the average person would be more inclined to freshly install, or load up the manufactures restoration CD. Maybe an hour later, computer comes up just as good as it ever was, and ever will be in their hands.
    I would image, and I have imaged (once, very long time ago, probably an obsolete image), but only if I did some excessive tweaking with my OS and such...however, this computer is not important enough for any real backing up.

    It depends on the thread starters opinion. All options mentioned here are viable options for backing up your documents. If I were you (and I am not), I would store all my text files in dated folders, then just copy those over to the external hdd, then save an email with those same files attached, maybe in a ziped archive.
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