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Windows 7: *Simple!* third-party System Restore that actually works?

13 Sep 2015   #1
submarinus

windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
 
 
*Simple!* third-party System Restore that actually works?

W7's instability and [unnecessary] complexity are built into it [MS invents new 'chrome' but never sweats the details, does due diligence, makes it usable and stable]. The top of the hood is pretty, but under, it's....! There's an aviation industry joke: "Helicopters are a collection of parts flying in loose formation". Remind you of Windows!?

I've carefully checked and found the alternatives even worse. Linux is probably stabler but is fragmented into dozens of distros, most of which lack any manual at all, and have far less third-party help [so you may have fewer problems but they'll be less fixable]. And Mac is still the same old techno-bling, desktop jewelry: overpriced, with a locked GUI.
So we are stuck with W7, MS's last semi-usable OS. One of its worst aspects is System Restore. For me, this critical feature works perhaps a third of the time. The rest: restore points evaporate, or just fail.
So I'm seeking the easiest to set up and use third-party equivalent, a reliable Go Back.
I say easiest because i think even the easiest won't really be, because easy implies simplicity which implies increased reliability, and because one has to use it so often.
Thanking you in advance,

Tired user

I don't need sex: the government f's me every day!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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13 Sep 2015   #2
lehnerus2000

W7 Ultimate SP1, LM18 MATE, W10IP VM, W10 Home, #All 64 bit
 
 
Try Imaging

I have found System Restore to be slightly more reliable than you (~70% success).

I would suggest you consider swapping to an imaging program like Macrium Reflect Free.

On my PC, Macrium images my partitions at between 3GB/minute and 5GB/minute.
Since my partitions have a max of ~80GB of files on them, it's not too traumatic to create the necessary backup images.

If you only have one giant partition it can take a long time to create an image.

Tutorial
Imaging with free Macrium
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Sep 2015   #3
submarinus

windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
 
 
macrium, etc.

Thanks for the reply.
So i take it you find Macrium the best of that lot [or did you pick it as a random example of that type of program]?
As a dual W7/Mint user i'd value your opinion on my linux comments [OS objectivity is hard to find!].
I'd have written you privately, but didn't see how.
Another reason i didn't push farther into linux-land was that, as far as i could determine, there is no distro that produces a zero-toolbar/panel desktop out of the box, or even with tinkering [autohiding dock etc.]. Am I right?
Since i'm very distractable i *need* an empty desktop. Is there any distro that allows that?
Another Linux question that i can't find an answer for is: what % of Windows apps [and/or how well] does Play On Linux & Wine work? I've identified a half dozen core apps that Linux lacks equivalents of, so i'd really appreciate your opinion here.
My last linux vs W7 subject question: how much more reliable/stable do you find Linux? 10%? 50% ???
Thanks again.
Pushing my luck!

Sub [Marinus]

Skeleton walks into a bar, orders a beer and a mop.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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13 Sep 2015   #4
lehnerus2000

W7 Ultimate SP1, LM18 MATE, W10IP VM, W10 Home, #All 64 bit
 
 

I use Macrium Reflect Free to create all of my backup images (including my LM17.2 MATE partition).
I don't know if it is "the best", but it is easy to use and seems to do the job.

Are you saying you can't eliminate the default panel in LM?

I haven't got time to check LM now.
Also I'm a bit worried that if I turn the panels off (I use a top and bottom panel) I won't be able to re-enable them.
I'll check it in a VM later.

As for Private Messaging, I think you need to have made a certain number of posts before you gain that ability.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2015   #5
submarinus

windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
 
 
Easy!?

"Easy"!? Glad you can't see me: makes it a lot easier to hide my groans! Most humans who don't have the the full set of nerd genes feel a bit different about apps like Macrium.
I think i have the IQ, but definitely lack the patience and aptitude required to learn an app like it [i don't have much of a life, so what little i have i don't want to spend on cr*puters!]. If it's not plug n' play, fire and forget, i'm gone. Computers attract guys with high pain thresholds- it's the modern equivalent of rebuilding car engines- if you don't love it, you hate it. "System Restore" is unreliable but is far simpler than Macrium and most apps in its field. I'm looking at Deep Freeze... seems superior [=simpler].

If you don't answer my questions on linux i must assume i'm right in assuming that it's not significantly stabler than Windows, that its help is even worse than that of Windows, and that Wine can't be relied on. I conclude that while not giving money to greedy expletive-deleted's like Mr. B. Gates would be sweet, linux still trails W7, which is quite an insult really.

"Are you saying you can't eliminate the default panel in LM?" I never got that far- i was utterly unable to find any reference to its safe remove-ability, or autohide-ability [on forum or anywhere], so i assumed my chances were poor to none. Ditto for all other distros.
GUI customizability ["eye candy!"]is scorned by most Linux users, so when default panels aren't mentioned, i have to assume the worst [that coders just ignore nuances like auto-hiding panels].

Sub

Thanks again
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2015   #6
lehnerus2000

W7 Ultimate SP1, LM18 MATE, W10IP VM, W10 Home, #All 64 bit
 
 

I posted a link to a Macrium Reflect tutorial.

There is a "Backup Windows" option.
It takes about 6 mouse clicks (ignoring setting the Destination for the backup image).

The final option window allows you to save a file that you only need to double click, to perform a backup with the exact same settings, the next time you want to create one.

IMO, it is easier to use than most software including Word, Excel, most email programs and most media players.
It is definitely easier to use/control than Photoshop or most modern games.
Click on picture for animation
*Simple!* third-party System Restore that actually works?-mr-create-windows-backup-image.gif
IMO, OS stability is mostly determined by driver/hardware issue (unless you install every piece of software you see on the Internet).

If Windows is stable on a system, most mainstream Linux Distros (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, CentOS for example) will be stable too.
Linux fanboys claim it is more stable (than Windows) on any system.

On my systems, I have had to restart W7 a few times per year (ignoring updates).
I've had to restart Linux Mint less often.
As far as I'm concerned, there are basically no stability issues with W7 or Linux Mint MATE.

Right click is your friend in Windows and Linux Distros.
It generally brings up a Context menu with options.

WARNING
If you delete all of the Panels, I'm not sure how you will be able to start any software.

You can delete a Panel by:
  • Right clicking on the Panel/Taskbar
  • Choosing "Delete this Panel"
*Simple!* third-party System Restore that actually works?-lm17.2-mate-taskbar-delete-01.png
As far as ease of use is concerned (IMO) Windows is easier to use, if you want to tinker with various GUI-based programs.

If all you do is start built-in software, then they both run software the same way:
  • Double click on shortcut icons
  • Single click on Start Menu items or pinned Taskbar items
  • Type the name in the Command Prompt or Linux Terminal
I regularly see people complain about WINE.
I personally haven't tried it, so I can't comment.

I use Windows Virtual Machines (VMs) on Linux Mint using VMware Player.
However if Macrium Reflect is too difficult for you to use, you won't be able to use VMware Player either.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2015   #7
submarinus

windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
 
 

Thanks for your quick and patient reply-
Your comments on Macrium were helpful- tho i make no apologies for expecting easier operation than most software delivers, i think you're right, in this case i overreacted.
And your evaluation on linux seemed balanced too. Without more equivalents to windows apps, or better emulation, i'll pass on it.

Thanks for confirming my suspicions about desktop panels on Linux. If one wants an empty desktop, only W7 will do.

I think you're also probably right about stability being linked to 'trying every piece of software you find on...'.* But that's like hearing that Firefox would be stabler and run faster if you didn't try every add-on you find... [the whole attraction is the add-ons, just as the whole attraction of Windows is that iffy software]. Thank you Master- i finally understand!
You enjoy the occasional wonderful app and don't bitch about instability, or you go Mac.
Actually i think there might be a compromise: apps like Sandboxie. I admit i'm not sure of the actual procedure there. I can try an app in Sandboxie [without affecting registry] yes, but i don't know how one could check for long-term destabilizing effects using it. Any thoughts there?
Barring that, i think this thread has reached a happy unhappy conclusion. Thanks for all your help sir!
Sub

*that would neatly account for my System Restore experience being more error-filled than yours.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2015   #8
lehnerus2000

W7 Ultimate SP1, LM18 MATE, W10IP VM, W10 Home, #All 64 bit
 
 

The video in the tutorial link shows the previous version of Macrium.
The new version is basically the same (they added another options window in the backup wizard sequence).

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
Thanks for your quick and patient reply-
Your comments on Macrium were helpful- tho i make no apologies for expecting easier operation than most software delivers, i think you're right, in this case i overreacted.
It looks daunting.

However, I would recommend that you attempt to master imaging (assuming you have a spare HDD or non-vital system to experiment on).

Imaging is very handy if you want to load up software for testing (the same thing applies to VMs) or if you have to restore your system after a HDD/SSD failure.
You can totally restore your system and software, in much less time, than a total reinstall of your OS and software takes.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
And your evaluation on linux seemed balanced too. Without more equivalents to windows apps, or better emulation, i'll pass on it.
It depends on what you want to do with your PC.
If you must use MS Office, Adobe software or run Windows games, then you basically have to use Windows (or a Windows VM).

Assuming that code quality is identical, mathematically Linux should be more stable, as it has far less code than Windows:
  • A clean install of W7 SP1 (64 bit) with uses ~13GB of HDD space
  • A clean install of LM17.2 MATE (64 bit) with uses ~5GB of HDD space
As I mentioned before, I haven't noticed any significant stability differences.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
Thanks for confirming my suspicions about desktop panels on Linux. If one wants an empty desktop, only W7 will do.
If you were to eliminate the Taskbar and Start Menu in W7, you would face the same issue.
You would need to know another method to start your programs (e.g. keyboard shortcuts).

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
I think you're also probably right about stability being linked to 'trying every piece of software you find on...'.* But that's like hearing that Firefox would be stabler and run faster if you didn't try every add-on you find... [the whole attraction is the add-ons, just as the whole attraction of Windows is that iffy software]. Thank you Master- i finally understand!
IMO, Firefox actually runs better in Linux.

You need to take into account that every file you store or install, has to make literally millions of changes to your HDD:
  • If a single pixel goes missing (or changes value) in a picture, you might not even notice it
  • If a single byte goes missing in a program, it can render it unusable or cause your OS to misbehave
In most circumstances, an error rate of "1 in a million" would be considered fantastic.
I'm constantly amazed that computers are actually fairly reliable, given the complexity of the hardware and software.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
You enjoy the occasional wonderful app and don't bitch about instability, or you go Mac.
I'm not sure about switching to a Mac.
I had to use one all of last year on my TAFE course and I found it much harder to use than Windows or Linux.

To be fair, I've used Windows for ~16 years and Linux for ~6 years.
My equivalent Mac experience probably only works out to a couple of weeks.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
Actually i think there might be a compromise: apps like Sandboxie. I admit i'm not sure of the actual procedure there. I can try an app in Sandboxie [without affecting registry] yes, but i don't know how one could check for long-term destabilizing effects using it. Any thoughts there?
I've read comments online and been told by a few people that Sandboxie is good.
I haven't used it so I can't comment.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2015   #9
submarinus

windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
 
 

I should 'master imaging'? In my windows experience fixes often create new problems, so, even aside from the hassle factor, opening that can of worms does not seem promising enough.
I've just started experimenting with W7's Control Panel > Backup and Repair backup. But it's [as usual] badly documented: it creates a backup, yes, but if W7 crashes, and one reinstalls it, will it open? And is it more reliable than "System Restore"? If i sound paranoid that's cuz i am- dear Mr. Gates beat that into me long ago.
I'm proceeding timidly- if i can just reliably back up a few critical text files and Firefox [its damned add-ons don't d/l separately so FF reinstall means tedious separate add-on reinstalls], i'll be very happy. Then i'll look into backing up whole OS images, with Macrium or Deep Freeze.
Actually there are other apps [than Office, and games] that don't exist in Linux. I use CursorFx, Irfanview!!, CinemaDrape, Lava Lamp, WindowFX, Atmosphere Lite & Aire Freshener, Noiseware, Vitrite, WinRoll, Cool Reader [i hear runs poorly in Ubuntu], and Crypt Edit Lite! [an oddity of Linux is that the dozen or two indie word processors available in Windows aren't present in Linux, which has only the few standard office suite ones (like Libre).
Linux has the rep for wow customizability/eye candy but actually Windows has at least as much, that's usually easier to use to boot.

Good point about a 5Gb OS having less potential for error than a 13Gb one.

"If one eliminates Start and taskbar how can one start apps?!" Who said anything about wanting to eliminate Start? My beef is only with non-removeable/non-hideable desktop elements: Start appears only when Win key pressed, so it's not a problem.
One can use it or not, to choice. And of course there are many app launchers ranging from Launchy to RocketDock so it's not vital either. I hate Launchy's forced manual indexing so i stick with Eusing's rock-solid hotkey triggered app launcher.
It has presets for everything in Start, so neither Start nor taskbar is vital.
To lock taskbar closed it's Taskbar Magic, which is pure magic. This little utility: Hide task bar and start button - RocketDock.com [bottom of page link near word "magician"] un/locks taskbar with ctrl + alt + esc hotkey. Other utilities promise this but only TM delivers reliably. You don't need to be an empty desktop fussbudget to enjoy this app. If you're working in a window and overshoot your cursor, you'll regularly trigger the @$^('ing taskbar. TM stops that cold.
You're kinder towards Microsoft than I- yes, it's amazing that "given the complexity of the hardware and software, it's as stable as it is." But Amiga and BeOS did far better than Windows, with far less money. So sorry, i'll keep my voodoo doll of Bill Gates.
About Sandboxie. It's like VMware only for individual files, and it's only one of a half dozen [check alternativeto.net for competitors like Cameyo].
It has been a good collaboration lehnerus2000: i know others are frustrated by taskbar popupitus and are curious about Linux behavior in this respect too, so this exchange will prove useful.

Cheers!

Roman catholic priest, Jewish rabbi, and Buddhist monk walk into a bar. Bartender looks at them and says, "What's this, a joke!?"
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2015   #10
lehnerus2000

W7 Ultimate SP1, LM18 MATE, W10IP VM, W10 Home, #All 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
I should 'master imaging'? In my windows experience fixes often create new problems, so, even aside from the hassle factor, opening that can of worms does not seem promising enough.
I've just started experimenting with W7's Control Panel > Backup and Repair backup. But it's [as usual] badly documented: it creates a backup, yes, but if W7 crashes, and one reinstalls it, will it open? And is it more reliable than "System Restore"? If i sound paranoid that's cuz i am- dear Mr. Gates beat that into me long ago.
It seems like most of the members here prefer to use a 3rd Party program, like Acronis or Macrium, rather than the built-in W7 backup tool.

If you like to spend an entire day (or more) reinstalling Windows, Windows updates, drivers, all of your software and recreating your customised settings, that is your choice.
It's your system and you can manage/use it anyway you like.

If my HDD/SSD fails, within 15 minutes of installing a new HDD/SSD, my system is up and running like nothing had ever happened.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
I'm proceeding timidly- if i can just reliably back up a few critical text files and Firefox [its damned add-ons don't d/l separately so FF reinstall means tedious separate add-on reinstalls], i'll be very happy. Then i'll look into backing up whole OS images, with Macrium or Deep Freeze.
An image is simply a file that can be used to rebuild your HDD's exact (or an "intelligent") storage contents/layout.

An exact (forensic) image duplicates the layout including the empty sections.
An "intelligent" image only duplicates sections that contain data that is being used.
When you restore an image, it recreates the HDD storage contents/layout, so that it matches the "description" in the image file.

You can also browse the image file as if it were just another HDD/partition and copy files out of it (Macrium allows this so I assume software like Acronis can also do this).
The whole point of creating an image is so that you can restore your PC's setup (Windows, Windows updates, drivers, all of your software and your customised settings) in a few minutes.

As for Firefox, you can copy your Firefox Profile to a safe location and then simply copy it back once you have reinstalled Firefox (and backed up the default FF Profile).
Of course if Mozilla has decided to make some new "bonehead" changes, some of the add-ons might not work in a newer version of FF.

As for the reliability issue, businesses with multiple PCs usually use images to "install" Windows as opposed to using a Windows install DVD.
Larger businesses store a "corporate default" image on their servers and when new machines are connected the image is pushed out to them and "installed".

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
Actually there are other apps [than Office, and games] that don't exist in Linux. I use CursorFx, Irfanview!!, CinemaDrape, Lava Lamp, WindowFX, Atmosphere Lite & Aire Freshener, Noiseware, Vitrite, WinRoll, Cool Reader [i hear runs poorly in Ubuntu], and Crypt Edit Lite! [an oddity of Linux is that the dozen or two indie word processors available in Windows aren't present in Linux, which has only the few standard office suite ones (like Libre).
Obviously, if the programs you like don't exist in Linux, then you have to use Windows (or a Windows VM).

The only program (in your list) that I use is IrfanView.
It's one of the first programs I install in a new Windows installation.

I don't need it in LM as the default utilities are good enough (and better than the Windows ones).
For example, you can hover the mouse pointer over a music file icon (in Icon view) and the file will play without having to start a media player.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
Linux has the rep for wow customizability/eye candy but actually Windows has at least as much, that's usually easier to use to boot.
It is not as easy to customise Linux as some people claim (unless you know how to code).

I would argue that W7 is a lot easier to customise than Linux.
The W8 series and W10 (especially) are much harder to customise than W7 or Linux.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
"If one eliminates Start and taskbar how can one start apps?!" Who said anything about wanting to eliminate Start? My beef is only with non-removeable/non-hideable desktop elements: Start appears only when Win key pressed, so it's not a problem.
You asked how to remove the Panel.
Your reply indicates that I don't know what you are trying to say.

Out of the box, Linux Mint MATE is basically identical to W7 (one Panel/Taskbar with a Start menu button at one end and a clock and some icons at the other end).
You can turn off the default desktop icons just like in W7.

I assume you can get docks for Linux, but I don't like them (Mac dock, Ubuntu Unity, etc.) so I've never looked for any.
If you can find a dock you like, you could just eliminate the Panel/Taskbar.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
You're kinder towards Microsoft than I- yes, it's amazing that "given the complexity of the hardware and software, it's as stable as it is." But Amiga and BeOS did far better than Windows, with far less money. So sorry, i'll keep my voodoo doll of Bill Gates.
On EightForums and TenForums I've been accused of being a "MS Hater".

IMO, MS has made many "boneheaded" decisions and engaged in dubious behaviour.
Those issues aside (IMO) Windows is still the easiest system to use (I use it for ~95% of my PC activities).

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by submarinus View Post
About Sandboxie. It's like VMware only for individual files, and it's only one of a half dozen [check alternativeto.net for competitors like Cameyo].
I know what Sandboxie is supposed to do, but I've never tried it.
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