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Windows 7: Image backup newbie

08 May 2011   #1
Bellzemos

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 
Image backup newbie

Hello!

In my laptop I have a 500 GB internal HDD with three partitions: system partition (C and data partition (D and also the third (hidden) 100MB partition for the system stuff.

I bought an external USB 3.0 HDD (my laptop supports USB 3.0) with same capacity as the internal one (500 GB) so that I will use it as a backup drive for my internal HDD.

What I would like to do is to once or twice a month make an exact image of my whole internal HDD (meanin the C: partition, D: partition and the third, hidden partition). So that if my internal HDD fails some day I can get a new one (or format the old one if a virus is the case) and then recover my latest HDD image fully and properly from the external USB 3.0 HDD to the new (or re-formatted) internal HDD. And that all is like it was on the day I did that last image backup - all working perfectly. Is that possible with the Windows 7 backup & restore tool? I don't need no incremental backup or older images - just a new image of my whole HDD (all partitions, all files - ALL there is) once or twice a month.

I have the system restore turned to off - I prefer it that way. That has nothing to do with the Windows image backup, right? I've heard that once you do an image backup you have to create a recovery DVD. I have my Windows 7 DVD, is that the same or is a recovery DVD something else and I have to make it to be able to restore my HDD image?

How does Windows 7 backup do the image backup? Does it compress all the stuff into one file? Or does it save the folders and files without compression? Can they be accessed normally in the Windows Explorer when I attach the external drive (probably not)?

Here's how I imagined doing this, tell me if I'm wrong:
1. Defragment my internal HDD.
2. Attach my external USB 3.0 HDD to my laptop.
3. Go to Windows 7 backup tool and use the custom function to select ALL the partitions from my internal HDD (the hidden one too).
4. Create an image (any idea how long would it take - I have about 250 GB of stuff on my internal HDD and the external HDD has USB 3.0 conectivity).
...next time...
5. Format my external HDD so that it will be empty again. Repeat the process 1.-4.
...and so every time until I have to use the restore, then:
6. Insert the Windows 7 DVD and boot from it (or do I have to have that special restore DVD?), select restore an image and then restore the whole image on my new internal HDD.
I've heard that I have to partition the new internal HDD before doing a restore. Is that true? I hope not, because I wouldn't know exactly how big are my three partitions in the image backup. Please explain.

Thank you!

Edit/PS: I've also read that I can restore only some files from the image if I want to by using some other program from Windows 7. Could that help if a full image restore fails - so that I can at least save the important stuff from the image?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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08 May 2011   #2
Bellzemos

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

Anyone, please?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 May 2011   #3
mjf

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1
 
 

Have a look at these tutorials
Backup Complete Computer - Create an Image Backup

System Image Recovery

You can also try Macrium Reflect (free) which is popular with many members. I recall there may be some issues with USB 3 though??

You can use images to restore to a new HDD.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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08 May 2011   #4
SIW2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64
 
 

Lots of questions.

You can use windows system image for that.

There is no compression, there is some compaction. 250gb would come out somewehere around 220gb image at a guess.

Couple of hours - a lot depends on your system.

You can restore from the windows 7 dvd . When you see the "Install Now " window, press shift+F10 together. A command window comes up. Type bmrui.exe then press enter.

Good idea to make a copy of your 7 install dvd in case it gets scratched.


To get individual files out of the vhd file , mount it in disk management - then you can copy data out just like any other drive.


Otherwise , you can use a 3rd party app. Macrium is small and fast.

Paragon Backup and Recovery 11 is another great free app.

In both cases the free apps. come with Linux based restore cd's that you run off.

I don't know how well they handle usb 3.0.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #5
scrotiny

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Hi

One option mentioned, Macrium Reflect Free and a free backup programme (I use SyncBack and have had few problems over the years) might be more suitable. Macrium will create an image approximately 60% of the size of actual data (but can be smaller) and also allows you to extract files from an image without restoring the whole image. Whs might be along to explain possible USB 3.0 problems but you can still image your C: drive to the D: drive and then copy this to the external drive but it will be slower. The D: drive data could be just backed-up to the external drive. You could partition the external drive and keep the system images separate from your data but this is not necessary. The 100 MB partition can be imaged separately from the C: drive or done with the C: drive. Personally I do them separately and have never needed to restore the 100 MB partition.

The advantage of having separate programmes for imaging and backup are that files can be retrieved from the system image where necessary and the backed-up files are just duplicates and therefore easily accessible requiring no special process. This I've found is what counts rather than perhaps an increase in space required when little or no compression is used.

Not sure how much your C: drive contains, mine is a 60 GB partition with about 20 GB of data and this images to about 12 GB. I can keep usually more than 6 images. The restore of Macrium images is quite easy using the Linux boot disk. Imaging takes about 8 minutes on my system, restoring about 20 minutes and I image to a second internal disk and then copy to a partition on the first disk. To keep the C: drive small I restrict what data is written to it and deleting all temp stuff and thus this partition only ever grows significantly when I install new software. I tend to take an image every week unless nothing has changed much, change being the criterium basically, like major Windows updates or new software installs.

Hope this helps.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #6
mjf

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by scrotiny View Post
The advantage of having separate programmes for imaging and backup are that files can be retrieved from the system image where necessary and the backed-up files are just duplicates and therefore easily accessible requiring no special process. This I've found is what counts rather than perhaps an increase in space required when little or no compression is used.
Windows file/folder backup (.zip files) and System imaging (.vhd files) are completely different programs. MS just decided to lump them under the same "Backup and Restore" banner.
You can also extract individual files from Windows images by attaching the image and copying out files or folders. However, the more you fiddle with any image the more likely you are to foul it up for when you really need it.

OP, I suggest you try and use more than one imaging program, judge them yourself.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #7
marsmimar

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 
 

One more thought. Use the built-in Windows 7 imaging tool and make a complete system image of your computer. As soon as possible. And make the recommended recovery CD (just in case something happens to your Windows 7 DVD before you can make a copy of it.) Now that you've got a way to restore your machine, try out the other recommended imaging tools from Macrium and Paragon. Play around with the features and see which one you like. If you hose your machine while learning about Macrium or Paragon it's a relatively straight forward task to restore your machine from the Windows 7 image you created. Then start all over again with the learning process. You can use the Windows 7 image as many times as necessary.

And one final thought. Once you decide which imaging tool you prefer, don't rely on just one tool. I use the default 7 imaging and Macrium. If the 7 fails I've got a backup through Macrium. And vice versa.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #8
scrotiny

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by mjf View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by scrotiny View Post
The advantage of having separate programmes for imaging and backup are that files can be retrieved from the system image where necessary and the backed-up files are just duplicates and therefore easily accessible requiring no special process. This I've found is what counts rather than perhaps an increase in space required when little or no compression is used.
Windows file/folder backup (.zip files) and System imaging (.vhd files) are completely different programs. MS just decided to lump them under the same "Backup and Restore" banner.
You can also extract individual files from Windows images by attaching the image and copying out files or folders. However, the more you fiddle with any image the more likely you are to foul it up for when you really need it.

OP, I suggest you try and use more than one imaging program, judge them yourself.
I never suggested that the Windows solution was just one programme. Zipping files adds one more link where files can become corrupted. Have you any experience of an image becoming corrupted because it was opened for exploration? I always keep copies of images, that is what I assumed backup meant - you have redundancy built-in to your strategy.

The belt and braces approach of two separate means of backup is fine but when you experience zero failures in many uses of Acronis or Macrium (several dozen restores) then one is fine for me at least. The last resort of an inplace install is always there. I would suggest, apart from the initial learning curve, anyone who does have problems with imaging or restoring usually has something else wrong with their system.

OP: PS The problem with macrium and USB 3.0 appears to be that there is no current driver available but hopefully this will be remedied shortly and imaging to your USB drive should be quicker.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #9
SIW2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64
 
 

Macrium issue is that it doesn't recognize usb3.0 drive at all - can't be seen from the recovery environment.

There is a workaround to install the drivers ( they are available ) to the macrium winpe image by hand.

Don't think that is ideal for beginners.

They are working on it , of course.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 May 2011   #10
scrotiny

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by SIW2 View Post
Macrium issue is that it doesn't recognize usb3.0 drive at all - can't be seen from the recovery environment.

There is a workaround to install the drivers ( they are available ) to the macrium winpe image by hand.

Don't think that is ideal for beginners.

They are working on it , of course.
Certainly not in their interest to dally what with USB 3.0 becoming more popular. Haven't got around to WinPE as haven't needed it yet, UBCD4Win with the Acronis plugin worked fine on XP but I might just as well have used the Acronis boot disk. As you say not ideal in this situation.
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