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Windows 7: How to replicate "Time Machine" on Windows 7?

30 Jul 2011   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 
How to replicate "Time Machine" on Windows 7?

I am extremely interested making use of the Volume Shadow Service (VSS) to replicate what Time Machine on Mac OS X does. According to Wikipedia Time Machine makes hourly backups.

I know that in Windows 7 there is the "Previous Version" shell extension that allows you to restore your files from a backup or restore point created through VSS. The problem is the restore points are not often created and it is difficult to predict when it will be created barring windows updates, driver installations and other major changes to the system.

I have looked up at how VSS works, according to Microsoft VSS doesn't initiate any kind of backup/restore point creation by itself. It needs a Requestor to initiate it.

The first clue of the Requestor that creates restore points for the "Previous Version" is System Restore. According to Microsoft:
Quote:
Previous versions are automatically saved as part of a restore point
So I went digging around and found it in Task Scheduler under: Microsoft -> Windows -> SystemRestore. I then proceeded to modify the trigger so that it will only run at startup and every 1 hour indefinitely. I further removed all conditions to make sure that it runs. Furthermore I manually run it from the Task Scheduler.

I then did a test. I created a non-empty text file on the desktop. Then I ran the task manually from the Task Scheduler and waited till it's status is Ready.

I then proceeded to delete this text file and tried to use "Previous Version" on the Desktop folder but it says "No previous versions are available".

At this point I wanted to explore the shadow copy itself to see what is being captured and what is not. I found a way to do it directly by creating a symbolic link to it as explained here. I cannot find the file that I have deleted and therefore I concluded that it was not captured by the System Restore.

Therefore:
1) Is my assumption that System Restore which creates Restore Points which contains the previous versions of the files on my system correct?

2) I am not sure if running System Restore actually creates a Restore Point. Is there a way for me verify if a new Restore Point has been created?

3) Assuming that it doesn't create a Restore Point, is there a way for me to force it to? By changing registry values? Settings? Passing specific parameters?

What I suspect is happening is that System Restore do create Restore Points but there is an internal setting somewhere limiting creation of new Restore Points dependent on the time of the last created Restore Point.

Another approach to get this working, from the System Protection tab in System one can manually create a Restore Point. I might consider creating a task in Task Scheduler that replicates manually creating the Restore Point but I am not sure how to create that task.

I hope someone can give me some pointers. Thanks in advance!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
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30 Jul 2011   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 x2 + x86 + Windows 8.1 x64 x2
 
 

One major issue you will have to take into account is that although, both Restore Points and Previous Versions use the VSS service, they operate on different file sets.
Restore points do not include any user data, but just back-up system settings, the previous versions is designed for user files.

you should be able to create a system restore point at regular intervals by use of the Task Scheduler

you could set-up a regular incremental system backup to run hourly with either the built-in or a 3rd party app which should run quickly and back-up system and data though this will duplicate the functions already in-place
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Jul 2011   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1
 
 

I think the standard windows RP task checks to ensure that at least one RP is created per week. You could try the shortcut in this tutorial and create a scheduled task for it. It works, I have it running to create one every day.
System Restore Point Shortcut

Not sure if it creates previous versions though.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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30 Jul 2011   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by kado897 View Post
I think the standard windows RP task checks to ensure that at least one RP is created per week. You could try the shortcut in this tutorial and create a scheduled task for it. It works, I have it running to create one every day.
System Restore Point Shortcut

Not sure if it creates previous versions though.
It does seem to create previous versions so your scenario should work. The caveat though is that does not replace a proper file backup as an image backup as opposed to a clone does not back up shadow storage so on restoration all RPs are lost. The other problem is that you will quickly fill up your assigned shadow storage.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Jul 2011   #5
Arc

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit SP 1
 
 

Time machine got a killer look

There are a lot of third party apps for windows that can do the same thing as Time machine does, like Macrium Reflect, Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost and Comodo Time Machine, but you will not get that looks !
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Jul 2011   #6
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Barman58 View Post



you should be able to create a system restore point at regular intervals by use of the Task Scheduler
Hellocapslockwizard, welcome to Seven Forums!




Have a look at Method Two of this tutorial for some info.
System Restore Point : Create at System Startup


My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Jul 2011   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

kado897: Thanks for the link to the VBScript it works perfectly. I have scheduled the script to run every hour.

I do understand that this is not a real backup solution because it is stored on the same hard drive. But I don't intend it to be a real backup solution, I want to be able to recover files that I have accidentally deleted and/or modified so that at worst I loose 1 hour of work.

Furthermore, I don't mind it filling up my assigned shadow storage because if I am not mistaken it will start deleting old shadow volumes to make room for the new shadow volumes. Again as I said earlier it is not meant to be real backup solution.

Though for my next weekend project I might try to get the shadow volumes saved in an external hard drive which require some coding work. I have seen APIs that will allow me to control VSS through Windows Management Instrumentation. I have read online of people speculating that some of the backup software available actually uses VSS to do the backup for them.

Thanks again! =)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Jul 2011   #8

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1
 
 

That's good to know. Personally I don't make so many changes that I need an hourly "backup" so I have it scheduled to run once a day. If I need an interim RP I've also got the shortcut conveniently placed. I've also set it up so that if the PC is off at the scheduled time it will run when logged back in.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Aug 2011   #9

Windows 7 64bit Home Premium Enhanced
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Arc View Post
Time machine got a killer look

There are a lot of third party apps for windows that can do the same thing as Time machine does, like Macrium Reflect, Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost and Comodo Time Machine, but you will not get that looks !
That's not entirely true. Macrium Reflect and Acronis True Image offer general backup schemes as well as the ability to create a drive image you can use to restore your whole system from. Norton Ghost only offers general backup schemes and no longer offers a way to back up an image of the whole system to restore from.

Comodo Time Machine, works like Rollback RX, both different from the 3 above. They create a type of restore point called a snapshot similar to a drive image that can only reside in a protected area of your hard disk in a layer of the drive underneath the windows partition.

These programs set up their own operating system shell to boot before windows boots. This Mini OS is used to restore the snapshot from in case your windows won't boot. This is great for when a virus wipes out your entire C drive or windows partition. the C drive can be completely deleted, and this system will boot and restore your whole windows OS, just like you left it from your last snapshot, in about 10 minutes. This is really awesome great security - when it works.

I have used all of these programs and for these last two Comodo Time Machine and Rollback RX the problem comes when they fail to work properly or not restore the snapshot.. your sunk with no way to recover - unless you have another disk image to restore from on dvd or a network. In other words, use them for everyday use, but don't rely on them too heavily. Always have a current backup image on hand, just in case.

One big advantage with these when they work over a regular windows system restore point is that they are not on the C drive. A virus cannot touch them to corrupt or delete them.

CapslockWizard, yes Marcium Reflect, Paragon backup & restore, Easus ToDo Backup, Acronis true image, DriveImage XML and others all use the VSS " shadow copy" system from Win 7 to make their Images. They in this respect are little more than front ends for Win 7's VSS with a few added backup features thrown in of their own. I have recently had trouble using everyone of these apps to image a freshly installed Win 7 and they all failed for one reason or another. I wasted 20 dvd's and 2 days fighting with it. Then I learned about the built in Image creation and restore of Win 7 and this worked flawlessly. I suspect that some of those extras in those programs conflicted with Win 7's VSS and caused the images to fail.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 How to replicate "Time Machine" on Windows 7?





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