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Backup help for non-tech user


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#1 mtmax

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 02:14 PM

Hi all,

Can anyone help me establish a backup protocol for my 7 year old computer.   I have read through a fair amount of the forum, and it did not really clarify what I need to do, a lot of it is over my head..  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

My system is Win10pro, with a C drive SSD 120 GB that has OS and some data on it, and D drive HDD 1.5 TB for data.  I recently had some ram fail, and it showed me I better get going on backing up this old system.

 

My goal is to be able to recover from a catastrophic failure, or serious malware infection.  The simpler the better.  From the little I gleaned, I probably want an external hard drive, and an easy to use back up program, automated would be best.  Do I want 2 external drives, one for each drive I have now?  I guess the part that confuses me is the 2 separate drives and being able to start everything back up if some part of the system fails.  Do I want just a backup or a disk image, or both?  The computer does everything I want, even though it is old, but I would sure hate to lose my documents, pictures, email, settings, programs, etc.

 

I don't mind buying a program, free is always good too.  Any suggestions on size of external hard drive(s), if that is what is best?  The cost is not really an issue to me, the peace of mind is well worth any investment I might make.  I have seen a few people post who have lost pictures, or data, or whatever, and I think what would they pay to get them back.

 

If I can answer any questions let me know and I will clarify best I can, I worry I haven't provided all the information you need to make suggestions.  If there is a tutorial or good article please let me know, searched and did not find one.

 

Thanks!

Max



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#2 Allan

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 03:09 PM

 
 

This is something I put together a few years ago for a site I ran. Hopefully it will help:

 

Disk Imaging software takes a "snapshot" of your drive as it exists at the time you create the image. You can then restore the entire image or any file(s) or folder(s) you choose. It is a virtually foolproof way of backing up your system and providing a safe haven in the event of a catastrophe that requires you to blow away your system partition and restore it to a previous state. It also allows you to "test" various software and be confident that you have a the ability to return to the prior state any time you choose.

 
I use Acronis True Image. It is the best of breed, but it isn't free. The best free alternative is Macrium Reflect. 
 
1) I create an image of my system partition once a week to a second hard drive and keep the 2 or 3 most recent images. I also image my other partitions about once a month. I always enable "verify image" in the options. It takes a little longer, but insures a valid image (the last thing you want is to try to restore an image only to find it is corrupt - it happens).
 
2) I also create an image before performing any drive level function (ie, changing the size of a partition) or making any significant change to the OS (installing a service pack, upgrading IE, even when installing a "questionable" Windows update, etc) -- also sometimes before installing new software.
 
3) Images may be created on any medium (cd, dvd, external drive, etc). For obvious reasons they should not be stored on the same drive you are imaging. The best option is a second internal hd if you have one and, if you're really ambitious, to an external drive as well (one week to the internal & one week to the external or just duplicates on the external - that's actually the procedure I follow).
 
4) Images may be created "in the background" within the OS. If you need to restore the system partition, that will need to be done before the OS loads. You can start the process within the application in the OS and it will then tell you it needs to reboot to finish the process. Alternatively, you can boot to a "recovery disk" which you create from within the software (or to the application disk itself if you have one). Non-system partitions or drives can be restored without a reboot.


#3 RolandJS

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 09:50 PM

Adding to Allan's very informative, very thorough, post:

What external media are you most comfortable using?  DVDs, USB sticks, platter-driven pancake-sized hard-drives?

Taking in Allan's post, would you be comfortable making a clone of your SSD, containing your OS?

Taking in Allan's post, would you be comfortable making full images of the occupied portion of your TB HD containing your data?

We can better advise you if we know what you're envisioning doing; once your backup ship is sailing, one can always alter course.  One cannot alter the course, or correct the course, of any ship still in the harbor.


Edited by RolandJS, 18 March 2017 - 09:51 PM.

"Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee."  -- Ben Franklin revisited.

http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forums/45/Computer-Technologies/

Backup, backup, backup! -- Lady Fitzgerald (w7forums)

Clone or Image often! Backup... -- RockE (WSL)


#4 mtmax

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 11:26 PM

Adding to Allan's very informative, very thorough, post:

What external media are you most comfortable using?  DVDs, USB sticks, platter-driven pancake-sized hard-drives?  External hard drive seems to make sense, usb connection

Taking in Allan's post, would you be comfortable making a clone of your SSD, containing your OS?  Yes, if there are good directions

Taking in Allan's post, would you be comfortable making full images of the occupied portion of your TB HD containing your data?  Yes if there are good directions

We can better advise you if we know what you're envisioning doing; once your backup ship is sailing, one can always alter course.  One cannot alter the course, or correct the course, of any ship still in the harbor.   I'm still trying to find my ship!   :wink:

Thanks Allan and RolandJS, your help is appreciated.  It sounds like you favor disk imaging.  Does Acronis have automated backup?   Should the existing computer fail, is it hard to restore to a different new computer?

Am happy to answer any further questions

Best,

Max



#5 RolandJS

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 06:04 AM

For information about cloning, for information about making full images of OS and Data partitions -- onto external usb hard-drives, there is a wealth of information all over The 'Net.  If you want free software: Macrium Reflect version 6, AOMEI BackUpper, and EaseUS backup/restore are three of the best free versions of the many free versions on the market.  Personally, I have used the pay-fors MRv6 and Image for Windows.  Others here and there have used other pay-fors.

You have decided usb external hard-drives will be most affordable and comfortable for you.

In my mind, your next step is to take a little time to research a few software packages, to examine the "look and feel", to guess which one or two will probably suit your needs and wants the best.

 

If your data changes are major and/or your data changes a lot weekly, then Differential and or Incremental backups may be in your future -- after you have made a clone or two, after you have made a full image backup or two.  if that future ever arrives, you will have to consult those who are in the know about D & I backups because I have never made those.


Edited by RolandJS, 19 March 2017 - 06:09 AM.

"Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee."  -- Ben Franklin revisited.

http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forums/45/Computer-Technologies/

Backup, backup, backup! -- Lady Fitzgerald (w7forums)

Clone or Image often! Backup... -- RockE (WSL)


#6 Allan

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 07:53 AM

Yes, Acronis True Image does offer automated "scheduled" backups - either full, differential or incremental. And they also do offer a means to restore to a different computer with different hardware, though I've never tried that myself. The typical scenario is to restore to the same system if and when necessary.



#7 mtmax

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 10:28 AM

Thank you RolandJS and Allan,

I am looking at MR and Acronis TI.

I have ordered a new CD drive (the old on has been out for a long time, but I never use it), so I can make a bootable CD.

I am going to order a new USB 4 TB external HDD.  I am retired, so speed (time) is really not an issue however.  So for now I am trying to get the old desktop on a backup scheme.

This is a home use computer that really does not change much, mainly some new pictures (lots of old pictures), some documents, some video, and lots of emails I would not want to lose.

I'm only using about 400GB, 80GB on SSD (system and some data),  and around 300GB on HDD. 

After reading a bit, I can see why people get confused, it is a very complex issue, with lots of new ideas to wrap your head around.

It seems to me that given my situation, a snapshot of the whole system every few weeks, should get me covered.

 

I am still confused about a few issues, and any insight would be appreciated.

1  When you do a snapshot, obviously onto one drive, does it backup both drives at once, or is each backed up separately, in 2 different procedures?

2  If it backs up both to one drive, can it only restore to a system with 2 drives?   Or can it restore to one drive and still boot (eg if the ssd failed, restore snapshot to hdd)?  or either one?

3  If they are backed up separately, how is it restored, 2 drives only, or one drive and still boot? or either one?

4  If the current system totally fails can the "snapshot" be resurrected on a new machine, or would you get a new machine and somehow migrate the data, programs, old emails, settings, etc, and somehow       blend them into the new system?

 

Thanks again for helping me understand all this,  And if any input on my backup scheme let me know, I'm totally open (will wait for now to order external HDD).

Max



#8 Allan

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 10:42 AM

Thank you RolandJS and Allan,

I am looking at MR and Acronis TI.

I have ordered a new CD drive (the old on has been out for a long time, but I never use it), so I can make a bootable CD.

I am going to order a new USB 4 TB external HDD.  I am retired, so speed (time) is really not an issue however.  So for now I am trying to get the old desktop on a backup scheme.

This is a home use computer that really does not change much, mainly some new pictures (lots of old pictures), some documents, some video, and lots of emails I would not want to lose.

I'm only using about 400GB, 80GB on SSD (system and some data),  and around 300GB on HDD. 

After reading a bit, I can see why people get confused, it is a very complex issue, with lots of new ideas to wrap your head around.

It seems to me that given my situation, a snapshot of the whole system every few weeks, should get me covered.

 

I am still confused about a few issues, and any insight would be appreciated.

1  When you do a snapshot, obviously onto one drive, does it backup both drives at once, or is each backed up separately, in 2 different procedures?

 

You decide what is included in the image. It can be one partition or drive, multiple partitions/drives, or everything.

 

2  If it backs up both to one drive, can it only restore to a system with 2 drives?   Or can it restore to one drive and still boot (eg if the ssd failed, restore snapshot to hdd)?  or either one?

 

As with the backup, you decide what you want restored and to where. If you originally put everything in one image, then you either must restore the entire image or you can pick and choose files / folders to restore individually.  Personally, I create separate images for each drive / partition - but that's a matter of personal choice.

 

3  If they are backed up separately, how is it restored, 2 drives only, or one drive and still boot? or either one?

 

Again, it's up to you.

 

4  If the current system totally fails can the "snapshot" be resurrected on a new machine, or would you get a new machine and somehow migrate the data, programs, old emails, settings, etc, and somehow       blend them into the new system?

 

As I said in my previous response, Acronis provides the ability to restore an image to a different system. More info is available on their site.

 

 

Thanks again for helping me understand all this,  And if any input on my backup scheme let me know, I'm totally open (will wait for now to order external HDD).

Max

 

 

Please see inline responses above. I suggest you download trial versions of True Image and Macrium Reflect and play with them.



#9 RolandJS

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 09:26 AM

"...I create separate images for each drive / partition..."  -- Allan

So do I -- it has paid off many times!  I have had to restore an OS partition several times, and, the Data, because such has its own partition, does not care one whit.


"Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee."  -- Ben Franklin revisited.

http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forums/45/Computer-Technologies/

Backup, backup, backup! -- Lady Fitzgerald (w7forums)

Clone or Image often! Backup... -- RockE (WSL)


#10 smax013

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 11:20 AM

You have gotten some good answers already, but I thought that I would add a few thoughts.

Backing up can run the gamut from a very simple process (such as a good old "drag and drop" copy of key files to a second drive) to a very complex precess (such multiple, rotating backups to various destinations in such a way that some can be kept off site). Which route you choose to go is a function of 1) what you want to backup (i.e. only user created files or the entire system); 2) why you want to back up (i.e. protect files that cannot be recreated such as photos or home movies or important word processing files or spreadsheets; or maybe you want to be able to have your system backup and running just as it was in the shortest amount of time possible; etc); 3) what potential risks you want to mitigate (i.e. hard drive or SSD dying or its file system being corrupted; malware or ransomware that could damage or encrypt files; loss of the computer/drive due to natural disaster or fire; etc); 4) how much hassle do you want to endure to get the backups done (i.e. do you want it to all be automatic; do you mind having to remember to reconnect a drive; do you mind having to take a drive to an offsite location; do you need to be able to restore files created a day ago or is a week ago or month ago OK?; etc); 5) do you mind using online services and how good is your Internet connection (i.e. this is a possible easy way to get an "off site" backup); and 6) how much money you want to spend.

For #1 (i.e. what you want/need to backup), if you want to backup just key user created files that cannot be replaced, then a very simple backup plan is possible. You could go with just a "drag and drop" copy in Window Explorer to another drive if you don't have a lot of those files. If you have quite a bit of those files, then you do likely want to consider an actual backup program. If you are looking at want to do the entire system or system drive, then you are definitely looking at an actual backup program and preferably one that can either do images or can clone the boot drive. This item can also affect how frequently you want to backup particular data. As Allan hinted at, you don't generally need to backup system/OS files or application files as often as more personal files as they don't change as often. Even many of your personal files might not change very often (i.e. those pictures from some vacation years ago are not likely going to change). OTOH, files that are more regularly changing (such as maybe calendar files, email files, or active "work" [whether personal items being worked on or actual work files] files).

For #2 (i.e. why you want to backup), this again kind of leads to the type of backup you might want to do. In particular, if you want to be back up and running as quickly as possible, then you might consider cloning your drives, in particular your boot drive, as opposed to just doing an image. Using a clone will get you up and running faster than backing up by images...if your boot drive dies, etc, you just pop it out and put in the clone drive. So, it is potentially a matter of minutes (depending on how quickly you can swap drives), while with an image, restoring an entire drive can potentially take hours (depending on the size of the drive and speed of the drive connections).

For #3 (what potential risks do you want to mitigate), this primary deals with what you want to use for your destination of the backup. If you are only trying to mitigate the possibility of a drive dying or file system of a single drive being scrambled, then an external drive or an additional internal drive that is constantly connected is fine. If you are worried about things like malware or even ransomware, then you will want a drive that is NOT constantly connected to the computer (whether internal or external) and likely will want potentially more than one backup set that you rotate through. If you are worried about natural disasters or house fires, then you will want to be able to have an "off site" backup, which can either be in the form of using an online backup service or backing up to an external drive that you detach and store "off site" (i.e. at a relative or friend's house or maybe a safe deposit box). And keep in mind that you might be worried about different potential risks for different types of data. For example, all the potential risks might be of concern for user create, irreplaceable files, while maybe only a drive dying is only a concern for the boot drive that contains the OS and applications (assuming you have all the installer optical discs for the OS and applications, which is another form of a backup). This item can also dictate whether using something like a RAID 1 array might be an option as at least one simple layer of "backup" (ideally not the only layer of backup, but if you only use RAID 1 as a "backup" scheme, then it is better than nothing).

For #4 (what level of hassle do you want to deal with), this is very much in line with #3 in that is largely deals with what the backup destination will be, but can also deal with what type of backup you want to do and how many backup sets you want and how often you backup. For example, if you want to use an automatic backup function of a backup program (i.e. less hassle), then that essentially forces you to have your backup drive constantly connected to the computer. Of course, you could then have another external drive that you periodically connect to make a second backup and that drive could then be kept "off site", but this it more hassle. And there is frequency of backup...generally speaking if you want to be able to get a file back from yesterday that you edited today, then you are looking at more frequent backups which typically means more hassle, unless you use an automatic backup system.

For #5 (whether online services are an option), this is a potential low hassle way to get an "off site" backup, but it is will be highly dependent on how much you are backing up and how good your online connection is...and how much you are willing to trust some company with your files (whether all or some of them). If you have a very slow internet connection and have a lot of files to backup, then an online service is likely not practical. And if you have trust issues with some company "holding" your personal data files, then again it is likely not an option. I know for me, I don't trust anyone but myself with some of my data, while other data I don't mind it being on a server owned by some company.

For #6 (how much you are willing to spend), this will essentially dictate whether you might be willing to spend more money for more drives to have multiple copies, including some at an "off site" location, as well as whether you want to pay money for a backup program or try to find a free one that will do what you want. Of course, there might be other factors (such as wanting to keep the hassle factor down) that might in effect limit how much you spend.

Now, having "blathered" on for a while, I will offer forth that commonly suggested 3-2-1 backup rule. That rule essentially means that you have at least 3 copies of your "data"; with two local copies on at least two different devices (one being your computer and the other being an external hard drive, optical discs, USB flash drive, NAS, etc; and with at least one copy of that data "off site" (whether using an online backup services or external hard drive/USB flash drive stored outside of your house, etc). The idea behind this rule is that it gives you pretty good backup "coverage" with fairly minimal hassle. If you decided the follow the 3-2-1 rule, then you could do it one of two basic ways.

Option #1 would be to get two different external drives (4 if you wanted a separate drive for each of your drives your are backing up). For external drive number 1, you could leave attached to the computer all the time and use an imaging program to automatically backup your drives at whatever frequency suits you (say weekly or maybe more often). For external drive number 2, you only attach when you are ready to do a backup (likely an image backup) and you don't backup to this drive as often (say monthly or even every two months)...and you keep it stored off site after you have done the backup. This would satisfy the 3-2-1 rule. 3 copies...one on the computer, one of external drive #1, and one on external drive #2. Two local copies on two devices...one on the computer and the second on the constantly attached external drive. And one off site copy...on external drive number 2.

Option #2 would be to get one external drive for a local backup copy and then use an online service for an off site backup copy. You could have the backup service backup fairly frequently (assuming your online connection can handle it...you could set it to backup at night). Then the external drive you DO NOT keep constantly attached and just run backups manually less often...or you could leave it attached and run them automatically (the former provides a little more protection, but is more hassle). Again satisfies the 3-2-1 rule.

And with either option, you could slightly expand them a little if you wanted. For example, for both options, you could add in an additional drive that you clone your boot drive to. Along the lines of what Allan said, you then only update/redo the clone when you do OS updates or install new programs. Personally, I do this will my boot drives for both my Macs and Windows computers. Makes it much easier and quicker to be up and running if something happens to the boot drive. I then only update the clones when I do significant OS or application updates or when installing new applications. This also allows me to revert to a previous OS "state" very quickly if Apple or Microsoft bork an OS update. In my case, I use "built" external drives (i.e I buy an internal drive that either exactly matches my boot drive or is nominally the same and put it in an external drive closure of my choice...this allows me to 1> pick the type of connection for the drive enclosure I want which is typically eSATA for my Windows computers and Thunderbolt or maybe USB 3.0 for my Macs and 2> lets me easily pull the drive from the enclosure to then put in the computer if needed as many "manufactured" external drives don't allow for this).

Hope this helps and not just a lot of "noise".

#11 mtmax

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 07:22 PM

Thank you Allan, RolandJS, and smax013, I appreciate all your help.

 

And Holy Mackeral smax013, what a tome!  That should be a sticky!  No blathering, just great information!  Thanks for taking the time.

 

Have downloaded Macrium Reflect Free.  Downloaded 4 different programs, this one had the best documentation, and the most active forums for learning and asking questions.  That was important to me.

 

I have now ordered a 4TB external hard drive.  To keep it simple I plan to disk image my 2 current drives.  And if I need to restore, it will be the whole shebang.  I'll just leave it plugged in and set up a schedule.  Later I will either get another drive, or look at cloud storage.

 

Still have a lot to learn, especially on the restore end, and what is possible.  Once I have more experience, this may change my protocol.

Thanks again, can't tell you how much all this has helped,

Max                      



#12 Allan

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 08:50 AM

It's really a simple process - don't overthink it :)



#13 Scoop8

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 09:14 AM



It's really a simple process - don't overthink it :)

 

w7273l.jpg

 

I use both Cloning & (full) Imaging for my HDD backup routines, with Cloning my preferred method for my short-term backup option.  I clone my OS HDD once every 2 weeks.

 

As smax013 mentioned in his excellent post, Cloning can allow faster recovery in the event of a rollback requirement, depending on the HDD ease of access.  I use "hot-swap" SATA HDD Trays in my PC Tower so access is quick.

 

One thing to consider when discussing HDD backups is to consider testing the recovery process occasionally. 

 

I do an Image restore about once every 4-5 months or so, using a spare blank HDD & booting into a 'rescue/recovery' media (ie, a Macrium CD, etc), and run the HDD restore process.

 

Then I boot up onto the Target/restored HDD & run Windows for a few minutes, testing the usual things, browser launch, etc.

 

That way, I know the boot/recovery media will work (no driver, etc, surprise issues), and the restore process has been verified to work.

 

I used to verify my Cloned HDD's (boot into the Target HDD, etc) but after ~190 Clone processes, with 3 machines over several years, I've only had 2 Clones fail to boot.  Those 2 had interesting failure mechanisms and after duplicating the cloning conditions, I found the cause for those 2 failures.

 

Since a Cloning process rarely fails for me, I verify the Target HDD infrequently.



#14 smax013

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 12:22 PM

I use "hot-swap" SATA HDD Trays in my PC Tower so access is quick.


I do as well...in a way. I use external drive docks such as this:

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB2U3DKR2/

I have one of those attached to my Retina MacBook Pro (that I use as a desktop replacement) by way of Thunderbolt and older eSATA models that I use with my Windows desktop(s). I also do plan to install a internal dock on my currently in progress (actually in progress for a while due to procrastination and other things coming up) Windows desktop build.

And in other cases (i.e. when helping with another person's computer), I can use my universal drive adapter. This is the one that I use, but there are plenty of options from other companies:

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/NewerTech/U3NVSPATA/




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