What software should I use to implement a complete Backup & Restore procedure?

Discussion in 'Windows 7 Software' started by KCav, Feb 24, 2012.

  1. KCav

    KCav Senior Member

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    I have partitioned my hard disk into two logicals. I use one for executables and the other for data. Backing up Data (D) to an external USB hard drive is a non issue, but backing-up the system partition is not so simple.

    I thought I would automatically make an image file of the Sys (C) partition every night and store it on a removable 32GB SMI ATA drive; over write the previous days backup, and once a week copy it to my external hard drive. The estimated size of the image file was about 15GB.

    The first step was to run a cleaner to remove temporary files, followed a protection program, followed by an optimizer to compact the registry and defragment the drive, and then I would backup, validate and shut-off the computer. This procedure is still has not been implemented to the point where it runs dependably without consuming alot of operator time and attention.

    The first problem encountered was the cleaner hung-up. It said files were running in the back ground. I wondered what files were running; never recieved an intelligent answer; finally I decided to change cleaners. I now run cCleaner and I like it.

    The next problem was the anti-virus software failed to detect malware and AI had a problem. I changed software three times, now run MSE, not sure how good it is, there are issues with it hogging CPU cycles. It does start on schedule, run and shut-off.

    I now use PCTools, Optimization Toolkit, and I like it. It has many features for example it lets me shut-off background processes set to start at startup. It start's automatically on schedule, but when the routine completes instead of shutting off it say, "Press Continue."

    I use Acronis, True Image Home 2011 backup software. The UI is not friendly, but it does everything. I would like to make a side-by-side with other backup programs.

    In addition to automatically making an image file of the system partition I want to make zip files of certain Applicsation Data files and installation configurations.

    I would love to have some helpful advise on these matters.
     
  2. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    You can use Acronis to do this, and since you already have it, you are in the clear. Windows Backup can do it as well, but look at just creating image backups of particular folders. They do not have to be zip files per se. The Acronis backup file can be placed in a separate directory for these kinds of files, and you can use a different level of file compression in the backup settings. This will make the backup take a longer amount of time.

    As far as backing up actual application data and installation configurations, this is not an easy task, as if you cannot restore a system image after a failure, what is going to happen here is you may want to think "Well, I still have the installation configuration and App Data. I should be fine." This is not always the case: As you may know, the registry is going to be completely different with a clean install if your image restore fails.

    If you want to backup certain files that don't take up much space, look at the 2GB of free space that comes with Dropbox and even more space with Windows Live Skydrive. These are cloud-based file backup solutions.

    Ultimately, though, why not just make a scheduled task in Acronis to backup individual files and folders using maximum compression (least amount of space but longest backup time)? This will spare you from using multiple programs to accomplish the same task.

    All of the extra processes you are using to clean up your PC will compound your problem by adding too many variables. If you want everything to run on auto-pilot, you should consider just creating full image backups of your system in Acronis. I don't bother with incremental or differential backups with the software, because the chance for error in restoring the backup becomes exponentially greater each time an incremental or differential backup is made. The best bet, if you have enough space, is to keep doing full backups. Just say you do a full backup of everything, correct? You have an image of the System Reserve, the C drive, and any additional drives on the computer. Well, you can still use Acronis to go back into the image file and only restore certain files you want.

    Having any full image backup is better than none at all - preserving these extra application data files and so forth would just be redundant form of backup - if stored on the same source it is almost entirely pointless. If the backup drive fails, you lose the images and the double backup of application data you made.

    Try to simplify the process and accept that if the system goes down, you have full recourse to go back in time.

    You are dealing with multiple issues. With malware and anti-virus, what were you using before? Check out my AV Comparatives post in this debate: http://windows7forums.com/security-zone/76653-whitch-best-antivirus-program-windows-7-whitch-dont-cause-bsod-3.html#post253287
     
  3. KCav

    KCav Senior Member

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    I would like to make a side-by-side comparison between using Acronis and Windows 7 for making an image file of my Sys (C) partition. I want to store the file on an external hard drive connected to the notebook with a USB cable. The purpose of the file is to be able to restore the system should the internal drive become corrupted orshould the notebook be lost.
    Acronis allows you to create a Custom backup procedure. I plan to use the Full backup option in myCustom backup procedure. This allows only partitions that have data in them tobe included in the image file. Thosethat are empty are not included and you can also exclude files by name and filetype. In my Custom procedure I plan toexclude tib files and some others. Beforerunning the procedure I plan to delete temporary files with cCleaner.
    I have found that animage file in .tib format requires about 50% of the space being utilized on thedrive partition. The file size can bereduced by 5-10 % by using high compression but this increases processing timefrom 20 minutes to more than 2 hours. Inmy judgment the space savings does not justify the much more lengthy processingtime.
    I want to schedule the backup to start automatically, validatethat the new file is not corrupt, and when the program is completed it shouldshut-off. I plan to include each ofthese requirements in my Custom backup procedure.

    Can these tasks beperformed with Windows backup?
     
    #3 KCav, Feb 24, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  4. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    You can use Windows Backup to create a system image and a system repair disc, but the options are extremely limited. Commercial backup products are sought after and purchased by consumers because they generally have more options than the built-in backup procedure within Windows. While products like Acronis and Paragon will use the Windows Volume Shadow Copy service to perform some tasks, and certainly, nearly all commercial backup products will, I believe you will find the reliability and flexibility of Windows Backup to be quite limited. It is good for a basic system, but not something that I would truly depend on in a production environment. This is unfortunate, but it is the case, for so much as I know, believe, and have experienced. I have had situations whereas for whatever reason I could not restore the Windows Backup image file or it was never created correctly. Rarely, if ever, will you have a IT support outfit recommend to a client that they solely use Windows Backup. On Windows Server, yes, maybe, because the amount of non-Microsoft software that is installed on the device, especially if is a domain controller, is usually severely limited. There is a certain precision required by Windows Backup that may be its greatest failing.

    I am surprised you are saving the .TIB files on the same drive and that is why you are excluding them. You may have difficulties if you decide you will not backup empty partitions. In fact, you want to maintain the structure of the partitions on the drive for restoration purposes down the road. The main area of trouble I have encountered in Acronis has been restoring to a drive of a different size. Whereas Paragon could handle resizing the partitions to fit the replacement drive most of the time, for whatever reason, Acronis could not handle this task.

    You will find that this is not even a consideration in Windows Backup. It is the most basic type of backup operation that you can produce from the operating system, and I would not waste time using it to depend on backing up sensitive data. For a true, safe backup operation, look at running Acronis off-line and unscheduled using the boot CD. This will ensure that your initial full backup is in good operating order: use the defaults that the application recommends and send it off to the remote storage media.

    For optimum backup performance look into external serial ATA (eSATA) for doing these types of backups. I do my main backup on a 2.5" laptop hard drive in an eSATA enclosure. It is powered by USB and connected via eSATA for similar read/write I/O as if it were installed inside the system. This is the best advice I can give. No, I would not recommend relying on Windows Backup for critical data retention at this time, unfortunately.
     
  5. KCav

    KCav Senior Member

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    Mike said, "I am surprised you are saving the .tib files on the same drive."

    When my USB hard drive is not handy, I temporarily save a tib of my netbook on my notebook; probably I should use the Cloud.


    Mike said, "The main problem I have had with Acronis is restoring to a different size drive."

    I have a Seagate ST9160821AS installed and a Seagate ST980813ASG on hand for testing restorability to a different size drive.


    Mike said, "For true, safe backup operation, look at running Acronis off-line and using the boot CD."

    I have made rescue CD and Rescue Flash drive, and I have the original Windows Installation disk.


    Mike said, "use the defaults the application recommends and send it off to a remote storage device.
    · I plan to attach my Seagate, FreeAgent 500GB hard drive with a USB cable.
    · My backup procedure is close to Acronis defaults; only I use the Validate option.
    · I have decided on file naming conventions, so I can easily find a backup files.

    The reason I have so many files is I have two house and a desktop computer at each house, and I use a netbook and notebook. My girl friend has a notebook, and between us we have 8 children, and they all have computers.
    I have the only server.








     
  6. whs

    whs Extraordinary Member

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    Acronis is a good program and probably serves you well. But if you want an easier and faster imaging program, you might want to look at free Macrium. Here is a little tutorial I made to give you an idea. And if you burn the WinPE CD, you need not even install it and can run imaging and recovery from the CD. The first burn is only a bit long because it downloads the WAIK (windows application installation kit) in the process - a 1.7GB file. But subsequent burns take only a couple of minutes. I just made 15 copies (for a class) in half an hour.
     
  7. KCav

    KCav Senior Member

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    I wonder, since Acronis frequently upgrades their software, will I be able to restore an image file made using an old version? I think in addition to backing-up off machine using Acronis I will do the same using Windows backup, and try using Macrium as well.
     
    #7 KCav, Feb 26, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  8. KCav

    KCav Senior Member

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    When you backup with Acronis using the write over feature it stores a new backup before it deletes an older one. Therefore the minimal space needed to perform a Full backup is the space needed for two Full backups. OK – no complaint, but instead of using the 32GB removable SMI drive installed in my notebook for Full backups I’ll use an external Esata drive.

    I have scheduled Acronis to create a Full image file of my system partition tonight at 2AM. I expect the file to be about 15GB and take about 20 minutes. I think that’s good, however the test is how easy it is to restore. Therefore tomorrow I plan to install a different size hard disk in my notebook and try to restore the backup from my Esata drive. If that works, I will reinstall my hard drive, wipe it clean, and restore the system from my Esata backup. I intend to use this BU and Restore experience as a baseline for evaluating other ways for making a Full image backup of my system partition.
     

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