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Windows 7: Better to backup with a hard drive or optical media?

27 Apr 2012   #1
Colonel Travis

Black Label 7 x64
Better to backup with a hard drive or optical media?

I've got 2 hard drives, thinking about at least one more for a RAID system or for nothing but storage, and dumping DVD backups of everything I've got altogether because of eventual data degradation on that medium, physical space in the closet, cost of DVDs, etc. Is this smart or dumb?

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27 Apr 2012   #2
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 10 build 10166

Hello Colonel,

I think a backup on a HDD would be the safest of the two. Having backups of anything critical on separate multiple media is the best method though. This way if one should fail for whatever reason, you will still have another backup of it.
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27 Apr 2012   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Ensure that whatever you back up on, you can store offsite. If your house is robbed, or burns to the ground, a hard drive or optical disk in a closet isn't going to be of much use.

For this reason, I sync everything to a pair of external hard drives that I keep off site.
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27 Apr 2012   #4

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1

I have everything of importance, including system images, backed up on two external HDDs. Never just one (better than none I guess). Documents like letters, financial information I also store on USBs. A problem with DVDs is that your rewriter will also go out alignment a bit over time.
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27 Apr 2012   #5

Main - Windows 7 Pro SP1 64-Bit; 2nd - Windows Server 2008 R2

I used to do regular backups to DVD religiously. (Meaning I prayed they would work when I needed them.) Once it got to the point where a half-dozen discs wouldn't cut it I started using a hard drive. I now have a full backup on one hard drive in my main computer and nightly backups from that transferred to a separate hard drive on a different computer. I have stuff I could in no way ever replace backed up on a Dropbox account, too. It's one thing to have to re-download a boatload of stuff, another to lose all your digital pictures, school reports, etc. I still throw stuff on a disc from time to time, too. (Mainly things I am super-paranoid about losing.)
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27 Apr 2012   #6

Windows 10 64bit Technical Preview

HDD because DVDs have the risk of being scratched while HDDs are more secure unless you drop the HDD hard enough to break the spinning disk or the sata pin on the back breaks off. I would trust my HDD more then my DVDs for important media.
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27 Apr 2012   #7
Kevin Ismail

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Yes HDD and large flashdisk are the most secure backup recently. I put one in office filing cabinet, have another in my backpack running with me back and forth between home and office.

The issue I'm thinking now is not about how to secure the data anymore, but how to secure the HDD physically. Put it in safe deposit box kindda funny thing to do isn't it?

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27 Apr 2012   #8
Colonel Travis

Black Label 7 x64

A HDD it shall be. Thanks guys.
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27 Apr 2012   #9

Windows 7 Pro-x64

Yeah, I'll never trust DVDs any more. Lost a HUGE library of pictures, articles and technical data on antique cars. It was an accumulation of research over many years that I carried forward to new computers. I always did a verify and the discs always checked out. Well, the old PC's DVD and HDD died within a week of each other and I replaced them. As it turns out, not all DVD drives will read discs written by another. The same held true with the current new PC. I tried reading the discs on two other PCs and they wouldn't even que-up. I suspect the old DVD was failing for quite some time even though it passed its own verify. Apparently, it just verified its own recording errors.

I'm slowly rebuilding the libraries but it's a chore and doubt that it will ever be as complete. I even tried reading some of the files from old floppies but they were dead. I also have a few tapes but nothing that will read them. I doubt the magnetic media is even readable now. I've come to the conclusion that HDD drives are cheap enough to keep at least two backup versions. I also have an internal that's dedicated to backups so I really have three drives of backup. I rotate the external drives off-site too. And USB 3.0 external cases are definitely faster. Haven't tried eSATA.
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28 Apr 2012   #10

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

I will recommend the unpopular choice of DVD backups if you have a small amount of data (less than 5 GB or whatever will fit on a single disk) and only need them for a short period of time. Example: source code backups or your "my documents" tree which are always evolving and so you would snap the DVDs in half (for privacy) and throw them in the trash before long. Although they are a little less convenient, they don't crash. In my experience a hard disk will live about 4 years and then your backup is very much at risk. It's actually at risk from day one.

The DVD has no moving parts, survives mechanical shock, electrical discharge, is stable in heat and cold and humidity. If you are a child under the age of 11 or four legged animal, you will scatch DVDs but otherwise you will treat them as backups.

If you have more data or need to keep it forever, then I suggest to find a cloud service.
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 Better to backup with a hard drive or optical media?

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