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BACKUPS


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#1 scotty_ncc1701

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 09:32 AM

Over the years, I've seen many, many, many people have "OH CRAP" moments, because they don't backup regularly.

How, and what a person backs up will vary from person to person, and based on their experience and computer knowledge.  I like using the command line version of WINZIP, because it allows me more flexibility.  How?

My backups are controlled by BATCH files, four in particular.  The head BATCH file calls the other three, but it also creates dated folders (e.g. 2014_06_12).  The three files that are called are:

1.  !!_pre_steps.bat - This does things like delete all BAK, TMP, etc files; backup specific registry settings, has me export my bookmarks, etc, and the list goes on.  In this way, I don't have to remember everything I need to do, on each backup.  Any valid command can be used, for additional stuff to do.

2.  !!_back_them_up.bat - This does the actual backups, calling WINZIP command line with the appropriate parameter files.

3.  !!_post_steps.bat - This copies the backup files from one external drive to another.  Any valid command can be used, for additional stuff to do.

I usually run backups once per week, and I kick it off just before I go to bed.  That way, in the AM, all is done.

I wrote a program to create all the necessary, base files.  If a person knows basic DOS commands, they can modify the "pre" and "post" files to do what they want.  I've had people e-mail me, saying they've gone from say Windows Backup, to the program I wrote, because they like the flexibility.

As for my backups, what I do is:

1.  One copy of the ZIP backups on the "F" drive.
2.  One copy of the ZIP backups on the "G" drive.
3.  The entire structure of the "C" drive (of the files backed up in #1), on my "G" drive, that is under a folder called "!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!".  Here is a sample:
 

G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!

+---MyData

|   +---!!configuration

|   +---e-books

|   +---job documents

|   +---MP Navigator EX

|   +---My Music

|   +---My Pictures

|   +---My Virtual Machines

|   +---my_themes_(win7)

|   +---my_themes_(win8_x64)

|   +---my_themes_(win8_x64)_lbr

|   +---our community

|   +---purchases

|   +---ubuntu_stuff

I use a program called "Beyond Compare" that allows me to see folders side by side, and quickly copy differences between the "C" drive and "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!".  It might take 10-15 minutes.

Then, when I reset my computer, I use "Beyond Compare" to reverse the process.  First, I try "Beyond Compare" to restore my files from "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!".  If I have an issue, I then try to get the files out of the "G" drive copy of the backup ZIP files.  If I still have a problem, I try the "F"  drive copy of the backup ZIP files.  If I still have an issue, I then go back through the "grandfather" copies of the backups.  I normally keep the current backup, plus 3 copies.  So to say recovering a file, or group of files failed; it takes a total of 9 complete failure attempts (four copies of my backups, plus the "G:\!!!!!!_QUICK_RESTORE_!!!!!!" copy).

Some may say that's this is "over kill", but some time ago, I had an external drive start to fail (bad spots).  So I bought a new drive, and:

1.  I was able to recover about 92.6% of the files, by copying them to the new secondary external drive.  This was using a LINUX Live CD
2.  About 7% of the files that I couldn't recover/copy from the "old" external drive was just miscellaneous files that wasn't important (e.g. temp files, *.bak, etc) that just got copied by accident, or was automatically left over when I edited files, etc.
3.  Finally, the 0.4% that I wasn't able to recover from the external drive, I actually found in my backups, from 2012_11_20.

After the above, is when I started to make sure that I not only kept more than just the current backup, plus one.  I increased it to at least current plus three (not incremental, full backups), and the "QUICK_RESTORE" copy.

Again, how a person backs up is completely dependant on the individual, but the important thing is to backup.  Since I normally start backups before I go to bed, my method works for me, especially using WINZIP command line and the flexibility of batch files.

 



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#2 wpgwpg

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 10:35 AM

  You've got an extremely important point here, Scotty.  If you look through the forums here, they're filled with folks having aw sh** moments because they don't back up.  Personally I prefer a full system backup with a program I can set and forget.  Then I never have to worry about it again until I need to recover something.  I use the free program Easeus Todo Backup Free which is completely free for home use.  

 

 CNET has a lot of backup program reviews at 
 
Some of these are free (last time I checked there were over 300), some have free trials (over 1000), and some are purchase only (over 200).
-
External hard drives are best for backup. You can get a 500 GB one for around $50 and a 1 TB one for around $60. You can also buy a 32 GB flash drive for under $20.  It's the best insurance you can ever buy!
 
P.S.  Beam me up, Scotty!  :bananas:

Edited by wpgwpg, 12 June 2014 - 10:36 AM.

Everyone with a computer should back his system up to an external hard drive regularly.  :thumbsup:

#3 quietman7

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 01:11 PM

The widespread emergence of crypto malware (ransomware) has brought attention to the importance of backing up all data on a regular basis. The only reliable way to effectively protect your data and limit the loss with this type of infection is user education and to have an effective backup strategy. A backup strategy is not only effective against ransomware but also helps with other catastrophic scenarios like hard disk failure, power failure and power surges which can damage internal hardware components. In some cases, the system can be rendered unbootable and you may not have access to the computer to back up any data.

Backing up your data is one of the most important maintenance tasks users should perform on a regularly, yet it's one of the most neglected areas.


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#4 Scoop8

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 08:32 AM

scotty

 

Wow, that's amazing :)  I wish I had your code-writing skills. 

 

Like you guys, I'm into backups but nothing that impressive.

 

 

My routines:

 

- Clone every 2 weeks with Acronis (2011 ver).  I like this method as my fastest plug-play PC recovery method.  I alternate 2 spare HDD's for cloning so I'll have one that can be used for recovery about a month in the past. 

 

I have 2 spare HDD's for a couple of reasons.  I like to rotate the clones and I also use one to occasionally verify a full-HDD Image recovery.  It's also convenient for protection against my "C" HDD failure and as a fast method to troubleshoot the PC since I can eliminate a large part of the PC with a HDD swap-out.

 

I also like to use one of the spare HDD's as my "lab rat" :), when checking out HDD-wipe tools, getting familiar with partition utilities such as "Gparted".

 

 

- Run a twice-daily unattended specific-item backup with Acronis 2011.  It's backing up my "can't lose" items, Outlook *.pst,  Quicken qdata file, a couple of daily-edited excel files, etc.

 

I'm using one of my 2 portable USB HDD's as the continuously-connected target for the unattended backups but I have other copies elsewhere in the event of a "Cryptolocker" incident.

 

 

- Full-HDD Image (Macrium Reflect Free ver) occasionally, no schedule with this but I like to keep a few of those on a disconnected external HDD for redundancy.

 

I'm running the Acronis and Macrium processes on my "rescue" bootable media (CD's).  It's not necessary but I like to verify the "worse-case" scenario, without booting into Windows, with an unallocated HDD as the cloning target.  That way, I know that the full-HDD recovery methodology is working ok.

 

 

I also have an archaic (compared to your code :)) script that I use to manually copy those same specific items to have redundant copies on external drives.  I use "AutoHotKey" for my scripting tools.

 

When I want to run that "copy" script, I have <win>z defined to launch it so it's a fast way to connect one of my failsafe air-gap external HDD's (to protect against an encryption ransomware incident) and then copy those items fast, then disconnect the USB HDD.

 

The script detects all drives connected to my Desktop PC and displays removable drives, queries me (Msgbox), then I'll enter the drive letter and the script copies the items to that drive, then loops for another drive letter query(<esc> to exit).

 

If I enter "l", the script will copy those items to my Laptop PC via LAN/Router. Msgbox asks if I want to wake up my Laptop.  If it's not already awake, the script launches a "Magic Packet" .exe  that wakes up the Laptop before the script continues with the copying steps.

 



#5 scotty_ncc1701

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:33 AM

Scoop8:

Thank you for the compliment.  How a person backs up depends on what they need to back up.  I tend to cleanup a lot of things before I backup, because things like *.bak are useless in my book.  

My current "pre" batch file is between 150-200 lines.  I recently cleaned it up.  That doesn't take into account other batch files I call from within the "pre" batch file.  IF I WAS TO GUESS, I would say taking all into account, including called files, it's probably around 500 lines.  But, keep in mind, 90% of what is in the "pre" batch file, or called by the "pre" batch file hasn't changed in years, and years.  I had to make a few minor adjustments going to Windows 8, but not that many.

My backups now count at 60 ZIP files.  The reason for the higher number is that I break things into smaller files, so if I need to restore things, they're easier to find.  For instance, the "major" projects that I write, are backed up individually, and include the source code, data files, help files, and distribution (download install file).  So if I need to recover say "project A", I just find the "project A" ZIP file, but that's after the "QUICK RESTORE".  My current backup set is about 20GB, and usually takes around 2-2.5 hours to complete.

I also have a folder that has all my settings, or important configuration stuff saved in it (this is just a partial sampling):

* c:\mydata\!!configuration\$$avast_9$$
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\$$dns_info$$
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\$$firewall_settings$$
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\$$modem-key$$
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\firefox_stuff
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\mailwasher
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\office_2007
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\pdf-xchange-settings
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\power_plans
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\textpad
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\win8\win8_apache_mysql_php
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\win8\win8_notes
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\win8\win8_tweaks
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\win8\win8_windows_office_updates
* c:\mydata\!!configuration\win8\zzz_shared_notes

The main thing to remember, is just to research and ask questions.  My general rule of thumb, is that I won't let a computer beat me.  If I have to go out and mow (although I don't like it), sleep on it over night, etc, usually if I can't figure it out, I get an "ah ha" moment, and then realize how to find the info.

Usually, if a person puts their brain in neutral, like say mowing, it will eventually come to them.  That's why I nave a notepad next to my bed.

SOME of the actions I take, have been the result of "OH CRAP" moments (most of them because of people I know) over the years.  Others just planning ahead.

Ya know what they say, "Experience is the best teacher"!

Have a good day!



#6 quietman7

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:41 AM

- Full-HDD Image (Macrium Reflect Free ver) occasionally, no schedule with this but I like to keep a few of those on a disconnected external HDD for redundancy.

Creating and saving a disk image is one of the easiest things for even a novice user to do.
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#7 wpgwpg

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:51 AM

 Quietman7, I'm with you 100%.  You can back up just your data if that's what you want, but it sure is nice to have the capability to restore your whole system in under 30 minutes when needed.  And with hard drive space so cheap and plentiful these days (around $60 for 1 TB drives), there's no problem doing it.  If you use eSATA or USB 3, you can back up a 90 GB system in under 15 min.  That's what I do.  Why make the solution more complicated than the problem?


Everyone with a computer should back his system up to an external hard drive regularly.  :thumbsup:

#8 quietman7

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:55 AM

Exactly wpgwpg...so there really is no excuse other than being totally ignorant about backing up or just plain lazy.
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#9 scotty_ncc1701

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 10:00 AM

Scoop8 and et el:

I wanted to comment on something, that friends of mine tend not to realize (nothing negative intended).

In another post, maybe a couple, I explained that when I build our computer, or if I was hired to build a computer, I always build it in stages like this:

* JUST_ACTIVATED
* JUST_ACTIVATED_WHOLE_DISK
* BASIC
* BASIC_SETTINGS
* AVAST_FW
* PDF_PTRS
* WIN_UPD_SETTINGS
* OFC_OFC_UPD
* AMP_APPS
* DEV_ENV
* DEV_ENV_FF

Each of these are presitine images, knowing there are no malware, excessive garbage (e.g. *.bak, etc).  So if something happens, I could for instance reapply the image "DEV_ENV_FF", knowing the image is malware, etc free.

However, I know that many, many, many places on the Internet recommend using programs like Paragon Backup and Recovery, Macrium, Acronis, etc to do backups, but they don't tell you what follows.

When you use the programs like mentioned above, you still can have malware problems.  Say for instance:

1.  You backed up (imaged with Macrium) your system on 2014_06_01, and it was clean of malware.

2.  You unknowingly got a malware infection on 2014_06_02.

3.  You backed up (imaged with Macrium) your system on 2014_06_05.

4.  You backed up (imaged with Macrium) your system on 2014_06_12, but because you didn't have sufficient space, you had to delete the image from #1, to do this backup.

5.  On 2014_06_13, you realize that you have malware on your system, from #2.

6.  All existing images have the malware on them, thus:
6.1.  Doing a full image restore is worthless, you'll still have the malware.
6.2.  Depending on the malware, and the files you want to recover, you could still recover files that have been infected, thus you may never get clean using the Macrium (or the other program) images.
6.3.  Even if the file(s) you recover isn't infected, your image will still have the malware on it, and you could, at sometime in the future, recover file(s) that are infected.

The above needs to be taken into account, when planning your backup routine.  You (in general terms) should ALWAYS have a basic, baseline image that you know is clean, so you can use it, and know your system is clean.

Have a good day!
 



#10 quietman7

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 10:10 AM

It is best practice to back up your important documents, personal data files, photos, music, videos to a CD or DVD drive, not a flash drive or external hard drive as they are more susceptible to malware infection. If you are going to use an external hard drive, you should back up your personal files separately from programs and applications.

If you system was previously infected, the safest practice is not to backup any files with the following file extensions: .exe, .scr, .bat, .com, .cmd, .msi, .pif, .ini, .htm, .html, .hta, .php, .asp, .xml, .zip, .rar, .cab as they still may be infected.
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#11 Scoop8

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 11:20 AM

scotty

 

Good points.  It's the reason I have redundant full-HDD images stored on a disconnected drive.  For example, I have images that date back to Nov '13. 

 

I understand your point :).  I just prefer to try this method before reinstalling the OS.

 

So far, it's worked twice over the past few years. 

 

To clarify, I'm not depending on clones and full-HDD images to backup my must-keep items.  I'm backing those items up in several locations.

 

I'm using clones and (full) Images to provide an alternative to re-installing the OS (and all programs).

 

When or if I encounter a scenario that you described, where I'm unaware of malicious intrusions into my "C" HDD for months, then I'll have to reinstall at that time.

 

From reading about this topic here and elsewhere, it would seem to me that the most important factor, for those that periodically backup their complete HDD's, is to become aware of an intrusion.  From that moment, the user should be able to recover without reinstalling, provided they have an Image that predates the point in time of the malicious intrusion into their system HDD.

 

I haven't read much elsewhere where a long-term dormant, or a situation where malicious content is residing on one's HDD and the user doesn't notice an unusual process name, high CPU usage, browser behavior, etc.  , hasn't been noticeable.

 

Another reason I don't clone more frequently than bi-weekly (once every 2 weeks) is to help prevent the real possibility that you outlined in your post. 

 

I'm open to all ideas and suggestions.  To clarify once again, I'm not in any way opposing the reinstall recommendation.  I'm using my methods due to a preference to try my recovery method first before going the reinstall route.

 



#12 wpgwpg

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 12:04 PM

 Scotty, good recommendations for system builders.  I usually do something similar when I build a system myself.  For those who don't build but buy from the likes of Dell, Acer, Gateway, Lenovo,Toshiba, Sony, HP, and the like, you want to be sure you have the wherewithall to restore to factory settings.  Almost all new PCs these days come with either the discs to do that or instructions in the user guide for how to make the discs for themselves.  So whether you build or buy with the OS pre-installed, you really need a way to get back to the starting point before you ever got on the 'net.

 

 Re full system backups, my approach is to make them monthly to one drive, then weekly to another with incremental backups during the week.  I keep 6 generations of monthly backups.  Once in a while I'll copy my critical data to a flash drive and put it in my locked car (which has a security system).  Once in a great while I'll put one of those flash drives in my safety deposit box.  The old saying that no security is ever 100% is true of course, but my system is close enough to perfect for me.

 

 Whatever people do is better than nothing, and unfortunately most folks do nothing until the vigaro hits the mix-master as we see all too often in these forums. :huh:  


Edited by wpgwpg, 13 June 2014 - 12:10 PM.

Everyone with a computer should back his system up to an external hard drive regularly.  :thumbsup:

#13 scotty_ncc1701

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 01:37 PM

 Scotty, good recommendations for system builders.  I usually do something similar when I build a system myself.  For those who don't build but buy from the likes of Dell, Acer, Gateway, Lenovo,Toshiba, Sony, HP, and the like, you want to be sure you have the wherewithall to restore to factory settings.  Almost all new PCs these days come with either the discs to do that or instructions in the user guide for how to make the discs for themselves.  So whether you build or buy with the OS pre-installed, you really need a way to get back to the starting point before you ever got on the 'net.

 

 Re full system backups, my approach is to make them monthly to one drive, then weekly to another with incremental backups during the week.  I keep 6 generations of monthly backups.  Once in a while I'll copy my critical data to a flash drive and put it in my locked car (which has a security system).  Once in a great while I'll put one of those flash drives in my safety deposit box.  The old saying that no security is ever 100% is true of course, but my system is close enough to perfect for me.

 

 Whatever people do is better than nothing, and unfortunately most folks do nothing until the vigaro hits the mix-master as we see all too often in these forums. :huh:  

 

After I got my current laptop, I downloaded all the drivers, etc from the manufacturer's site.  About 30 days later, when I was going to buy a boxed copy of Windows 8.1, I used the create restore disks from the restore partition.  Then I spent $15.00-$20.00, and had the manufacturer send me the restore CD/DVDs, thus I had two copies.

After receiving the CD/DVDs, I did a NUKE AND PAVE.  First, I Paragoned the "C" partition, then the entire internal Hard Drive (thus the "JUST_ACTIVATED" and "JUST_ACTIVATED_WHOLE_DISK" in my one post).  So if worse comes to worse, I just use the "JUST_ACTIVATED_WHOLE_DISK", to reset my computer back to the partitioning I had it as, with no figuring out what I had before.  The "JUST_ACTIVATED_WHOLE_DISK" is just an additional safety measure.  So far, I haven't had to ever use it.

Since I do programming, and alot of online stuff, I perform AT LEAST weekly backups, usually on Friday night/Saturday mornings.  On occasions, I might perform multiple backups in one week, depending on what I've done.



#14 quietman7

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 04:08 PM

... unfortunately most folks do nothing until the vigaro hits the mix-master as we see all too often in these forums. :huh:

And only a small percentage come to community forums like this for assistance....the rest are out of luck or seek paid help at compute shops.
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