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Windows 7: What backup & relocation strategy for User profiles and Program Data

17 Nov 2013   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 
What backup & relocation strategy for User profiles and Program Data

Hello,

In a configuration with a single HDD with 2 partitions (one for OS+Progs and one for data), how do we properly back up the OS and progs given the fact that the ProgramData and Users folders have been relocated to the Data partition ?

In order for the OS and programs to work properly once I put the OS image back, do these two folders also need to be backed up ? ProgramData would be easy to copy paste.
But a user's folder is a mix of program related data (AppData, Start Menu, Application Data shortcut, some of which are hidden and some of which are hidden and are also system files) and one's personal files (music etc). The fact that these two kind of data exist in one's user folder, makes it difficult for me to see what do i need to backup (if anything at all) in order to be able to easily make a simple OS+progs restore. (without my data)

Given the fact that:
  • I don't want to also make an image of the whole data partition, since I don't want to include in it my data such as music etc. (I use a syncronization tool for that, copying the files to an external drive).
  • I don't want to use Windows backup tool. I'm ok with Paragon free (or another if needed).
  • I just want to be sure that after I put back my OS+progs image, my OS and ALL of the programs will work without broken links paths errors etc.
  • I'm not interrested in getting back program specific settings and preferences, bookmarks etc, since the important ones are included in my sync.
  • I want to be sure that my start up menu, for example, will not contain shortcuts to the newly added programs, that are not in the image restored.
  • I'm not a big fan of Libraries

Here are three options, which one is easy for restore AND without paths errors, etc.?

Option 1: three partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs
  2. ProgramData + Users. With Users containing AppData, system folders, etc. but somehow linking to an actual data partition
  3. data
so I would image 1 and 2. Would that work without problems?


Option 2: two partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs
  2. ProgramData + Users + Data
so I would image 1, and "manually" back up ProgramData folder plus the user\AppData folder ? (anything else needed?) and copy them back afterwards? (deleting the present content first)

I read issues with windows, for security reasons, changing the ownership of folders etc..
So, my guess is that it's maybe not a good idea to mix imaging (of 1) with manual copying of system folders?


Option 3: two simple partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs + Users folders + ProgramData folder
  2. DATA (in this case, actual music files wouldn't be in the first partition, yet the My Music folder would)
so I would image only 1.



Any thoughts are welcome.

Adrien


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

17 Nov 2013   #2
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

If anything, I would make 3 partitions and image the two pertaining to the OS. But why split the OS partition in the first place. That makes little sense - or am I missing something.

For Imaging I highly recommend free Macrium. In 5 years of research I have not found a better imaging program.

Imaging with free Macrium
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
If anything, I would make 3 partitions and image the two pertaining to the OS. But why split the OS partition in the first place. That makes little sense - or am I missing something.

For Imaging I highly recommend free Macrium. In 5 years of research I have not found a better imaging program.

Imaging with free Macrium
Thank you whs for your super quick reply. I know..I had the same question actually..but all of this started by reading stuff about separating OS and data.

Since some OS/progs folders are in the User folder...what to do ? Or am I missing something?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


17 Nov 2013   #4
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

I see, but that is simple.

1. Create a seperate data partition

2. Make 4 folders in that partition (Docs-2, Music-2, Videos-2, Pictures-2). In lieu of the -2 you can use anything. I use my initials. It is just to distinguish them from the folder names in C.

3. Move the data from the corresponding folders in the C partition to those new folders.

4. Right click on each of these new folders and include them into the corresponding library. Now you get something like this. I use my initials in the front for distinction.

Name:  2013-11-17_1455.png
Views: 24
Size:  41.9 KB

5. From now on everything pertaining to the system and to programs will go into the original folders in C (mainly into Documents). All you user data should go into the new folders.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #5

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by adri123 View Post
Hello,

In a configuration with a single HDD with 2 partitions (one for OS+Progs and one for data), how do we properly back up the OS and progs given the fact that the ProgramData and Users folders have been relocated to the Data partition ?

In order for the OS and programs to work properly once I put the OS image back, do these two folders also need to be backed up ? ProgramData would be easy to copy paste.
But a user's folder is a mix of program related data (AppData, Start Menu, Application Data shortcut, some of which are hidden and some of which are hidden and are also system files) and one's personal files (music etc). The fact that these two kind of data exist in one's user folder, makes it difficult for me to see what do i need to backup (if anything at all) in order to be able to easily make a simple OS+progs restore. (without my data)


Given the fact that:
  • I don't want to also make an image of the whole data partition, since I don't want to include in it my data such as music etc. (I use a syncronization tool for that, copying the files to an external drive).
  • I don't want to use Windows backup tool. I'm ok with Paragon free (or another if needed).
  • I just want to be sure that after I put back my OS+progs image, my OS and ALL of the programs will work without broken links paths errors etc.
  • I'm not interrested in getting back program specific settings and preferences, bookmarks etc, since the important ones are included in my sync.
  • I want to be sure that my start up menu, for example, will not contain shortcuts to the newly added programs, that are not in the image restored.
  • I'm not a big fan of Libraries
Here are three options, which one is easy for restore AND without paths errors, etc.?


Option 1: three partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs
  2. ProgramData + Users. With Users containing AppData, system folders, etc. but somehow linking to an actual data partition
  3. data
so I would image 1 and 2. Would that work without problems?



Option 2: two partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs
  2. ProgramData + Users + Data
so I would image 1, and "manually" back up ProgramData folder plus the user\AppData folder ? (anything else needed?) and copy them back afterwards? (deleting the present content first)

I read issues with windows, for security reasons, changing the ownership of folders etc..
So, my guess is that it's maybe not a good idea to mix imaging (of 1) with manual copying of system folders?



Option 3: two simple partitions ?
  1. OS and Progs + Users folders + ProgramData folder
  2. DATA (in this case, actual music files wouldn't be in the first partition, yet the My Music folder would)
so I would image only 1.



Any thoughts are welcome.

Adrien
Option three is pretty much what I use. On my desktop machine, the OS, programs, user folders, etc. are on the C: SSD and only the data foldersóDocuments, Music, and Picturesóare on the E: HDD (Videos rate its own drives). When I backup the machine, I image the entire SSD and save the image on the data drive. I clone the data drive to anther HDD to back it up (which also backs up the image of the SSD).

I pretty much do the same with my notebook but it has only one drive so I have four partitions on it: boot, C:, data, and factory recovery. To back up the OS, etc. I image all except the data partition. To back up the data, I image the data partition. I also cloned the entire drive to another one to keep as a spare in my notebook case so I can just pop it into the machine if the drive in the notebook should completely die on me while on the road.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 

Thank you both,

both of you suggest keeping users folders in the OS partition and putting only data on a separate partition.

But why then all these stories about relocating them?
Some people talk about performance, regarding HDD, SSD etc.. I mean, are these really overkill details or is there any good reason according to you to relocate Progam Data and Users folder out of the OS partition ?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #7

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by adri123 View Post
Thank you both,

both of you suggest keeping users folders in the OS partition and putting only data on a separate partition.

But why then all these stories about relocating them?
Some people talk about performance, regarding HDD, SSD etc.. I mean, are these really overkill details or is there any good reason according to you to relocate Progam Data and Users folder out of the OS partition ?
Moving the User folders to another drive is often suggested when using an SSD to reduce the number of writes to it that can reduce the life of the SSD and to allow installing the OS and Programs to a smaller SSD than would be otherwise possible to keep costs down. In actuality, moving the entire user folder is overkill when all that really needs to be moved are just the data folders.

Another advantage of having the data folders on a separate drive or partition is for making and restoring backups. Since the OS and programs are what are most likely to go haywire on a machine, it's highly desirable to have to restore only that instead of the entire machine. By keeping the OS on it's own drive or partition and the data elsewhere, imaging just the OS and programs is much faster and restoration is also much faster than if one had to image and restore the entire drive. It's important to also backup your data but you are far less likely to have to restore it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #8
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

There is no good reason to split up the OS files - especially in terms of performance. And on a SSD you have zero impact because the access time to any SSD location is the same.

For SSDs, users usually put their user data on the HDDs because SSDs are small. I run most of my systems with 60GB SSDs and there is not enough space for all my own files.

PS. I would not worry about the number of writes to an SSD as LF suggests. Any SSD will outlive your system and the HDDs.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #9

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
I see, but that is simple.

1. Create a seperate data partition

2. Make 4 folders in that partition (Docs-2, Music-2, Videos-2, Pictures-2). In lieu of the -2 you can use anything. I use my initials. It is just to distinguish them from the folder names in C.

3. Move the data from the corresponding folders in the C partition to those new folders.

4. Right click on each of these new folders and include them into the corresponding library. Now you get something like this. I use my initials in the front for distinction.

Attachment 293992

5. From now on everything pertaining to the system and to programs will go into the original folders in C (mainly into Documents). All you user data should go into the new folders.

Where is the information stored, that is saying that this and that folder are included in that library. I mean where is the "link" between folders and libraries stored?
Say this scenario:
1. you image your OS partition
2. one week later, for some reason, you rename your Music-2 folder (on the data partition). Or delete it.
3. you need to get back the OS image cause you have an OS problem.

Will the OS image contain library links to an unexisting folder?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #10

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
There is no good reason to split up the OS files - especially in terms of performance. And on a SSD you have zero impact because the access time to any SSD location is the same.

For SSDs, users usually put their user data on the HDDs because SSDs are small. I run most of my systems with 60GB SSDs and there is not enough space for all my own files.

PS. I would not worry about the number of writes to an SSD as LF suggests. Any SSD will outlive your system and the HDDs.
Actually that is pretty much what I said. The concern for the number of writes on an SSD is the reason why it has been suggested to move the entire user folder to another drive. I didn't suggest it; I said that all needs to be moved is just the data folders. You are absolutely correct that the number of writes is not the concern many people thought it would be. However, wearing out cells from excessive writes isn't the only reason why SSDs can fail. I saw an article somewhere recently that said SSDs are lasting around the same amount of time as HDDs (when both are under ideal conditions) but that excessive writes aren't the problem; controllers failing, etc. were to blame.

Anywho, it appears the OP's only concern is to break up a single HDD into partitions to simplify making backup images and we have pretty much covered that topic.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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