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Author Topic: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)  (Read 4531 times)

tranglos

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Holidays! I've just delivered my last project to the client and am taking a full month off, yay! And what better way to celebrate than to upgrade the OS? :) I've already tried Win7 once, then returned to XP (with some annoyance) and decided to wait until SP1. SP1 is already at the door, and I have the time now, so I'll be giving 7 another try. So here's where I'm looking for advice:

Suppose I install a piece of software on 7 and then decide to remove all traces of it and return the system to what it was before the installation. I'm thinking in particular of various codecs, which can't always be cleanly removed. As an example, once after installing DivX all my video players started to stutter, and some formats wouldn't play at all - it took some doing to repair that. Basically then, I'm looking for a solution that help avoid crud in the system, including the registry, as well as the Windows and Program Files folders.

Other than disk imaging, what's the optimal choice? (I will be using ShadowProtect Desktop, but restoring the whole drive is still a major, potentially troublesome operation). Is the built-in System Restore function useful in this regard, or do I need  something else? Does anyone have good/bad experience with any tools like that?

tranglos

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2010, 01:19:32 PM »
...As another example, a few months ago the ShadowCopy service died on my XP. The service runs, but whenever a program tries to use it, it crashes. So no more backups of files in use. I have no idea how that happened, but the only way to guard against that kind of problem is some sort of a restore function.

I thought Returnil would fit the bill, but it's a sandbox, probably not what I'm looking for. I don't really know what's available.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2010, 01:27:43 PM »
Not quite your question, but... Safest Win7 codec pack I've found is the one from www.Shark007.net (granted the sites is a bit of an atrocity, but...) - I've used it successfully on both 32 & 64bit machines, and it will play anything. Rented moves, downloaded movies, weird format cell phone movies - It's played everything I've thrown at it.

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2010, 01:30:32 PM »
I haven't used the rollback type softwares.  Just imaging like Macrium.  But you may get a good answer for Windows Seven on this forum:

http://www.sevenforums.com/software/

A lot of MSMVPs hang out there.. as well as us mortals. :)

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2010, 01:34:34 PM »
Not quite your question, but... Safest Win7 codec pack I've found is the one from www.Shark007.net (granted the sites is a bit of an atrocity, but...) - I've used it successfully on both 32 & 64bit machines, and it will play anything. Rented moves, downloaded movies, weird format cell phone movies - It's played everything I've thrown at it.

+1 on Shark's.  The major safety feature is during uninstall it asks you if you wish to put the PC back the way it was before Codec Pack was installed, or keep your settings.  Plus there's a save and restore settings feature.  When I update I always restore settings to what I saved and an attempt to keep everything working.  It's so complicated now with all the media splitters and all the rest that it's just about impossible to remember how you have stuff set up. There's too many option on every filter, splitter and codec.


MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2010, 01:37:50 PM »
Afa the rollback type softwares, iiuc they use the Shadow Copy mechanism and the recovery consists of booting into the saved image, throwing away all changes. Trouble with that scheme is a nasty virus will tend to attack how your system boots.  You really need some kind of total system backup that's easy to restore.  For "voluntary" rollbacks, those softwares may be fine. But anytime you hook some new software into how your system boots it's a risk that what ain't broke gets fixed but good. :)

mouser

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2010, 01:42:54 PM »
my philosophy has always been to prefer disk imaging -- cleaner and less prone to problems.

tranglos

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2010, 02:58:00 PM »
Not quite your question, but... Safest Win7 codec pack I've found is the one from www.Shark007.net (granted the sites is a bit of an atrocity, but...) - I've used it successfully on both 32 & 64bit machines, and it will play anything. Rented moves, downloaded movies, weird format cell phone movies - It's played everything I've thrown at it.

+1 on Shark's.

Thanks for that, I'll use it. However, some apps install codecs forcibly - like J-River Media Center, which I do like for the organization features, but which installs and updates ffdshow without so much as a prompt or a notification. And I like trying out software - never yet found an all-round media player I would be 100% satisfied with, so I'd love to be able to quickly roll back.

tranglos

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2010, 03:02:27 PM »
my philosophy has always been to prefer disk imaging -- cleaner and less prone to problems.

I suppose this is the safest and most complete method. However, in my experience (see link in my top post) it wasn't at all smooth, since a rollback involved manually editing the MBR, as ShadowProtect insisted on not restoring it exactly the way it was backed up, but was making changes which prevented the system from booting. Plus, there image files are huge, so it's difficult to keep them around for long, except for a handful of "milestone" images, like a "clean OS install" and "OS plus basic necessities".

Do you make incremental images, Mouser?

mouser

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2010, 05:25:09 PM »
Quote
Do you make incremental images, Mouser?

no.

as i described in my "power-user backup guide", i do incremental versioned backups of my documents, programming source code, etc.  but not the full computer.

then i do images (and keep a few older images) of the entire C hard drive.

tranglos

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2010, 06:11:09 PM »
Quote
Do you make incremental images, Mouser?

no.

That's exactly what I've been doing. Which is why it seems to me that a full drive image just to install and try a piece of software is like swatting flies with a BFG, and really time-consuming. But I've just read up on RollBack Rx and its brethren, and they all look like trouble, even if the restore procedure is in theory a neat two-clicks-and-reboot affair.


mouser

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2010, 06:30:31 PM »
Quote
a full drive image just to install and try a piece of software

virtual machines are the way to go for trying software.  totally non-intrusive on your real pc.

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2010, 07:07:29 PM »
The codec and video thing is a nightmare. Often I find if I go to a new version of some video software that was working fine, it breaks.  Backing off to the working version does no good.  Even a restore point doesn't always fix it.  The stuff is getting so complicated it's like you have to freeze it once you get it to work.

I don't know how much stuff you have on your system drive.  I like Macrium because I can back up to external drives very quickly.  But I keep the usage level low on the system partition.  Makes it less of a chore to restore.  Still, I'm not thrilled about doing it if I don't have to. :)

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2010, 09:16:24 PM »
Not quite your question, but... Safest Win7 codec pack I've found is the one from www.Shark007.net (granted the sites is a bit of an atrocity, but...) - I've used it successfully on both 32 & 64bit machines, and it will play anything. Rented moves, downloaded movies, weird format cell phone movies - It's played everything I've thrown at it.

+1 on Shark's.

Thanks for that, I'll use it. However, some apps install codecs forcibly - like J-River Media Center, which I do like for the organization features, but which installs and updates ffdshow without so much as a prompt or a notification. And I like trying out software - never yet found an all-round media player I would be 100% satisfied with, so I'd love to be able to quickly roll back.


Hmmm, I'm rapidly changing my opinion.  I just updated and now even if I select Custom Install I still get the BingBar and Window Live Sign On Assistant whether I like it or not.  I don't really want to uninstall 2 things every time I install one thing.  It's a royal pita!!

Stoic Joker

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2010, 07:26:39 AM »
Hmmm, I'm rapidly changing my opinion.  I just updated and now even if I select Custom Install I still get the BingBar and Window Live Sign On Assistant whether I like it or not.  I don't really want to uninstall 2 things every time I install one thing.  It's a royal pita!!
:huh: Shark's doing that?!? I've got an if it ain't broke don't fix it policy when it comes to multimedia stuff. So I saved the install pack that worked back when and just keep reusing it (Yeah ThumbDrives). WMP with the compact corporate interface/skin is all I've ever used media player wise (ok I did fiddle with BS player for a bit back when - but I'm done now).

If the updates are now borked that does totally suck.

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2010, 11:40:18 AM »
I'm trying Matroska Pack. But on another forum people are telling me to quit bothering with packs altogether.  If this latest one doesn't do it for me I guess I'll resort to manual one at a time configuration.  Just so many settings on these media things it seems like a month of reading. :(

sajman99

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2010, 01:24:28 PM »
...on another forum people are telling me to quit bothering with packs altogether. ...

Good advice IMO. No doubt I haven't delved into video to the extent you have, MilesAhead, but many of these codec packs offered as all-in-one cures can actually hurt a heckuva lot more than they help. If one problem gets solved while another develops, it just becomes a huge slippery slope (ie. royal pita). Not to mention all the add-on/toolbar crapola that we have to constantly watch for.

MilesAhead

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2010, 06:01:59 PM »
@tranglos sorry to hijack your thread.  We get a lot of developer interaction on this site so I'm hoping we can get some in-depth explanations how these rollback and other schemes work. I played around with VMs and I'm not all that thrilled doing it that way. It would be nice if there were viable alternatives.

@sajman99 I found out what was driving me nuts.  By updating the codec pack, I messed up BDRebuilder setup.  With BDRebuilder you must use the FFDShow and Matroska Splitter downloads from the BDRebuilder beta thead or you never get anywhere.  I hadn't noticed the report on bad versions because it scrolled up in the log dialog to where only OKs where left showing. I thought something else was messing me up.

sajman99

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2010, 12:48:20 PM »
@tranglos: Comodo Time Machine may be worth a look.   http://www.comodo.co...on/data-recovery.php :
Quote
Comodo Time Machine (CTM) is a powerful system rollback utility that allows users to quickly restore their computers to an earlier point in time. CTM 'snapshots' are a complete record of your entire system (including the registry, critical operating system files and user created documents).

As others have mentioned, I also prefer imaging as a recovery solution so I haven't personally tested Comodo Time Machine. Early CTM reports were a bit sketchy with folks indicating that uninstalling CTM hosed their MBR. Now that the software has been out a while, hopefully any major issues have been resolved. You may want to check the Comodo forums to investigate any existing issues with this freeware.

Regards
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 12:54:14 PM by sajman99 »

4wd

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Re: Best app ore method to restore a Win7 system? (not a disk image)
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2010, 11:54:42 PM »
Another thread hijack:

I thought I'd try Shark007's codec pack since it seemed people were saying good things about it........stupid me, (will I never learn?)  :(

A file that before installation I had no trouble playing in MPC-HC, no longer would play the video even though MPC-HC is set to use it's internal filters.

The config interface for Shark007's codec pack is confusing compared to ffdshow, IMO, or maybe I'm just used to ffdshow.

So, after all of 20 minutes Shark007 got removed and I went back to XviD 1.22 (x86) and ffdshow x64 - and everything works again.

Codec packs - BAH!