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Windows 7: Sort out HDDs and establish backup plan

07 Aug 2014   #1
sspohl

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) SP1 (build 7601)
 
 
Sort out HDDs and establish backup plan

When I bought my current system with a 1TB HDD, I had files on several USB key devices, more files on a 200GB laptop HDD ( ~ten years old ) now in a portable USB enclosure, and still more files on the 640GB HDD (~five years old ) from my last system that ended up with a failed motherboard. Without really thinking about it, I took that 640GB HDD and plugged it into my current HP desktop where I would occasionally poke through it or any of the other backup sources for files I needed.

After six months of progressively worsening problems with the current out of warranty system, I have finally realized that I AM the IT Department for this enterprise, that it's up to me to figure it all out, and that the sooner I do so, the better my life will be! My plan is to consolidate all my files in one place, figure out a sensible backup and maintenance plan, and stick to it.

Plus, I've got to resolve the BSOD problems and suspected hardware issues that brought me to this moment in time, but I'll save that for another thread. For the moment let me just say that I've reinstalled Windows 7 from the HP Recovery partition, run all updates and reinstalled Norton IS, and the system appears stable although I am still seeing HAL error 12. I mention that because I don't know if its a hardware-related problem or not. I haven't reinstalled any other software or tried to do my real work because I have my heart set on understanding my system and setting it up correctly with a clean install.

So my step zero has been to find all those files scattered about and create a sensible file structure of user data which I now have on two separate 1TB WD external drives. Current backup size is +250GB, but doesn't yet include all the program downloads and emergency drivers I know I'll need to gather before clean reinstalling. Not counting USB keys, I've now got five HDDs and somehow I need to figure out what to do with it all.

Is there any point to keeping the 200GB or 640GB HDDs? Would it make sense to use one or both of those drives to archive some of the data that I obviously don't access very often (photos, Word and Excel documents)?

My current HP system is RAID ready, but I don't really understand that so should I put the time into figuring it out? What happened when I plugged that 640GB HDD into my motherboard? Even though the system is RAID ready, without doing something specific it wasn't operating in RAID mode, was it? (I'm guessing the system just thought it had two separate hard drives with no relation to one another.) Did it confuse my system? (The HDD had various Windows versions installed on two separate partitions besides all the user data. You can tell it confused me!)

The two new portable drives are Western Digital My Passport Ultras. Should I use the WD software programs for backup management? (I got two thinking I should keep one backup offsite after the neighbor's house burned down.) Instead of WD software, should I use the built-in Windows backup? Should I look into something like the Acronis Total Image that is recommended sometimes on this site? Does it even matter which method I pick?

Sorry to be so long-winded; clearly I'm having problems figuring out what's important so I've just dumped it all out there. I feel like I have a bunch more questions but I better stop and reflect for a while. Meantime, if you read through to this point, Thank You! Any comments/advice would be much appreciated.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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07 Aug 2014   #2
Golden
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64
 
 

Its best to keep all backups on external drivrs. Use Macrium to image the installation to an external USB drive. Use something like SyncToy to backup user files (e.g. Photo's, documents, music etc.) also to an external USB drive.

if you follow these instructions, I'll have a look at your BSOD. You can do that in a separate thread if you like.

1. Download the DM Log Collector application to your desktop by clicking the link below

DM Log Collector.exe

2. Run it by double-clicking the icon on your desktop, and follow the prompts.
3. Locate the .ZIP file that is created on your desktop, and upload it here in your next reply.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Aug 2014   #3
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

Do you know the approximate size in GB of ALL repeat ALL of your personal data files, regardless of current location? Excluding Windows itself. I'm talking about the original versions of all files, not backups of them. Pictures, documents, videos, mp3s, uninstalled program downloads, whatever you've got.

Would all of that fit on a 1 TB drive, with a bit of room to spare?

Are you averse to the idea of having multiple internal drives, perhaps one for Windows and another for all data?

Do you currently keep Windows and much or most of your personal data on the same C partition?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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07 Aug 2014   #4
sspohl

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) SP1 (build 7601)
 
 

Thank you, Golden, for the tips on where to backup. At the moment I'm not having BSOD, I think because of the recovery operation.

Ignatzatsonic: My best guess would be around 300 GB for a complete backup excluding Windows itself. I certainly think it would fit on a 1TB drive with plenty of room to spare. My growth comes mainly from pictures and Excel documents.

I'm not averse to having multiple drives, as long as I can understand how they are set up and what I'm supposed to be backing up and maintaining. I assume you're talking about multiple physical drives and not just Windows on a separate partition of the same drive.

At the moment, all my data is on two separate portable HDDs and Windows is installed on the internal 1TB drive. It's not separate data, it's a backup of the backup.

Looking forward to hearing any of your thoughts...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Aug 2014   #5
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by sspohl View Post
My best guess would be around 300 GB for a complete backup excluding Windows itself. I certainly think it would fit on a 1TB drive with plenty of room to spare..........I'm not averse to having multiple drives...................all my data is on two separate portable HDDs and Windows is installed on the internal 1TB drive. It's not separate data, it's a backup of the backup.
Can you clarify the bolded portion. I don't follow you. You call it "all my data" and then say "it's not separate, it's a backup of a backup". Do the two separate portable HDDs contain your ORIGINAL data? Or copies of the originals? Or both? The 1 TB drive contains ONLY Windows?

From your explanation so far, it seems the large internal 1 TB drive contains ONLY Windows.

If that's correct, what's wrong with the following strategy:

1: If any personal data is in fact on that 1 TB internal, move it elsewhere temporarily.

2: Shrink the C partition on the internal 1 TB drive to maybe 100 or 200 GB--whatever is necessary to easily hold Windows and whatever else is on it other than personal data. I'm guessing C also contains your applications.

3: Make a D partition on that internal 1 TB hard drive with all of the remaining space, presumably 700 GB plus, perhaps 800 or more.

4: Move all repeat all of your personal data back to the new D partition. You say it's roughly 300 GB, so should fit easily

5: Then use the 2 external hard drives for backups of 2 items: your C partition which contains only Windows and your D partition which contains 100 percent of your data (everything but Windows). C would be backed up via an imaging application such as Macrium. D would be backed up through an ordinary file by file backup program, not an image. Space required not yet known, but should certainly fit on 2 externals.

What's wrong with that?

Am I misunderstanding something?

How much space is occupied on your C partition today?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Aug 2014   #6
sspohl

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) SP1 (build 7601)
 
 

Thank you for your message and your patience. I apologize that I'm not making myself clear, although I think you've done a good job of figuring out what my setup looks like at this moment.

My 1T internal hard drive has nothing but Windows on the C: partition, and an HP Recovery image on the D: partition. All my data that had been scattered about has been copied over from various sources to one of the portable HDDs. I had to copy stuff from left and right to get it into one logical sequence of files. Nothing is original and the files have been copied and moved multiple times, but it's mostly photos and the thumbnails look ok, so I'm crossing my fingers that it's all there. Once I had a complete set of personal data, which I guess is really now my original, I then copied that data over to the second portable HDD.

Your strategy for a Windows partition and a personal data partition makes perfect sense to me. I realize that's where I'm heading, but first I plan to follow the steps in gregrocker's tutorial Clean Reinstall - Factory OEM Windows.

Before I get to that tutorial, I'm concerned I may have hardware issues that should be addressed:
1) still getting HAL 12 after recovery, no idea why

2) still wondering if it makes sense to mount my five year old 640GB drive and use it as another easily accessible backup location...could follow the tutorial for optimizing and would still use portable drives as well...if I had a Macrium image of my clean reinstall sitting on another internal drive, I could just change my boot order in the event of a disaster on C: and be back up the same day, right?

3) did I mention that my system went haywire in March, I think because of malware, and I had to reinstall the operating system on April 1? So the BSOD problems that suddenly showed up in July (gone since I used HP Recovery) are also making me worry that I've either got hardware problems or that I messed up the previous recovery somehow

I can't keep going through these problems and not understanding what I'm doing and what I need to do to get back on track. I feel I'm miles ahead by finally realizing that I need all my backups in one place, now I just want to be sure I'm taking all the right steps to put everything back together and move forward.

I have system recovery disks, never opened, that I got from HP not long after I bought the computer. With those DVDs in hand, could I wipe out the D: partition on my 1T HDD? Would it be helpful to follow the steps in the tutorial for optimizing HDD before I try to clean reinstall?

Thank you, again, for your patience. And for sharing your insights.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Aug 2014   #7
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

see comments in bold:


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by sspohl View Post

My 1T internal hard drive has nothing but Windows on the C: partition, and an HP Recovery image on the D: partition.

You probably ought to post a screen shot of Windows Disk Management as a precaution, as I suspect you have more than 2 partitions. I'd like to know how much space is occupied on C anyway.

Your strategy for a Windows partition and a personal data partition makes perfect sense to me. I realize that's where I'm heading, but first I plan to follow the steps in gregrocker's tutorial Clean Reinstall - Factory OEM Windows.

Probably a good idea to clean reinstall per Greg's tutorial. Understand that if you do that, you will no longer have that D recovery partition nor any of the other applications that were on the machine when you bought it.


Before I get to that tutorial, I'm concerned I may have hardware issues that should be addressed:
1) still getting HAL 12 after recovery, no idea why

I don't know HAL 12 errors from Adam. They may or may not disappear after a clean install. I have no idea.


2) still wondering if it makes sense to mount my five year old 640GB drive and use it as another easily accessible backup location...could follow the tutorial for optimizing and would still use portable drives as well...if I had a Macrium image of my clean reinstall sitting on another internal drive, I could just change my boot order in the event of a disaster on C: and be back up the same day, right?

Wrong.

If Macrium works as advertised (likely), you would be back up and running within an hour, but merely changing the boot order will get you exactly nowhere.

A Macrium image of a bootable C is simply a very large non-bootable file. It's a representation of C, but is non-bootable. It must be "restored" to a partition, at which time the partition would again be bootable and therefore useful. Unrestored, the image file is of limited use (you can "explore" it as you might any random folder) UNTIL restored. See the Macrium tutorials on this site. Briefly: you make the image file and you also make "recovery" CD from within Macrium. To restore, you would boot FROM the recovery CD, navigate in the interface to the previously made Macrium image file, and "restore" it to the C partition.

If you end up with an internal drive with C for Windows and D for data, I don't see why you wouldn't use one or both of your externals for backup. Why else keep them around? I assume that's why you bought them. Or did you mean mount it internally? That's what I use for primary backup--an internal. But it's not my only backup.


3) did I mention that my system went haywire in March, I think because of malware, and I had to reinstall the operating system on April 1? So the BSOD problems that suddenly showed up in July (gone since I used HP Recovery) are also making me worry that I've either got hardware problems or that I messed up the previous recovery somehow

You may have hardware problems. You can certainly use free tools to look for bad RAM or a failing hard drive, but failing motherboards are usually diagnosed by inference and exclusion, rather than by direct testing. But if it's just a malware issue, a clean install should take care of it.


I have system recovery disks, never opened, that I got from HP not long after I bought the computer. With those DVDs in hand, could I wipe out the D: partition on my 1T HDD? Would it be helpful to follow the steps in the tutorial for optimizing HDD before I try to clean reinstall?

Regarding the first question: No. The DVDs would do the exact same thing as your recovery partition: restore you to factory specifications as of the day of purchase. If you had D when you bought it, you'd have D after using the system recovery discs. Their only purpose is to be able to restore to factory specs. If you in fact do a clean install, you should keep them as your recovery partition will be gone. But if your clean install works to your satisfaction, you'd presumably never use the recovery DVDs.

Regarding your second question: I'm not sure what those optimizing HDD steps are, but yeah, if they are in the tutorial, I'd use them. Stay with that tutorial if in doubt. If something isn't clear about it, sound off.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Aug 2014   #8
sspohl

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) SP1 (build 7601)
 
 

see comments underlined:


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by sspohl View Post

My 1T internal hard drive has nothing but Windows on the C: partition, and an HP Recovery image on the D: partition.

You probably ought to post a screen shot of Windows Disk Management as a precaution, as I suspect you have more than 2 partitions. I'd like to know how much space is occupied on C anyway.

Sort out HDDs and establish backup plan-disk-management.jpg

Looks like you are correct, there is another partition called SYSTEM. The C: partition is not very full, besides the operating system it does have a few downloads I've been collecting and need to move off before I clean reinstall. Can you explain why the D: partition is grayed-out?



2) still wondering if it makes sense to mount my five year old 640GB drive and use it as another easily accessible backup location...could follow the tutorial for optimizing and would still use portable drives as well...if I had a Macrium image of my clean reinstall sitting on another internal drive, I could just change my boot order in the event of a disaster on C: and be back up the same day, right?

Wrong.

If Macrium works as advertised (likely), you would be back up and running within an hour, but merely changing the boot order will get you exactly nowhere.

A Macrium image of a bootable C is simply a very large non-bootable file. It's a representation of C, but is non-bootable. It must be "restored" to a partition, at which time the partition would again be bootable and therefore useful. Unrestored, the image file is of limited use (you can "explore" it as you might any random folder) UNTIL restored. See the Macrium tutorials on this site. Briefly: you make the image file and you also make "recovery" CD from within Macrium. To restore, you would boot FROM the recovery CD, navigate in the interface to the previously made Macrium image file, and "restore" it to the C partition.


THANK YOU! Obviously I was not understanding this whole process. Is this correct:

(1) I need a system image which I should take once I clean reinstall Windows AND my usual programs (MS Office, Norton IS, Quicken, Photoshop Elements - I think my question is, should the image include those installed programs or just the downloads to install them?)

(2) besides the system image, I need a system recovery disk which would restore the system image.

(3) Windows 7 could make both the image and the repair disk, without resort to Macrium



If you end up with an internal drive with C for Windows and D for data, I don't see why you wouldn't use one or both of your externals for backup. Why else keep them around? I assume that's why you bought them. Or did you mean mount it internally? That's what I use for primary backup--an internal. But it's not my only backup.

Exactly. You have an internal primary backup, but it's not your only backup. Same thing I am thinking to do. At the end of the day I'd have three backups, one internal and two portable (one of which stored offsite). Belt, suspenders, and a safety-pin.

[/QUOTE]


My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Aug 2014   #9
ignatzatsonic

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit
 
 

System partition contains your boot files. If you were to delete your system partition, you wouldn't boot.

You've only got about 70 GB occupied on C.

I build my own PCs so don't have recovery partitions. I'm not sure if they are grayed-out normally and can't answer your question offhand.

If you were to make a backup image of your current Windows installation, you'd need to either include System and C in a single image file or make separate image files of each. The point is that you'd need to restore System along with C in order to have a bootable PC.

If you do a clean install, you can avoid a system partition and instead put your boot files on C. It's a matter of personal preference. I don't have that separate small partition with boot files. See my Disk Management below.

Images are on a per-partition basis. Not this folder and that folder. So, yes, an image of C will include EVERYTHING on C---including configuration details, installed applications, licensing details, and pictures of your cat if they are on C.

Some folks make an image of Windows alone, before any apps are installed. I don't. It only takes 30 minutes to do a basic install if it comes to that.

Most people make images periodically--weekly, monthly, quarterly, depending on how often their system changes. I use monthly. My C partition in August is quite similar to the July image. If you make major changes frequently, maybe you'd make images weekly. But you have to be conscious of how much space they take up. A Macrium image of the 70 GB occupied space on your current C would take up 30 to 40 GB.

Uninstalled program downloads are data and in your anticipated setup would be on D, not C. They'd be backed up by your conventional file-by-file backup method, as opposed to by an image.

Yes, you need a system image and a recovery disk. A burned CD made within Macrium from its menus. There are 2 varieties: Linux based and WinPE based. The latter is much preferred. When you boot from it, you'd land in an interface identical to what you'd see if you started Macrium from C. The Linux-based version is more prone to problems, is slower, and lands you in a text-based and somewhat cryptic interface. Use WinPE method. Above all, confirm that the burned disc is bootable. If it isn't, you are hosed and can't restore.

Windows can make the image. Your Windows installation disc acts as the recovery disk to boot from. BUT, the Windows imaging tool is not particularly flexible or well laid out. It can be confusing. It works, but isn't easily understood and often confuses. Macrium is much more user-friendly.

I've never owned an external drive and don't know if you intend to break open one of your externals and mount the drive internally---or buy an internal. I don't know if all externals can be easily mounted internally. You can buy a 1 TB internal for $60.

Or is that "My Passport" an internal? If it is, you are set to go. Do a clean install to a C of maybe 150 GB on Disk 0. Make a D of the entire remainder of Disk 0 for original copies of data. Use My Passport for backup of D. Use externals any way you want for additional backup. Get rid of the HP Recovery D.

Here's my Windows Disk Management. 3 drives, all internal, all with a single partition. C is an SSD. D is a 1 TB primary data drive. E contains two backups of D. I also back up D to another internal mounted in an external dock. And also back up my most critical data files to a USB stick. I do my primary backup of D to E once or twice a day. The other backups are monthly or so, on a rotating basis.

I make images of C, store them on D, and back them up to E. The only images I make are of the C drive. All other backups are just file by file, as if you'd used the mouse to copy.


Attached Thumbnails
Sort out HDDs and establish backup plan-disk-mgt.jpg  
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Aug 2014   #10
sspohl

Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) SP1 (build 7601)
 
 

Thank you for all those tips -- just what I needed to be thinking about as I set up my backup plan. I'm marking the thread as solved for me, and moving on to attempting Clean Reinstall.

Again, thank you for your time and patience and sharing your knowledge!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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