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Windows 7: System Image Backup Strategies/Thoughts


05 Jun 2012   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 
System Image Backup Strategies/Thoughts

Just want to make a few comments, and invite discussion about this.
It might help some people, and I might learn something.
I know circumstances differ for different users, and I can only speak from the perspective of a home user.
And as a user who wants to install and tweak Windows only once, and wants to install and tweak my "always used" apps only once.
For example, my XP system lasted 5 years, and my Win 7 is almost 3 years old.
I'm pretty "serious" about imaging, even keeping a sysprepped image in case I need to go to a different motherboard.

1. All too often I see folks having problems because their system image backups include data not on the system partition They either run out of space, or it takes hours upon hours to do a backup. This discourages taking system images, and eventually leads to getting stuck between a rock and a hard place. I really think that encouraging keeping system images separate from data back-up would keep many people from getting caught in that trap. Am I dreaming?

2. All too often I see folks with huge system partitions, which basically leads to the above same frustrations - imaging non-system data. This is a big problem, because many store-bought computers are set up like this, and by the time they get to imaging, it's difficult to get them set up with a good configuration. I always roll my own PC's, and I don't know the answer for this. Might not be a good one, unless the PC sellers take it upon themselves.

3. I don't agree that system images should be time-scheduled. I image because of events. Any event changing my system that I want to keep - for example a new app, Windows updates, app updates, gets imaged - but the timing is up to me.
I don't see any value in imaging a system that has apps I don't want to keep, or uninstalled apps that have left garbage behind, and maybe the system even has a virus that hasn't shown itself yet.
This means I *always* restore my previous image before making a new image.
Then reinstall the new app(s) or redo the updates, which were the event(s) causing me to decide to image. Then I immediately make a new image. Always a full discrete system image. I keep a few prior images around for some time before I delete them. Just in case. But I don't recall using a single one of them.
Redoing updates doesn't take long, nor does reinstalling and retweaking an app.
That work will be on the new image, and I never have to do it again.

Just for reference, I have a 100gb system partition, but my system images hover around 20gb. Using Ghost 15, taking an image or running a restore itself runs 4 minutes. I only image/restore cold, so there's some minutes taken by booting.
All spinners. Sometimes I don't take an image for 4 months. Sometimes I take 2 in one week. It all depends on what I want on my image.
A good app I want to keep gets the process. SP1 got the process.

Anyway, this strategy has worked very well for me, and might serve as a template for others. There should be no reason for not being able to restore a good system image, unless you don't have a good plan. Not counting Murphy's law.
Fight Murphy's law! Don't give up! Fight!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
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05 Jun 2012   #2

Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 

I take two images a week with both windows backup and Macrium. I just managed to get the pro version at a cheaper price than the standard version so I can do differential backups with it now

I make a folder backup of my data partition separately on a folder to folder basis

I don't like the idea of packing my data into image files in case one gets corrupted.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jun 2012   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit
 
 

Victor:

I agree with most of your sentiments and points 1 and 2 in particular.

I agree only with the first part of your third point.

Specifically--I never restore an image before making a new one. I would never overwrite a properly working good system. I prefer not to take that risk. Murphy's Law, as you mention. If I were to restore an image containing unwanted apps, so be it---I'd just uninstall the unwanted apps after the restoration.

I never schedule images--they are all done manually when I see fit. On average, I make an image maybe 6 times a year. I keep 3: the oldest and the 2 newest.

I have never restored an image---I've never had to and hope I never do.

All my images are full images of C only---a relatively small partition (under 100 GB). I don't want the complication of incrementals.

I have no data on C and never image my separate data drive. I don't want the complication of images standing between me and my data backups. Each of my 3 hard drives (Windows, data, and backup) has a single partition.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


06 Jun 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

OK this is my backup strategy. It definitely overkill but I'm paranoid about backups.

1. Using the Pro version of Macrium one full image each week of my C: drive (very little data on it). Maximum of 3 kept.
2. Differentials daily. Differentials not incrementals.
3. Monthly image with Windows backup to a different disk after "patch Tuesday". Three or four kept.
4. Daily data backups using FreeFileSync. Mirroring with versions.
5. Family photos on SkyDrive.

I have had to restore a couple of times in the past year when I had some dodgy RAM causing BSODS.

The reason for my paranoia. I spent several days rebuilding a mainframe installation because proper backups were not taken.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #5

Win7 H.Prem. 32bit+SP1
 
 

This is the short version of my backup (imaging) strategy.
When an installed app gets an update. Before installing a new app.
I use Acronis 2010 'One Click' method to create a System Image of C: on an external USB hdd. to a folder named as the backup date, it also has a note of what I've done to my pc including portable apps & an image of 'Programs and features' so I know whats been installed.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #6

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

ignatzasonic:
Restoring an image is second-nature to me. I couldn't trust any imaging I couldn't test. I've restored many times, and it's never failed. It helps that it takes only 5 minutes. For the sake of safety, when doing it the first time with a new OS or new imaging software, I suggest it be done on a spare HD. That's what I did with XP and Win 7, and when first trying Ghost 15 and Win 7 backup. That way you can't lose your install.
We just have a different perspective on "working OS." Since I sometimes go months with the system, I see it as "old, cluttered, and maybe dangerous."
I have much more confidence in my images, since what they contain is much fresher.
Basically the image contains the OS and apps freshly installed and tweaked, with hardly any exposure to anything that could cause corruption. And I know that because I've always run the system taken from the image for some time.
I do image to at least 2 HD's and occasionally to a 3rd. Not copies, but separate images at one sitting.
Except for that, we're on the same page.

kado897:
Yes, you're paranoid. But that doesn't mean your computer isn't plotting against you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Victor S View Post
kado897:
Yes, you're paranoid. But that doesn't mean your computer isn't plotting against you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #8

Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 

Well I do make a differential backup of my data partition once a day.

Does that make me paranoid too?

I'm looking over my shoulder as I write this!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #9

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

The men in white coats are coming to take you away......
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jun 2012   #10

Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 

What again?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 System Image Backup Strategies/Thoughts




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