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Windows 7: Advice/help with my backup strategy

15 Jun 2011   #11

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Instead of trying to to find 1 application which does all of this stuff wonderfully, I approach this from 2 different directions.

1). Data Backups
These are the ones that are critical. If I don't have this data, I'm screwed. These are my documents, my spreadsheets, my videos, my pictures, my browser bookmarks, my email, etc.

For these, I use robocopy (command line tool) and I make a synchronized backup between my hard drive and 2 different external hard drives. 1 drive is always kept offsite in case the house burns down, or somebody breaks in and clears out my computer room.

The syntax is simple and it's run from a batch file
robocopy C:\data\pictures F:\backups\data\pictures /E /MIR
robocopy C:\data\documents F:\backups\data\documents /E /MIR
robocopy C:\data\videos F:\backups\data\videos

The /E says to copy subdirectories which are empty. The /MIR says to mirror the source and destination. Meaning, if I delete a file from C:data\pictures, when I run my .bat file and syncronize again, it's going to be gone from my backup destination as well.

Robocopy only copies files which have changed since the last run, so the first run takes some time, subsequent runs are often complete in less than 1 minute.

The reason I prefer backups using this method include
1). speed
2). The files are not in a backup container file. Thus, I don't need any software to access the files, and I don't have to worry that if the container is corrupt, all files in the container are corrupt.
3). Ease of use. i simply run the backup job on a schedule, or just run the .bat file whenever I think about it.

2). Image backups
I use Acronis True Image Home 2010 and it works great for me. It's never left me hanging. I backup my OS drive regularly (about 1 time per month). Since I paid a whopping $23.99 for this software from NewEgg, it's the one that I use at home as it's more configurable than Macrium...and for me personally, i find the interface a bit easier to use from Acronis (I'm sure others will feel differently, and that is ok).

I have used Macrium pretty extensively at work, and it's worked just fine for me as well.

I usually install my OS, activate it, run Windows update and take an image. I called this one plain vanilla

Then I usually load my standard software setup, make some config changes, and take an image. I call this one apps and mods, clean.

Then I usually run a backup at the end of each month, and keep the last month or two...and this is where I would go back to if I had to recover and get back to where I was. Otherwise, I would use plain vanilla or apps and mods clean and start a bit more from scratch. This is SIMPLE for me to do, because my actual stored separately on my 2 external drives from my robocopy jobs...and putting the data back is a piece of cake.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #12

Windows 7 64 bit

Thanks whs, that was a great tutorial but I have a few questions if you don't mind.

1 - on my system what is the 39 MB Healthy (OEM Partition) that has the diagonal lines going through it?

2 - How much space would yo recommend I leave for the OS partition and how much should I create for my Data partition (I probably currently have about 80GB data, but I plan on creating a whole movie library on my computer so it will definitely get bigger)

3 - When creating images of the OS and the Data partitions, how would I go about restoring them? Would I first restore the OS image and then have to create a new partition and restore the data image?

4 - Do you also recommend creating data backups in addition to images?

Thank yo so much for your help, I am really learning a lot and the information I am getting is extremely valuable!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #13

Windows 7 64 bit


That is a very intriguing method for backups (for data), and it sounds very interesting. I consider myself knowledgeable about computer but not so much when it comes to writing code or creating commands. How much skill would you say it takes to create this type of backup?

Are there any place to find detailed information on writing commands based on what I am looking to do?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

15 Jun 2011   #14
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8


1. That is most likely a tools partition for the BIOS tools. Just leave it alone.

2. Without user data, an OS partition of 50 to 60GBs should be ample. On none of my 4 Win7 systems did I ever go beyond 40GB of used space - and that is on 2 systems where I also have Ubuntu in a Virtual Box. The others are more a bit over 20GB.

3. You can restore those partitions in any sequence and individually. That assumes that the partition structure does still exist.
Should you need to restore to a brand new disk, create the partition structure first. Make sure the partitions are equal or bigger than the originating partitions. For that you can use the bootable CD of this handy program (last entry on the page)- I suggest you download and burn it to CD asap so that you have it in your toolbox.

4. You really only need images of the system and data partitions. You can open those images individually and retrieve any file from it without having to restore the whole bit. That is especially useful for the user data in case you lost a file (which happens to me all the time, LOL) - less useful for the OS partition unless you have a specific corrupted file that you know how to replace.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #15

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by jetablack4 View Post

That is a very intriguing method for backups (for data), and it sounds very interesting. I consider myself knowledgeable about computer but not so much when it comes to writing code or creating commands. How much skill would you say it takes to create this type of backup?
Skill? No type of skill is required for doing this.

Step 1: Create a folder on the C drive and called it C:\backup_scripts
Step 2: Right click and create a new txt file in C:\backup_scripts and called it backup.bat
Step 3: right click on backup.bat and choose Edit
Step 4: put a line for each location you want to backup
C:\windows\system32\robocopy.exe C:\backup_scripts E:\testbackup /E /MIR
Step 5: save the file backup.bat

Step 6: run backup.bat (either double click on it) or run from a command line
start, cmd [enter]
C:\backup_scripts\backup.bat (hit enter)

Your files will have copied from C:\backup_scripts to E:\testbackup (change your source and destination to meet the needs on your computer).

Edit: I will throw together a quick video of setting this up and running it from start to finish. Once complete, I will post back here.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #16

Windows 7 64 bit

Great thanks ppark1 - I was trying to perform this task with the two post you had but I was getting a little confused.

If you can, please show how I can have this bat file run automatically. Your help is appreciated!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #17

Windows 7 64 bit

So after looking into a bunch of different options I think I found a backup solution that I will go with. I think I am going to purchase Macrium Reflect (paid version) as it will give me the ability to do full, incremental and differential backups for imaging and data files. It has the ability to mount an image as a virtual drive either on my own computer through Macrium or on another computer. I like this feature as it ensures me that the image is good. It has the ability to create multiple backup schedules and keep logs of it as well (also allows you to schedule deletion of older backups). Overall, this program seems to be the most straight forward and easy to use while still providing all the features that I am looking for as well as not putting to much of a strain on my computer.

Two questions for anyone who is familiar with Macrium:

1- I currently have my external hard drive connected to my computer via a eSATA cable, will this be a problem?

2- From what I can tell you have the ability to schedule the deletion of older backups, however, do you the ability to keep certain images or backups despite the deletion schedule?

In addition to using Macrium I am going to take whs advice and create a partition for my data to go a long with my OS. I also want to try and implement pparks1 robocopy commands to make copies of my files that are not in a "backup container" in case it becomes corrupt. I think this will be a good start to my backup plan.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #18

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Ok, I have put the video file together on how to create and run a backup.bat file that contains the robocopy syntax. Sorry that the size is small in the video, I should have captured something smaller than my full screen at looks great on the monitor. Anyway, I think this provides the needed information.

With regards to scheduling the job, here is the video for that;

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #19

Windows 7 64 bit

This tutorial is really great, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. This is a great way to simply make a copy of my data files.

One question though - the mirror function only works one way correct? Meaning the destination folder syncs with the source folder, and the source folder will not sync with the destination folder. It did not look so in your tutorial but I just wanted to make sure.

Thanks again!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #20

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Yes, it always mirrors the source to the destination....NOT the other way around.

It was no problem putting it together. This is how I have backed up my data files for years.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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