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Windows 7: Which backup & restore to use

18 Jul 2014   #21

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Yes, Full, differential and incremental imaging in Aomei Backupper Standard (free) version. File and folder backup also included in the free version.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #22

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by bbrose2 View Post
I guess I did not make my question clear enough. My question was "If I download & use the free version, can I do both a image backup & also backup data files to the same external drive or do I have to purchase the paid version to do this?" To clarify, does the free version allow you to do an image of the complete system for a compete restore of the disk if needed & but also provide a way to backup data files (not an image of data files) but a copy of the new, changed, deleted file, etc.
The free version of Macrium Reflect supports "system image" backups only. It does NOT provide selective folder/file "data backup" functionality. The feature comparison chart shows that. The free version also does NOT get vendor support (by email or forum).

To get true selective folder/file "data backup" (allowing you to selectively backup only what folders/files you want from assorted drives, as well as to selectively recover folder(s)/file(s) if you need to without having to restore the entire drive from a "system image"), you need the paid non-free Standard version.

Furthermore, the paid version also includes "space management" functionality. This is "automatic pruning" of older generations, so that you can retain only as many versions of both "system image" and "data backups" that you want, and the next time you run the backup job to create a new version the oldest one will be automatically deleted. If you use the free version of the program this auto-pruning does not occur, so you'll have to manually do it yourself. This is a real convenience to have it done automatically, once you're in steady state with a regular backup regimen.

As far as the target output media for either "system image" or "data backup", most commonly you'd use an external USB 3.0 drive. You can obviously configure the output of your your backups to go wherever you want, but having two primary target folders (for the two types of backups) on the external drive makes common intuitive sense.

You should consider a backup regimen that provides adequate and sufficient protection and recovery capability to satisfy your own paranoia, or personal/professional requirements. We know we will cry if we lose priceless or irreplaceable personal or professional data, so anything that can be done that can pretty much guarantee that will not happen is what you should do. This can go to extremes of course, such as running TWO backups every time... to two separate output backup media, and then disconnecting the second external drive and bringing it to an external storage facility that is not in your home, etc. Up to you.

I, myself, run "system images" of the C-partition weekly on one desktop machine, and twice-weekly on my HTPC machine. I retain 5 generations of the once-weekly backups, and 10 generations of the twice-weekly backups.

Also, I honestly prefer the look and feel and overall feature list of another program named NovaBACKUP (from NovaStor) for "data backup" of folders/files, as compared to the comparable folder/file capabilities of Macrium Reflect. So although I could have saved money by not buying NovaBACKUP, I've been using it ever since upgrading to Win7 back in 2009. I love it.

So, using NovaBACKUP (to write its "data backups" to the same external USB 3.0 drive I use for my "system image" backups out of Macrium Reflect Standard) I take monthly FULL backups of all my "data" (on C, as well as on all of my other multiple drives/partitions). I also take daily INCREMENTAL backups of the same "data". I retain 4 complete "monthly sets" (i.e. monthly FULL plus each of the daily INCREMENTAL backups for the rest of that month) of these "data backups".

NovaBACKUP has a wonderful "time-based restore" capability that allows you to pick the as-of date for recovery of folder/file data, which might exist on multiple backup datasets. You simply specify (through a time slider GUI) a particular as-of date (sliding backwards from "as of TODAY"), thus requesting the restore of "the most recent version on whatever backup dataset it resides on, that satisfies the as-of data specified". Newer versions on later backups are ignored, and older backups on earlier backups are not used. Whichever is the RIGHT backup dataset to satisfy your specified "most current version as-of this date" is selected by the program, automatically. You don't have to know or search for yourself... the program simply does it for you.

You get what you pay for, is my feeling. I will absolutely support "live" software products that have active support from the vendor, including fixes and enhancements. And for that, they must have money. And I will pay that money to them (including annual maintenance if they ask) to get the best product for my needs.

And in my opinion, Macrium Reflect Standard (which also includes vendor support, that the "free" version does not) is worth the $45 for a single license or $90 for four licenses. Its "system image" backups of my C-drive guarantee quick and easy recovery from a system disaster, or migration to new hardware (like SSD).

Also, in my opinion NovaBACKUP is absolutely worth the $50 for its "professional" license. Don't know how many times I've had to recover some lost or corrupted or unwittingly deleted folder/file over the years... probably very few. But just having it run automatically every night to do INCREMENTAL backups of any data I've created or updated that day, and also run automatically every month to do FULL backups of all of my data (just for having convenient recovery access to everything I have, even if it hasn't been updated or created recently so as to appear on some INCREMENTAL backup), again... I feel secure.

I also take DAT (tape) backups to my HP DAT160 drive every few months or so (again, using NovaBACKUP which supports DAT as a storage medium) just to have a secondary backup that sits in my drawer (or could be taken offsite conveniently) where it's not subject to electrical disturbances.

Again, Macrium Reflect Standard provides both "system image" and "data backup" capability, but I use only its "system image" functionality. Similarly, NovaBACKUP provides both "data backup" as well as "system image" capability, but I use only its "data backup" functionality. This is no problem or inconvenience, as both products provide automatic scheduling of jobs (to run weekly, monthly, daily, etc.) so once you set up the schedule for each backup stream for the two products, you really never have to think about it. They just automatically run overnight when they should, and I'm secure. There's no reason not to use two different but similar products if there's a difference between them, and some reason to justify it. The small additional dollar cost is irrelevant.

That's my story.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #23
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

^There you have it...AOEMI is the way to go Thanks Si!
My System SpecsSystem Spec

18 Jul 2014   #24

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Not sure if it backs up files "incrementally". Looks like you can select which files/folders to back up, specify inclusion and exclusions, and schedule. That is what most people want, it seems.

Looks similar to what paid macrium does for files/folders:


Which backup & restore to use-2.png

Aomei free:

Which backup & restore to use-bufolderbkup.jpg

It does incremental/differential imaging.

If you want something that is a front end for robocopy functionality, Karen's replicator (free) is great.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #25
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit

The two software approach is not as bad as you may think. I use FFS (FreeFileSync) to back up my data drives. It takes FFS about one minute per TB to scan a source drive and destination drive for changes. The actual backup, after the initial one, can take anywhere from a second or two to 20 or 30 minutes, depending on how many changes need to be made. FFS can also be set to send discarded files to a versioning folder you can set up on a backup drive. I do identical backups to two HDDs every day and each backup averages just three minutes per HDD. The backup is a usable copy of the source drive, unlike an image that either has to be restored back to the source drive, which is very time consuming. If I lose a data drive in my computer, I can disconnect it and pop in one of the backup HDDs and be back up and running in ten minutes, maybe even less, and still have the other backup HDD in case lightning strikes twice in the same place. That gives me time to get a replacement drive. With images, I wouldn't be able to do that.

I backup my C: drive once a week using Macrium Reflect and just before I make any changes to the drive. My C: drive is unusually large—62.7GB—but, even being that large, it takes only 10 minutes to image the drive and verify the image. However, the image is 25.7GB and keeping multiple images does eat up a lot of room. A folder/file syncing program can't be used to backup an OS and programs whereas imaging can. The size and time disadvantages of imaging can be mitigated by limiting imaging to just the OS and programs. To do that, the OS and programs must be kept on their own drive or partition and data on other drives or partitions. I save the images to my main data drive so they will get backed up when I backup that drive.

I recommend the free version of Macrium Reflect since most people don't need the extra bells and whistles of the paid version.I also have the paid version of Macrium Reflect but I haven't tried the folder backup feature on it. From what I read about it, it actually images at the folder level instead of syncing. Here is a quote from the Help file on folder backup:

File and Folder Backup

Select the files and folders you want to backup, apply filtering criteria to include and exclude files and folders, and Reflect creates a compressed backup file that can be restored directly or browsed using Windows Explorer.
You can create full, differential, and incremental backups to optimize backup speed and disk space requirements.

That suggests imaging to me and I prefer using a syncing program.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #26

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64

Some Backup Imaging programs include ALL partitions it sees "as needed" to restore the system.
Acronis (paid) and Macrium (free) are the programs I've used that allow ME to choose what partition(s) to include in the backup.
I have multi-boot PCs with User data stored in a "Non OS" partition.
So, this is important to ME.
I don't want a backup image to include a partition I don't want to restore if I only need to restore "OS-1".
The backup images simply take up too much space, more backup time, and what will the restore do...

If I want to restore "OS-1" ONLY on my PC, Acronis and Macrium can do that.
They leave "OS-2, OS-3, Data" partitions alone, exactly as they should be.
i.e. I tried something in "OS-1", didn't like it, and want to back out THAT CHANGE ONLY.

INCREMENTAL backups depend on EVERY incremental backup being reliable to restore to that point.
Some programs such as Acronis also have a DIFFERENTIAL backup option.
A differential does not depend on every differential backup since the "Base Image" was created.

I use FULL backups as I believe they are the most reliable.

The only way you, me, or anyone will know if the program and method used really works is to do a restore.

I've been using Acronis for years and I know it's reliable for me for Win 7 and earlier OSs.
I've been testing others, and I think Macrium is reliable, but I don't have years of restoring without problems ...

I recently installed Win 8, upgraded to 8.1, and haven't tried restoring a backup image yet.
I have Macrium and Acronis backups, that restore test is on my "to-do" list.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #27

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Some Backup Imaging programs include ALL partitions it sees "as needed"
I think that is only windows image backup, can't think of any others.

Most will let you select Individual volumes. As you wish. Some also have, as a separate option "systembackup", for people who prefer that.

Aomei certainly does that, Paragon too.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #28

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by SIW2 View Post
Some Backup Imaging programs include ALL partitions it sees "as needed"
I think that is only windows image backup, can't think of any others.
Let's stick to the facts as more than the OP picks up on these threads. It is not responsible to dismiss Windows inbuilt system imaging out of hand. For basic OS imaging and restore it works well for many.

Windows imaging will require only those partitions required to restore a functional operating system. It requires System Reserved (if you have that separate partition) and the operating system partition. It will include other partitions if they contain system files.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #29

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Who is dismissing it? I must have missed something. Seems to me this is pretty accurate:

include ALL partitions it sees "as needed"
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2014   #30

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by mjf View Post
It will include other partitions if they contain system files.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding ...

My understanding is depending on HOW a user MAY have configured THEIR system more partitions MAY be included in the backup image.
Did the OP "move" User data to a different partition using Libraries, or did they "MOVE" the user folder location ... ?

So, for some folks with a 30 GB used [OS] partition, a 500 GB used "Data" partition, and a 250 GB External drive, they MAY get an error for "Not enough space" trying to save the backup image to the external HD ... do they understand why ?

And for those folks that have a large enough backup drive/partition, do they understand that restoring the backup image MAY LOSE all USER DATA changes since the image was created ?

I create backup images for my "OS + programs" partitions independently than how, when, and why I backup USER data.

I can restore the OS AND/OR User data independently...
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Which backup & restore to use

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