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Windows 7: Should I regularly back up my system using imaging?

01 Jan 2014   #1
Diddlededum

Win 7 Pro 64 bit
 
 
Should I regularly back up my system using imaging?

Two questions in one I guess. I have two hard drives, an SSD for OS and a harddisk for data. As I have several pieces of software and hardware that require a great deal of manual configuration I was very pleased to discover Macrium since instead of having to reinstall everything in the event of a major crash or after running the PC for a year or so and seeing it slow down, I could install everything I wanted in one go, configure and image the drive with the OS onto an external hard drive. THis gave me a backup I could make from the image if I needed to without having to jump through all the configuration hoops. I've had to reinstall the OS drive from the image a couple of times and it's been great, a massive timesaver.

A year later and I have a year's worth of Windows updates, some new software installed, updates to the new software, and a few things I previously added that I've removed.

My first question is, should I bother making a new Macrium OS drive image that reflects my current PC configuration? On the plus side it would have all the Windows updates and all other software updates that have come since my last image (and the alternative would be if I had to reinstall from the existing image again, I'd have to manually do all the updates and there's the risk some might not install properly or conflict with other programs). I'd also not have to reinstall all programs I added since my lst Macrium image.

On the negative side, as time goes on and my PC fills up with clutter presumably it slows down and any image I make of a PC with six months of clutter will not be as speedy as an image made soon after installing Windows? Is there much point in making an image for the purpose of possibly restoring Windows if the Windows disk is not a fairly clean installation? Or is it a myth that a computer really does slow down after a year or two and you have to wipe the hard disk and reinstall Windows periodically to overcome that?

My second question is about the data hard disk. At present I just copy and paste everything to an external disk. Would there be any advantage to making a Macrium image to the external disk of my data disk instead of copying and pasting everything across? Could I be sure that the single Macrium image file that resulted contained all my files and folders, and if I subsequently needed to view or go back to a single file contained inside a massive Macrium image file on an external disk, could I do so from Windows without restoring the image?

Hope these questions make sense, thanks for suggestions.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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01 Jan 2014   #2
Golden
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64
 
 

Q1.

Yes. You should keep renewing the Macrium image as your underlying system changes (Windows updates etc.)

Q2.

Yes. You can image the data disk too (Macrium has an option to verify the image once it's complete...it takes longer, but you get piece of mind).

Alternatively mimic the existing copy & paste functionality but automate which files are backed up.....here is one option for doing that:
SyncToy - Backup User Data
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jan 2014   #3
Kaktussoft

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Diddlededum View Post
My second question is about the data hard disk. At present I just copy and paste everything to an external disk. Would there be any advantage to making a Macrium image to the external disk of my data disk instead of copying and pasting everything across? Could I be sure that the single Macrium image file that resulted contained all my files and folders, and if I subsequently needed to view or go back to a single file contained inside a massive Macrium image file on an external disk, could I do so from Windows without restoring the image?
An image is a backup. It contains not only the file names and contents, but also file permissions. Also the correct "creation dates". To restore a single file (or few files): Mount the image v5: How to browse an Image or 'File and Folder' Backup in Windows Explorer (Browse, File and Folder, v5) . Technically this isn't a restore but a copy.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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01 Jan 2014   #4
NeilPaisnel

Many: XP, 7, Home & Pro, Slax, FreeNAS, OS-X 10.9 10.6.8
 
 

I understand what you say about new images containing all the clutter etc since the last image. So here is what I do with Windows machines

1, I do my initial clean instal...then create and image Image 1
2, Do Win update....new image. Image 2
3, Add all my apps and settings ...do a new image. Image 3

Continue to use the machine, taking regular images.

Before I add any new software or change major settings...take an image

I then use the machine with the new software and to see how it works...maybe use the machine for a few weeks to confirm compatibility..bugs etc.

If I am happy, restore back to my clean Image 3, as detailed above.
Run all the Microsoft Windows updates etc again.
Add the new software to the Clean system...Create a new image
This then becomes my new Image 3

Continue using the machine.






As for your question 2....

I use DeltaCopy DeltaCopy - Rsync for Windows

DeltaCopy on Windows 7 and Scheduled Tasks | Gavin Adams Information Blog

to backup my data disks. Not to an external "drive" but to an external server...built on old Intel Pentium 3 machine running NAS4Free a totally free Operating system
Home | NAS4Free - The Free Network Attached Storage Project

the OS on my FreeNAS backup box is an embedded system..it boots to ram..from a 128MB...yes MB Compact Flash camera memory card

Delta Copy is a Windows friendly GUI for rsync... rsync service is built in to the NAS box ...Make use of old hardware with this. Dig out an old machine..Install NAS4Free to smallest HDD you can find then fill the rest of the machine with big storage HDD's

I actually have mine set to boot via BIOS every night at 0200hrs with a DeltaCopy task to backup my data disk scheduled to start at 0210.
Both systems then power down at 0600.

i actually have three NAS4Free boxes..all up in the attic. Once in a while..I mirror my 'daily backup NAS4Free' box to one of the others.
the third NAS4Free box is a BT server

All built on old 'scrap ' machines with just new HDD's
NAS4Free supports many services..AFP, CIFS/SMB, FTP and HTTP services, rsync DAAP, Software RAID and many many mor
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jan 2014   #5
Diddlededum

Win 7 Pro 64 bit
 
 

Thanks that's very helpful. I'm glad someone else has fretted about (i) balancing imaging the latest state of the OS drive (containing all software updates, but a lot of potential clutter) versus (ii) keeping an archived "Windows and other key software installed and configured" image that doesn't contain clutter but does risk a lot of work updating all software that needs updating since the image was made, and possibly a lot of tweaking in the case of programs that don't correctly update, in the event of restoring the image.

Assuming I choose option 1 and make regular images of an increasingly cluttered hard drive, what options can people recommend for me to prevent my OS hard drive from slowing down from unwanted gunk over time?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jan 2014   #6
NeilPaisnel

Many: XP, 7, Home & Pro, Slax, FreeNAS, OS-X 10.9 10.6.8
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Diddlededum View Post
Assuming I choose option 1 and make regular images of an increasingly cluttered hard drive, what options can people recommend for me to prevent my OS hard drive from slowing down from unwanted gunk over time?

If you are keeping your data on a separate HDD..do what I suggested.

I thought I had given you the solution to what you are asking

You make the regular backups that do keep getting potentially more and more cluttered..but every now and then, you can bin them, and go back to your version of what I call my Image 3.
All your software that you want will be the same, comparing your working copy to the "Image 3" image.
Just that Image 3 will be a clean version of your working system with all the clutter from unwanted installs and un-installs etc etc removed

Since all your data ( Assuming you have moved your My Documents to the data drive?) is on the data drive, you won't loose anything except the accumulated clutter
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jan 2014   #7
Diddlededum

Win 7 Pro 64 bit
 
 

Thanks that's what I thought you were saying. The downside of the Image 3 strategy is the risk that the futher into the future I go, when I decide to revert back to an old less cluttered Windows image, the more Windows and other software updates there will be to catch up with and if I have difficulty installing any of them I will end up with a potentially unstable or conflicting system which is no better than an increasingly creaky system that is regularly backed up by imaging.

As it is I have an image of my system taken several months ago after installing Windows, Office and most of my other software that I could go back to, and some more recent images with newer software and updates. I just thought the later images would be more cluttered.

I guess there isn't a perfect solution, if there is no good way to unclutter a Windows installation that has been installed for several months or years? Or can I speed up my machine significantly without having to reinstall Windows?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jan 2014   #8
NeilPaisnel

Many: XP, 7, Home & Pro, Slax, FreeNAS, OS-X 10.9 10.6.8
 
 

So the answer would be to go back to that clean image more often. Set Auto updates to manual, and then before doing an auto update...after patch Tuesday..does that still exist with Win 7? ..so before doing a manual "Auto Update" restore to clean image...do update then save new image.

I admit..a bit time consuming...but then when you go back to your latest Clean Image 3 it is only maybe a month old.

Agree not ideal ..but nothing is
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jan 2014   #9
pabuman

Windows 7
 
 

I think regular backup is good. You can also do incremental backup. Especially system backup.
Sorry, I don't use Macrium but heard that. My tool is aomei backupper, and I think they are similar. aomei backupper support partition or disk clone. So you can transfer your data. I think Macrium can also do this, you can try it. Good luck.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jan 2014   #10
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Quote:
Or can I speed up my machine significantly without having to reinstall Windows?
The best way to speed up your system is to install it on a SSD. For aaround $100 you get a 120GB SSD which will do a nice job. Boot times will go below 20 seconds and program calls are instant.

Mushkin Enhanced Chronos MKNSSDCR120GB 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - Newegg.com

And I would not worry too much about clutter. It sounds worse than it is. Don't make too many "trial installations" of programs and when you uninstall them use the REVO uninstaller. That will cleanup the registry and files that the program uninstaller leaves behind. But be aware that every program install comes with more .dlls - and those stay in the system and grow your winsxs directory.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Should I regularly back up my system using imaging?




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