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Last post Author Topic: In search of ... reasonable backup software  (Read 6129 times)

barney

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In search of ... reasonable backup software
« on: December 31, 2013, 02:30:02 AM »
Looking for effective working reasonable real backup solutions.

Just ran across this, Backing Up Gets You Only Half Way There by Dana Cardwell, and I'm pretty close to full agreement - just don't think he went far enough  :P.

The assessment mirrors a problem I just encountered.  I had some browser-affecting bit(s) of software on a system that brought up independent ads for almost every page I actuated.  Browser - and system - slowdowns were significant.  Tried all manner of suggestions - some of 'em here on DC, all to no avail.  So I used RollbackPC to revert to a [very] much earlier state.  That worked.  Aha!, sez me, "I'll just restore the lost data bits from a recent [daily] backup".

Considering my history with backups, the backup restore - not unexpectedly! - failed.  So, I've lost a pregnancy (~nine (9) months) of data, some of which I'd consider to be critical to my usage(s).

I've had trouble with backup since DOS 2.1 - I think 3.2 was the only one (1) that ever worked for me.  I've tried - and actually bought - any number of Windows backup systems, but none have performed.  (Don't get cocky, Linux users, same problem(s) there  :P.)

OK, how do ya test a backup?  Ya restore it, of course.  And that has caused more OS reinstalls than I care to consider.  I'm willing to accept that I'm doing something wrong at any given time, but c'mon, ~28 (twenty-eight) years of failed backups?  I'm willing to accept that the only common denominator is me during that period, but I don't thimk I could do it wrong that many times.

So I'm still/yet/again in search of a backup system that will work reliably in most all conditions.

I used Acronis True Image - don't recall version - to backup a Dell system with a dying hard drive.  The restore would not restore to a different hard drive - hardware signature issues I suppose.  I understand that Acronis has since addressed that issue, but it doesn't help me now.

I've tried several *nix variations of backup capability, all for naught.

So.  I'd really like to find a [functional|effective] backup resolution.

Any suggestions?

mwb1100

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2013, 03:21:02 AM »
I have become convinced that full system backup/restore utilities are really just a pipe dream.

I've moved to much simpler backup schemes that copies my data files to one or more network locations and/or external drives. If I need to perform some sort of system restore due to a failed system drive or pernicious malware infection, I'll reinstall the system from scratch then reinstall all the programs I want/need from the backed up installation files.  Then restore my data files (which are ultimately just plain-old file copies). I believe this to be more reliable than 'full system backups'.  I haven't yet had to perform a restore under duress, but I have recovered the occasional file that got mistakenly deleted.  Since the backups were just copies of the files, the restore was just a matter of find the location of the backup file and copy it over.  I didn't even bother with the backup utility's 'restore' functionality.

The last couple of times I've reinstalled the OS were not due to a failed drive, so what I did was buy a new hard drive, pull the old one out of the machine, install the OS, then attach the old drive to the secondary SATA connection (or in one case to a USB adapter - which was admittedly slow), then copy the data files over to the new drive.

Then I stashed the old drive on my bookshelf in case there was something I neglected to copy over.

So in those system reinstalls, I technically didn't even use my backups.  But I did make sure to have the backups in case I did something stupid that would have caused the original drive to be erased or something.

I'm using SyncBack Pro which copies files as plain old files.  As long as those copies aren't corrupted, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to recover them.

There are many similar backup/sync utilities that use non-proprietary formats.

tomos

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2013, 06:45:19 AM »
+1 to seperating data from OS/programmes. The data backups being ultimately the most important.

I dont fully understand the details of you losing the data, but it hurts to read it :(

When you say "I'll just restore the lost data bits from a recent [daily] backup"
   1) what backup software did you use?
   2) was that backup not incremental - i.e. did you not have older versions of it?


I'd recommend some sort of incremental backup. One that stores the files in zip so that tthe backup can be easaily manually browsed.
Incremental backup will build up, so, probably worthwhile investing in software that can weed out backups, saving one per week or whatever.
Tom

Giampy

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2013, 06:46:54 AM »
We know that several people get a bad restore from an image.

An user said an interesting thing: the image must be created from a not running OS, I mean from outside, from a backup program functioning in an USB key.
May that advice be the way to create a safe/safer image?
"A refrigerator without beer is like a body without soul"

tomos

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2013, 06:55:40 AM »
Acronis had a nice feature that you could browse the image/backup and copy out files from that. But yeah, Acronis gets a lot of bad press. I havent used it for a few years - before that I was lucky and it worked for my purposes.

People always do say to check the image by restoring. I prefer to hope for the best with the image-backup - and then have multiple backups of important data. Backing up data is a pain though, unless you have a data partition and backup the whole thing regularly. My backup has grown organically, which means it's a bit of a mess and some things get more neglected than other. Might make a spreadsheet (or add info to outliner) to make sure everything is being backed up.
Tom

Curt

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2013, 07:11:01 AM »
My Win 7 is unable to backup at all. A handful of years ago I deleted the wrong file, or something, end ever since Windows has refused to create a backup. But for the following reason, I don't care!:

I backup every document 1:1 twice, to two external USB drives. USB drives are so cheap, I see no reason to compress data. I believe compression is merely yet another weak point, and backup space is so cheap, you will almost have to be cheap yourself, not to use 1:1, even twice!

I don't care too much if the operating system is backed, it can easily be re-installed (and repaired at the same time!). But this is probably because I already have purchased a Win 8 disc.

In my opinion it is not too important what software you are using, but what the risks are.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2013, 07:32:34 AM by Curt »

TaoPhoenix

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2013, 11:18:01 AM »
There's gonna be a whole flood this year of this... but "back forward".

For ex I am basically happy on Win XP (with minor needling of Skwire!), but if MS is about to quit even issuing security updates for it, one of these years I need to move to Win 7.

So then you get the huge issue of "what do you backup" - you can't precisely back up installed programs into an upgrade.

Now I DO have a lot of cruft on my comp and a fresh install may not be all that bad ... if competently done!

So elsewhere I went to that Backup2 program (with the funny spelling!) and copied over my "basic data". So that will get me close and I really only use 20 of the 100 installed practice programs on my comp...

A long time ago I used to use a double config called "Screen" and "Project" - this machine has taken a pounding, but it's not unheard of to go Dual Image and let the C Drive get pulverized with test pipe dreams and D Drive only gets the "real stuff".



MilesAhead

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2013, 12:22:53 PM »
It does seem like this problem should have been solved a long time ago.  I don't know enough about mini-computers to know if business has an easier time of it.  The most novel approach recommended to me was by a system builder on another forum.  He's a docking station enthusiast.  He does your basic backup imaging(I think he uses Macrium.)  But periodically he puts an internal drrive that is identical make/model/size to the system drive in his PC, in a docking station and restores the image of his working system to that drive.  He stores the drive away.  Now if he has a drive failure he opens the box, replaces the HD, and boots to a working system.

Of course if there's nothing wrong with the boot drive physically, then he just does an image restore from the drive in the dock, booting the Macrium rescue disk from USB or whatever.

For myself I wish there was an easier way to slipstream the OS and applications you know for sure you will install, esp. if they have a copy protection.  So you would boot a DVD and install the OS along with your basic slew of applications, in one shot.  This would be an alternative to putting things back the way they were using an image.  Like if you wanted to get back to an uncluttered system or something.

But if someone maintains mini-computers I'm curious what they do. My older brother used to work at DEC and I know they did tape backups every day.  In fact one of his jobs was to go on customer sites and calibrate their tape drives.  But I didn't really get all the details.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2013, 12:28:18 PM by MilesAhead »

Stoic Joker

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2013, 01:38:39 PM »
Assuming you're using Win7 the Shadow Copy Services/Previous versions option has served me well in the past.

I've also moved a Domain Controller to a different hardware configuration using the built-in Windows backup software. Overall I think the biggest failure point with any restore operation is in not taking the time to firmly and completely understand the ramifications of what is going to be overwritten during the restore.

The built-in Windows system restore software leaves the user data areas of the drive untouched. Most 3rd party backup solutions OTOH...do not.

I've had many clients call asking what the recovery options were for their files after doing an OEM factory (image...) restore. My typical response is to tell them save your money, and kiss your files good bye. Because outside of a ($$$$) professional service the chances of recovering anything are totally shit.

IainB

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2013, 09:30:02 PM »
FreeFileSync is an excellent backup tool: FreeFileSync - automated backup - Mini-Review.

AOMEI Backupper might be as good/better (backup functionality not yet fully tested) AOMEI Backupper FREE + AOMEI Partition Assistant FREE - Mini-Review.

barney

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2013, 11:53:58 PM »
My current/previous problem is several install-once pieces that are no longer available.  In order to recover [?] them, a full disk image is requisite, wherein lies my dilemma.  Not the first time  :mad:.  There's no viable way to recover what was lost, but I'd certainly like to find something viable for the future, as this will happen again.  Syncless and FreeFileSync work well, but they don't do well save for data (been using both for a while, now).  I hate it when both belt and suspenders fail  :'(.

MilesAhead

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2014, 07:15:41 AM »
I haven't tried Clone as restore myself.  But Macrium Reflect claims this allows restoring to a HD with different capacity.  I guess with SSD poplarity there's incentive now to be able to take images of large "spinners" where the used space is within the capacity of the SSD and clone onto the SSD or smaller conventional HD.

It is tough with copy protection as the software publisher is not going to detail the schemes used.  You are kind of stuck with not knowing until you have to try it under pressure.


Shades

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2014, 09:32:58 AM »
The design decision of MS to put everything into the C:\ partition I will never understand or appreciate.
Hence, I always make sure that there are at least 4 partitions in my PC. Now I should mention that in my lifetime I only bought once a Dell and once an Acer PC. Those experiences have made me build all my PC's after that.

C:\  - will contain only the Windows files (no user profiles, to temp files, no swap, no program files).
D:\  - will contain only 3rd party software that I install + portable apps.
E:\  - will contain only data.
F:\  - will contain all temporary files and swap file (I always disable hibernation and sleep options, these always have been too problematic to me. As this setup is actually fast with booting, hibernation and sleep become useless in my opinion anyway).

Initially this is  (a lot) more work, but reconstructing a PC into a working state again is easier, making backups is easier and even a Windows recovery will not have that dramatic effect on your data (being stored separately has that effect, you know).

Each time you install a piece of software from a 3rd party software, you do need to keep a watchfull eye out, because some of these want to install (some part of it) to the C:\ partition anyway, even if you indicate that it shouldn't. Whenever I notice this, these pieces of software are removed and the search for a portable version or alternative software begins.

Anyway, when a piece of software does find its way to my system, I'll make a backup of the registry with ERUNT (to my E:\ partition). First restoring a Windows System Restore point and then restoring the appropriate ERUNT registry backup is a very fast way to be running in a good state again without having to install and/or reconfigure the 3rd party software you need/like. 

- As the content from the C:\ Partition hardly changes, it is easy create an image from it that doesn't require much updating anymore.
- The content of the D:\ partition isn't changing that often either, so you can choose to make an image from this partition if you don't install a lot of software. Even if you do install/remove software often, using incremental backup software is a fast way to secure your software.
- Making a backup from the content of the E:\ partition could be as easy as a simple file copy to a different (USB) hard disk, re-writable DVD/Blu-Ray, tape or other computer.
- The content from the F:\ partition can be disregarded at any time any event may occur.

This setup has already saved me a lot of work rebuilding/reconstructing (Windows based) Oracle database servers that run databases varying in sizes of 50GByte to 400GByte. Also personal computers that had their hard disk(s) fail. An hour or two of downtime at most and then run again if nothing has happened, makes me glad I sacrificed time and effort to create these Windows setups.

cranioscopical

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2014, 10:55:03 AM »
He does your basic backup imaging(I think he uses Macrium.)  But periodically he puts an internal drive that is identical make/model/size to the system drive in his PC, in a docking station and restores the image of his working system to that drive.  He stores the drive away.  Now if he has a drive failure he opens the box, replaces the HD, and boots to a working system.

Of course if there's nothing wrong with the boot drive physically, then he just does an image restore from the drive in the dock, booting the Macrium rescue disk from USB or whatever.

FWIW, I do the same thing, also with Macrium Reflect. Luckily, on my main box I have a twin-bay drive caddy with two SSDs, so its a piece of cake to do this. That caddy is one of the most convenient items I've ever had on a computer.

I used to use Rollback RX when on XP but even the latest versions of it hose my W7 and W8 systems.

I have yet to see Macrium fail. For example, I just restored a four-drive system to Win7 from Win8.

Having a clone of the boot drive is useful but I tend to forget to keep it up to date, whereas I do remember to carry out regular backups, rotating the backup media (I know that's illogical).


MilesAhead

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2014, 03:03:15 PM »
@Shades a well thought out strategy.  That's the type of setup a consultant should create for clients.

@cranioscopical wish I had some of those. I never saw a HD R & R on a PS/2 but one time the IT guy came by to replace the 3 1/2" floppy.  I was envious as it was a zero tools operation.  The dude held down a spring latch while pulling the drive out and just slid the new one in.  I think total time to replace the drive was 10 seconds max.  (It took that long because he was gossiping with me at the time.) 

IainB

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2014, 06:54:53 PM »
@Shades: Nice one.   :Thmbsup:
I too share the horror of having to recover from disk partitions and system file structures mandated by Microsoft.
However, since I never build PCs for myself (I have always used laptops), since about 1990 I started to set up my data and third party programs so as to be able to be separate/discrete from and yet coexist within whatever strictures MS imposed on me with their latest prevailing OSes. It was initially DOS, which became DRDOS/4DOS, then successive incarnations of Windows.

The way I worked around the strictures was by working within the partitions mandated by MS.
Then, one day in 1998, whilst working on an urgent report for a client assignment in Thailand, my laptop's ( Win95 OS) keyboard controller failed and I was unable to continue working. In desperation, I shot over to Panthip Plaza (a massive IT emporium in Bangkok), took my laptop to a PC supply/repair shop and asked them to fix it, and said that I needed to be working again that same day. They said it would take at least 1½ days elapsed time to diagnose, find a replacement part supply, and fix. So I bought a new (Toshiba) laptop with Win98 OS and asked them how I could get my data off the failed laptop hard drive. They suggested something relatively new - a portable hard drive case to house the failed laptop's 2½" drive.
Sold. I was back at work on my report about 2 hours later after restoring the necessary proggies (MS Office and some 3rd party stuff) to the new laptop from some MS Office disks and the PHD.

Since then, my objective has been to be always in the position where I am able - if necessary - to set up a basic minimum working environment peculiar to my needs, on a new laptop, at the drop of a hat. Data accessibility is fundamental to such a strategy.
To better enable that, I then became rigorous about setting up specific main directories on the C: drive - directories with names that I have consistently continued to use, and have added to, over the years since. Certain types of data go into each directory, whose names are never changed, though their contents do change. Backup to and restore from portable hard drives is thus a breeze.

I have a single directory called "UTIL" for all third-party applications installed on the laptop. With the advent of Win7-64, I have tended to relax that rule, as some third-party applications are designed to install in different program directories (e.g., x86 and 64-bit) and make use of "Application Data" directories drives. Where there are some benefits to allowing that rule to be broken, and they override the obvious disadvantages, I let them through, though I too prefer the "portable" versions wherever feasible.

My recent experience with successfully cloning a failing hard drive to a new drive - refer AOMEI Backupper FREE + AOMEI Partition Assistant FREE - Mini-Review - has given me pause for thought though. I have no interest in creating backup images and then getting stuck into maintaining/recreating them in up-to-date state, so the path I took seems to have been the simplest and most effective in my situation. Thank goodness for Hard Drive Sentinel giving me so much early warning!

Giampy

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2014, 12:41:29 PM »
With reference to http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=35130.0 I take advantage of this thread to ask (again):  would you ever use those thin (*) external hard disks for backup?

(*) pocket hard disks, thickness 13...15 mm / 0.5" about (the only ones available in the shops)
"A refrigerator without beer is like a body without soul"

tomos

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2014, 01:40:03 PM »
^answered in the other thread.
Tom

IainB

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2014, 04:09:50 AM »
...So I bought a new (Toshiba) laptop with Win98 OS and asked them how I could get my data off the failed laptop hard drive. They suggested something relatively new - a portable hard drive case to house the failed laptop's 2½" drive.
Sold. I was back at work on my report about 2 hours later after restoring the necessary proggies (MS Office and some 3rd party stuff) to the new laptop from some MS Office disks and the PHD. ...

Just to confirm, I used the dead laptop's 2½" drive in the PHD (portable hard drive) case that I bought for that purpose. From memory, the connection was via a PCI card (Peripheral Component Interconnect), then called a "PCMCIA" (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association).
Nowadays, I use PHDs with USB interfaces, including one which also has a Fastwire (or something) interface as well.

Note: "PCMCIA" also apparently stands for "People Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms").    ;)

cranioscopical

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2014, 05:14:12 PM »
Note:[/b] "PCMCIA" also apparently stands for "People Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms").
And "USB"?  ;)
 

barney

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2014, 09:01:41 PM »
Note:[/b] "PCMCIA" also apparently stands for "People Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms").
And "USB"?  ;)
 


Sorry, but as liberal as DC is  :-\, that language cannot be used here  :P.

cranioscopical

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2014, 09:53:01 PM »
Sorry, but as liberal as DC is  :-\, that language cannot be used here  :P.
Okay, I'll back up a bit.

IainB

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2014, 02:12:50 AM »
Note:[/b] "PCMCIA" also apparently stands for "People Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms").
And "USB"?  ;)
Sorry, but you've lost me there.

Shades

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2014, 07:09:34 AM »
Sorry, but as liberal as DC is  :-\, that language cannot be used here  :P.
Okay, I'll back up a bit.

Ok, copy that...

myarmor

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Re: In search of ... reasonable backup software
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2014, 08:26:10 AM »
We know that several people get a bad restore from an image.

An user said an interesting thing: the image must be created from a not running OS, I mean from outside, from a backup program functioning in an USB key.
May that advice be the way to create a safe/safer image?
Well it might, but it shouldn't be needed.

I use StorageCraft's ShadowProtect Desktop 5 (not free), and I've never really had any issues with it. It is a bit expensive initially (but includes 1 year mainteance).

Their backup solutions is mostly targeted as businesses and such so they focus on doing what they're supposed to, and doing it well, instead of adding lots of bells and whistles.

It can quickly image just about any drive/partition, supports differentials and incrementals, can program times and whatnot.
For a full drive/partition (that is in use) restore you have to boot a CD/DVD/whatever (most recent version uses a Linux iso, or you can build a WinPE iso).
It restores a drive/partition very quickly. It can do bare-metal restores.

You can also mount the image as a drive while in windows, so its easy access for extracting files from it.
One thing I haven't tried, but which it also says it can, is booting an image as a VM.

Btw, I'm not affiliated with the product, I'm just a satisfied customer and has been for 4+ years.

Edit: I just noticed, it apparently got PC Magazine's Editors Choice for the third time sept 2013.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2014, 08:54:51 AM by myarmor »