Quote: Originally Posted by Dawter
I don't know a lot about Backups. As I search and study I'm sensing there are different types of Backups.
I understand I can copy my files from the C drive to my external hard drive thus creating what I call a Backup of files and folders.
I guess I just don't know the correct terminology of the different types of Backups.
What I want to make is a Backup of my entire OS and the installed applications I have on here now. So that if my computer goes haywire and I lose everything I can slip in a disc and have it all restored as if I'd never had a problem.
Is that possible? What is that type of Backup called?
I'm fairly new to the Backup thing so please talk to me like I'm a 6 yr. old.
I will be grateful to any who helps me.
First, I want to commend you for realizing the need for back-ups. I see too many posts from people in panic mode because the HDD their precious data was on just took a dump. Recovery in those situations is iffy at best and usually very expensive. You are wise to want to protect yourself from that potential sad scenario.
The first method you described (copying files and folders to an external HDD) is an effective way to protect your data but it works only for data and not for installed programs and the OS itself. It's also tedious. Still, I would much rather see someone do that rather than nothing at all!
There are two kinds of backups that will backup your entire system. One is cloning. Cloning will created a bootable duplicate of your HDD on another HDD (other than external HDD). If the HDD in your computer totally dies, you can remove it and replace it with the cloned drive. The downside of cloning is you have to physically replace the drive for recovery.
The second kind is called imaging. An imaging program will take a picture of your entire system on the HDD (or just a single partition, if desired). This image then can be used to restore a HDD that has gone wonky for some reason or another (but is otherwise sound, the most comon scenario) or be installed on a newly installed HDD that is replacing a dead one. Some imaging programs will also let you recover individual files and folders from the image.
Win 7 has a built in imaging function but many people have had problems with it. Macrium Reflect is a free imaging program that most people have had good results with (it's what I use) and there is an excellent tutorial here available on how to use it.
To start, I suggest keeping it simple and just image your HDD all at once instead of making individual images all at once. While taking an image of the entire drive and restoring it takes longer, it's a simple set and forget procedure so you will be less likely to get confused and do something wrong. Once you are familiar with the process, you can then take individual images of your partitions so you will need to restore only the partition that got wonked up (usually the OS and programs) which is usually much faster and easier than restoring an entire HDD.
Something most people do not realize is the importance of redundant backups, versioning, and frequency of backups. All media, such as optical disks such as CDs or DVDs, HDDs, even the cloud, etc. will eventually fail. One should have no less than two backups and, ideally, one should be kept offsite. That way, if one of the backups fails at the same time the computer does, the data is safe on the other backup. Total data loss can happen due to fire, theft, or other disasters destroying both the computer and the back up. Having a additional backup offsite minimizes that danger. The main disadvantages of most offsite backups is they are inconvenient and usually out of date. Still, being able to recover part of your data is better than losing all of it.
Versioning allows you to go back to an earlier version of a backup in case the latest one includes the problem you are having, such as a virus, bad program, an accidentally deleted document, etc. wipes out the current version of data you have or you decide you don't like the current version. It's a more reliable verison of Windows System Restore.
You can only restore what you have already backed up. Any documents, changes, etc. you have on your computer since your last back up will be lost if your computer take a dump. Frequent backups will minimize that loss.
The simplest, least expensive backup scheme is to have an external HDD for your local backup for images of your computer's HDD and to use a paid cloud backup service for the offsite backup. The only cloud backup I can suggest anymore is Carbonite
(btw, i do not work for Carbonite; I'm just a satisfied customer). Free cloud storage has a way of disappearing without any warning, has limited capacity, and, if you don't encrypt your files yourself, is easily hacked into. Mozy used to be similar to Carbonite with a similar proce but it no longer has unlimited storage. CrashPlan has had issues with slow uploads and reliability. Carbonite will backup only your data, not your system, but the system can always be rebuilt in a pinch. Advantages of Carbonite include automatic real time data backups occuring in the background (you can't get more up-to-date than that), 30 day versioning (earlier versions of files are saved for 30 days), automatic encryption before your data leaves your computer, and remote access of your uploaded files (you can access them from another computer, handy when on the road or your computer is totally dead). All this is only $59/year for a single computer (multiple computer plans are also available). The disadvantages of Carbonite are it does require a fair amount of internet bandwidth which could be a problem if you use an ISP that has a small bandwidth cap in place (such as most mobile internet plans), data recover will be slow (although it can be used to replace data not backed up on a local backup), and it isn't 100% fail safe (keep in mind no media is 10% fail safe). Generally, depending on the amount of data needing to be backed up, one generally has to leave their computer running 24/7 to allow enough time for backups to be uploaded thus Carbonite usually isn't practical for laptops that aren't connected to the internet all of the time. If a person is really strapped for cash and can't afford to even get an external HDD but has a decent internet connection, Carbonite alone is better than nothing.
I'm really anal when it comes to backups. I have three backup HDDs for each HDD in use. I keep two onsite and the third in a safe deposit box at my credit union which I swap out at least once a month. Everytime I run a backup, I do it on both local HDDs (running two backups instead of copying the firat to the second HDD protects me in case the first image goes pear shaped; not likely but still possible). I also run Carbonite on my desktop computer. It's all expensive (especially all the HDDs) and a bit time consuming but my data is priceless in that much of it is irreplaceable and much of it would be far more expensive to replace than the backups would ever cost.