In Search of the Ultimate Back Up

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psieber

ASCOMP BackupMaker! Works fine for me and its freeeee!

www.backupmaker.com

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keyzs

hmmm... looks like I’m almost a year away from the last post... was actually searching for some info on offline-back-up systems.... an experience I had was uploading about 60GB of files to an FTP server which took almost a month to complete...

IMHO, the solution which works for me is a combination of cloning the system partition with all programmes installed and having a scheduled daily back up of the all data or work partitions to a separate HDD or NAS.

As the system partition is cloned immediately after install, we can rest assure that in case of the workstation's failure, the clone will put everything back without the need for total OS and programme(s) installation.... not to mention settings and customisations...

Data being backed up on a daily basis will provide a 24hr data loss buffer. In the end it’s just re-doing yesterday's work if something tragic should happen.

I am happy to share that using this method has saved my hide on many occasions over the years. To be able to get a fresh install of the OS, all individual programmes including customisations, up and running within half an hour is a real total life saver.

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Bob Campbell

I like my old copy of Ghost 2003. With the help of Nightowl Roost I have made a dvd boot disk to load Ghost. New pc do not have 3.5 folppys. So far all is good.

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Angstromm

 

It used to be that one could easily clone (create an “image”) a boot drive, even if configured as a RAID array (stripped or otherwise), to pretty much any media. Now, for some strange reason beyond my kin, this has all changed. Cloning a RAID boot array has become all but impossible (I’ve tried nearly all commercial, open source, etc., programs out there). And cloning even a regular, single disk boot drive to optical disks (spanning) also seems hard to come by. I own the latest ver. of Acronis True Image and guess what, no DVD cloning. This is tiresome. Why has it become so hard to do the most simple and essential of backup tasks? Doing normal data backups has always been easy and there are tons of viable solutions out there for free. But the one task that is, by my way of thinking, critical, cloning, has become a real challenge. When I spend days upon days customizing a fresh OS install, loading and configuring all my apps, getting it just right with all the latest drives, etc., I want to create a clone that I can store then use should things go awry. I’ve always found optical disks the best way to go. Maybe I just need to suck it up and go w/ an external drive. The thing is, they can fail. I’ve never had an optical disk cloning fail on me once it was properly done. So what’s the solution?

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mc_rog46_sd1

Yes, they definately overlooked the fact that almost all imaging software does not work with RAID when doing a restore on startup. They will do imaging backups from within Windows, however when doing a backup or restore from startup the RAID drives can't be seen.

I did a lot of research and finally found Farset's Drive Clone 7.0 which, if you have the RAID drivers on a flash drive or disk, will allow you to upload RAID drivers so it can see ALL your drives. However, even Drive Clone has limitations in this respect, it works with my Adaptec 5405 Raid drivers, but does not work with my Rocket RAID drivers for my external RAID.

Anyway, it is a good idea to always go through a test run for your imaging software to make sure it can properly do a restore.

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mrvelous01

I'm quite surprised that WHS wasn't even mentioned in the article.  I've been using WHS since it was Beta.  When I first built WHS I did a full backup of a PC with an 80g hard disk.  I then switched out the disk with an empty 80g disk, booted from the WHS restore cd, and did a full restore over the network.  Very impressive.  One chkdsk later I was back up and running.  This product is pretty solid and deserves more credit.  Single file restores are a breeze, too.  

 

The WHS developer community has also recently posted "add-ons" and techniques for backing up your WHS server to another server as well.  I'm sure you could use some of the cloud services or apps that run remote backups to backup your WHS data to a remote pc as well.  You can get as complex as you like, but the bottom line here is that it can be very simple, and it works without intervention.  No CD's, no DVD's, when the icon is green its working.  You don't need multiple PC licenses and the "agent" is centrally managed by the server pc, too.  I have tried a few of the other apps that were featured in the article, and WHS is by far a lot simpler to deal with and offers more options.

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sneakypete

After I read this article, which was very good btw, I was thinking however exectly the same thing.  They left out the one solution that beats all of these I have a 3TB WHS running in my house and its really the most robust solution in combination with cloud based for off site.

 

Shame on MxPC for leaving this off the list.

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pcleveland

 

I would not recommend Carbonite to anyone.  I had their unlimited plan an thought that I was all covered when I configured it to backup my music, pictures and music folders.  I experienced a hard drive failure in my laptop about a year ago.  After getting the hard drive replaced and re-installing all of the software I ran the Carbonite restore only to find out that all of the videos that I had ever recorded of my children from the day they were born, along with others were gone.  That’s right even though I had selected to backup my movies and my picutres folder (where Picasa places movies from a camera) NONE of the files ever got backed up!!!

I contacted Carbonite support and was told that by default they do not back up videos because they take too long to backup and restore.  I am not talking about high def movies.  Most were taken with a Cannon A60 camera.  Some of my movies were only 5-10 MB in size.  Apparently you can backup movies with carbonite but you have to manually select each individual file. There was nothing on their site about this limitation at the time of my subscription.  I believe they now inform people of this, but it doesn't help me. 

I have now switched to using Mozy Home because they backup videos by default.  I also like the fact that it also backs up my files to a local hard drive at the same time.

 

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pcleveland

I would not recommend Carbonite to anyone.  I had their unlimited plan an thought that I was all covered when I configured it to backup my music, pictures and music folders.  I experienced a hard drive failure in my laptop about a year ago.  After getting the hard drive replaced and re-installing all of the software I ran the Carbonite restore only to find out that all of the videos that I had ever recorded of my children from the day they were born, along with others were gone.  That’s right even though I had selected to backup my movies and my picutres folder (where Picasa places movies from a camera) NONE of the files ever got backed up!!!

I contacted Carbonite support and was told that by default they do not back up videos because they take too long to backup and restore.  I am not talking about high def movies.  Most were taken with a Cannon A60 camera.  Some of my movies were only 5-10 MB in size.  Apparently you can backup movies with carbonite but you have to manually select each individual file. There was nothing on their site about this limitation at the time of my subscription.  I believe they now inform people of this, but it doesn't help me. 

I have now switched to using Mozy Home because they backup videos by default.  I also like the fact that it also backs up my files to a local hard drive at the same time.

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pcleveland

I would not recommend Carbonite to anyone.  I had their unlimited plan an thought that I was all covered when I configured it to backup my music, pictures and music folders.  I experienced a hard drive failure in my laptop about a year ago.  After getting the hard drive replaced and re-installing all of the software I ran the Carbonite restore only to find out that all of the videos that I had ever recorded of my children from the day they were born, along with others were gone.  That’s right even though I had selected to backup my movies and my picutres folder (where Picasa places movies from a camera) NONE of the files ever got backed up!!!

I contacted Carbonite support and was told that by default they do not back up videos because they take too long to backup and restore.  I am not talking about high def movies.  Most were taken with a Cannon A60 camera.  Some of my movies were only 5-10 MB in size.  Apparently you can backup movies with carbonite but you have to manually select each individual file. There was nothing on their site about this limitation at the time of my subscription.  I believe they now inform people of this, but it doesn't help me. 

I have now switched to using Mozy Home because they backup videos by default.  I also like the fact that it also backs up my files to a local hard drive at the same time.

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11bravo

WHS works for me; just used it last night for a full restore.  I run WHS for the media streaming, but the backup capability is a very handy functionality - automated, incremental, nightly backups.

And, if you're backing up several computers, it only keeps 1 copy of any file, regardless of how many computers that file is on (backups fast, deleting backups slow as all file references must be checked). 

Slight learning curve for the 1st full restore - needed the network drivers.  But WHS kindly saves all drivers for every backup, so simple to copy what was needed to a flash drive.  The backup restore prompts user when it needs drivers.  But once that driver flash is made (1 time only), then it is SIMPLE.

I used Acronis successfully for many years, but after a year of WHS, it's all I use now.  It does what I need, quietly, in the background.

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T0mmy1977

I use ViceVersa at home and work to keep a mirror of my data in a 2nd location. It works well. I don't backup the OS though. I just do a reinstall if the system goes kabluey.

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Ecommerce Developer

The computer backups were hilariously overrated, impossible to manage, and failed completely the ONE time I tried to restore my computer (fortunately a clone drive was available)...My restore procedure has been tested and works. That isn't complex either, just restore the drive image. And copy over the working data-set or whatever. Done! The important thing is that it works correctly and is tested & verified.

 

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maza13

I've used several programs and methods before but I've finally settled on something that's been working pretty good for me, but I am not saying it's the ultimate solution by far. I am using an HP 495EX with 6TB of storage space available for my 3 PC's in my network, and I am using GoodSync which has been working great for 3yrs now. Believe it or not I am now down to 2.24TB left, but I am not really worried now that 3TB drives have become available.

As far as image this and restore that, to me that's nonsense because let's suppose I do a fresh OS install and all the neccesary programs that go with it like Office, Flash, Java, Anti-virus, etc etc. Then I make an image for future use, by the time I need to use that image file all the programs are outdated and I need to install newer versions and what's the use of the image file? I mean it's takes just a few minutes to install Windows anyways, it's not like I am using XP where it would take almost an hour or more. Granted Windows and Office and maybe a few other programs might need some updating but Windows and Office have Service Packs that I download and keep backed up to update my discs when I do a fresh install. That being said, I do fresh installs on my computers every year (give or take a few weeks). I don't have to worry about pictures, music or videos since they are all readily available on the server. The only thing I have to do is do an OS, drivers, Office, some updates, Java, Flash, Acrobat and some other minor programs. All in all about 2 hrs per PC, slightly longer on mine.

So all in all, it is my opinion that there is no such thing as an Ultimate Back Up solution because we all have different needs and views. We'll always argue about what we think is best and some will even try to impose that view on others, but for me this has been working great with no hiccups whatsoever and I consider this my solution.

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md123

Programs like Acronis will make an image of your drive, then you can schedule or do incremental backups as well.  Updating your initial full image of drive C for example is just as simple as syncing or backing up a few directories.  The incremental backups are a lot quicker than creating an initial image, and update the initial image with only the changes since your last backup.  If you have to restore your C: drive it will be as recent of a snapshot of C: as your last incremental backup. 

Hope that helps.

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Hondoe1950

I have been a long-time fan of Acronis, for making clones of my hard drive.

But in graduating to Windows 7 x64 with an SSD and a second D: drive, this method became impractical (since I'd need two hard drives for each backup)

I downloaded and installed Macrium Reflect freeware and it is by far the best backup and restore program I've ever used. It not only is much faster than Acronis, but it compresses on the fly and so I can store many backups on a single drive. And restoring is effortless too.

I highly recommend this program.

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Keatah

The Ultimate Backup..is.. The one that saves your ass at the end of day!

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TechLarry

Windows Home Server...

 

There's nothing better.  You can't beat a bare metal restore from any previos backup, single instance store, etc...

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Keatah

  I image my system and working dataset from time to time. And I periodically take it off-site. Simple, unobtrusive, reliable, saves everything, doesn't become a burden. Afterall, if backups are annoying, you'll never do them. I don't have a set schedule to follow, just when ever it feels right and I got the time.

  And my working data-set  (journal, photos, music, photoshop stuff, finances, downloadz, installed apps, pr0n, and utilities) files are all gathered and saved as well. I seem to do about 10 backup ops done per year. I have always been prepared in case of catastrophe, theft, hardware failure, stupid user, virus, mal-ware..

  I use three main programs, Acronis boot disc for imaging, and DirSync for my working everyday files. I just use WinXP file explorer to pick up any loose ends or do special-ops. How much more simpler can that get!?!!?!!

  My restore procedure has been tested and works. That isn't complex either, just restore the drive image. And copy over the working data-set or whatever. Done! The important thing is that it works correctly and is tested & verified.

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gnett

I know we are trying to save the planet and all that, but would like to read this article on the train.

Where is the print button so I can print the entire article without printing each page individually?

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ABouman

You  know, we just redesigned the site, so let me see what I can find out.

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markstrelecki

I've been PDFing MaxPC articles for years and am suffering greatly at the lack of PRINT buttons anywhere.

PLEASE HELP ME.

 

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JDorfler

Just get Samba going on an Ubuntu Server and have your Win7 Back up program save to that.

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JohnP

All these complex solutions to a very easy problem. Use Acronis 2011 bootable CD to just clone your hard drive(s). Hard drives are dirt cheap and for $80 you can buy a 1TB hard drive (I use Samsung myself- quiet, cool, and reliable as hello). I clone the drive once a month and stick them away from the house. I use two hard drives in rotation for the really important stuff and burn a Blu-Ray disk too for my photos, financials, passwords, and utilities. Simple, quick, safe, BOOTABLE, and secure.

 I cannot empathize enough about making sure your passwords are secure and available. I have Roboform but don't really trust it (as they keep refusing my PAID authorization and the backup is messy) so use KeePass or Password Tracker Deluxe as low tech solutions that always work. This is true for Win7 licenses and other software licenses.

 I have installed in all my computers an ISTAR T-7M1-SA 5 1/2 inch SATA hot swap enclosure and made it so that I can throw in a hard drive and clone it in about an hour.

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Steve Stone

Anyone here ever try to backup a fully encrypted drive as an image file and then have to restore it to a new drive because the old drive is toast? I have a laptop with whole drive encryption using PGP. The only way I've found to get a full drive image is to boot an Acronis CD and make a sector by sector backup, which for my 100gb drive takes 8 to 12 hours. The restore process is another nighmare. Because of encryption the new replacement drive better be the exact geometry and exact remapped sectors as the old drive or else the restore will fail probably fail. That is why I start with a sector by sector full image backup, then boot up the OS on the hard drive and run a full file level backup with daily incremental file level backups to my office file server.  Painfully slow and eats tons of drive space on the server.

 

Anyone know a better way?

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DogPatch1149

My backup is created on a second local hard drive, then uploaded to SkyDrive.  On my machines, Macrium splits the backup into 4GB chunks, so if I fill one SkyDrive account, I put the rest onto another one.  I've never had to use more than two accounts, so if a machine dies out, I can do a base OS install plus Macrium from a USB key and restore from the second hard drive, or download the files from SkyDrive if the second drive was also damaged.

I've also considered using DropBox for the quick and dirty small backups - it seems to work well enough in daily use.  I share my financial program data files between my computers using DropBox - it's encrypted, updates as I work, and has never given me problems.

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jtrpop

DON'T use Carbonite!  I had them for a 3 year plan, and they could not backup in 3 years what CrashPlan Unlimited was able to do in 6 months.  Carbonite throttles backup bandwidth coming to them (I setup network monitors to prove this), as CrashPlan does not.  The free version allows you to backup easily to external hard drives, unplug them for storage, plug them back in and it updates the backup easily, as well as backup to other Crashplan friends.  The paid version removes ads and offers unlimited storage to their remote servers with no throttling!  Much better tech support than Carbonite, works on all platforms, less expensive.

For immediate full system backups I use Windows Home Server.  Sadly with the neutering of version 2.0 by removing Drive Extender, I will most likely not use it anymore and may turn to Drobo for expanding drive storage.

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BizSAR

What about Windows Home Server? I thought for sure it would be included in the article.

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JohnP

 I had a HP MediaSmart server running WHS and I put huge amounts of time into it. I evetually found that it was really a BAD solution all around. The files were encrypted so I could not manage them. The computer backups were hilariously overrated, impossible to manage, and failed completely the ONE time I tried to restore my computer (fortunately a clone drive was available). Streaming and managing files for streaming sucked too. I eventually GAVE THE SERVER AWAY to a home server site administrator.

  There is a reason WHY MS is dropping the WHS as it is a bad solution to an easy issue.

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DOAcepr

After using WHS for 4 years, I can say I have had the exact opposite experiance.  I have a HP Media Smart 6 TB server that backs up 4 computers.  I have used the PC restore function at least a half dozen times (once for a HDD failure and the rest for OS drive swap outs) and I have never had a single issue.  WHS has always performed exactly like its supposed to.  I also use it as the central repository for all my media.  I just point WMC to the network location and voila all media is accessible from any PC in the house. 

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DOAcepr

I highly recommend WHS for someone that just wants a plug and play back up system.  It will store (and serve) your media, make images of your computer, back up individual files (the list goes on).  I have a HP MSS running WHS and it works exactly as advertised.  I back up multiple computers to the WHS and if HDD fails on one of my computers then I just throw in a new drive, insert the backup CD and an hour later I have my computer up and running as if nothing went wrong.

I hope HP and MS realize what a gem they have in WHS and can resolve their pissing match over Vail! 

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jersully

I've become a big fan of CrashPlan lately.  Install it along with a friend and back up your data to one another's PCs for free off-site peace of mind.  It's encrypted, so no snooping.

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Fecal Face

I'm sick of Windows 7 Backup. I have a ~300GB external hard drive, which I use to back up my music + pictures + videos / other important crap. The total of which most certainly does not exceed ~300GB.

However, after a week or two, Windows 7 backup will routinely tell me that I'm out of disk space on my hard drive. It creates multiple "Backup Periods", which I have to manually delete every time my drive gets full of the same stuff over and over. Pretty much defeats the purpose of having it automatically back up if you ask me. I might as well just drag + drop the files.

Edit:

Hmm, SyncToy looks like it does exactly what I want to do with Windows 7 Backup, going to try that

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Ghok

I'm in the same boat as you. I actually lost a lot of important files once because my automatic backdrive was filled up, and the damn program I was using didn't tell me. It was filled up because it created all these multiple versions of the same file or didn't delete old stuff. Afterwords I downloaded a new program, but it just did the same thing. I was really surprised that both programs I tried didn't seem to have an option for simple sinking.

I'll have to give this SyncToy thing a try.

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lunchbox73

Cloud Schmoud. I use Cobian backup and a second internal HD. Yeah, I know if my house blows up I'm screwed but it's better than nothing.

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jersully

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