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Windows 7: A simple backup method

16 Oct 2014   #1
Doctor Ed

Windows 7 Pro 64 bit
A simple backup method

I have an aversion to bloated backup applications, proprietary formats, and complex strategies for backing up.

So here's how I do backups.

All my data files are in a small number (~5) of readily identifiable folders in the root of a drive on my computer ("Drive E"). None are in the \Windows, \Documents and Settings, or \User folders. Every couple of weeks or so all these data files are synced to an external drive ("Drive F"). The external drive contains exact dupes - no compression is done.

In between the syncing sessions, any new or altered files are automatically copied nightly to a folder ("C:\NightlyBackups\") in the root of the boot drive of the computer ("Drive C"). Each night, a new sub-folder is automatically created, so that no files get over-written.

Every couple of months or so, I take Drive F and store it off-site, and replace it with another external drive, Drive G, which was previously offsite. After that, Drive G becomes the drive that I sync the data to.

After a syncing session, I delete everything in C:\NightlyBackups, and that folder starts filling up again nightly with new files.

For now I don't back up the operating system or program files.

The prog I use to do the backing up is FreeByte Backup (freeware). It might be possible to configure XCopy or similar to do this. The scheduling is done by Windows Task Scheduler (thanks for the help, Tooken). So the cost of the software is zero.

I've been doing it this way for many years and it seems to work fine. (Haven't had any HD failures in that time, though, so haven't had the opportunity to test out a restore.)

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Oct 2014   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit

If it works for you, I'd stay with it. Better that you use something you are highly familiar with through years of use.

Good that you are doing ordinary uncompressed file copies rather than relying on an image.

Only minor quibble I would have is relying on a scheduler. When they work, fine, but I'd be (slightly) afraid that I was becoming complacent and that it was another point of possible failure. I make backups purely manually as it keeps my head in the game and I can witness the progress as it occurs.

You don't over-write every night. I do, but that's personal preference. If I modify file X at noon and run my normal backup at 6 pm, then file X on my backup is also over-written with the noon version. If I wanted an earlier version of file X, I'd have to rely on either of my separate monthly or quarterly drag and drops of data. I have no way of going back to a 4 day old version of a file if it has been modified in the interim, but it hasn't caused me a problem yet in many years. My data file turnover rate is quite low--typically less than 50 new or modified files a day out of about 90,000.

My daily backup is of all data and is made to an internal hard drive, overwriting earlier versions. I use FreeFileSync.

My monthly backup is a drag and drop of my most important data, to a newly formatted USB thumb drive.

My quarterly backup is a drag and drop of all data to a newly formatted standard hard drive placed in an external dock.

I'm not familiar with FreeByte Backup, but I assume it works well and you understand it, so go with it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Oct 2014   #3
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit

The problem I have with scheduling automatic backups is it means the backup drive has to be connected all the time. That put the data on your backup drive at risk for many of the same things that can corrupt your data on your computer, such as virus or other malware. It's far safer to hook up the backup drive only long enough to update the backup, then disconnect it. Also, since even backup drives can fail, it's advisable to have more than one backup drive. I'm assuming that FreeByte Backup is similar to the program I use—FreeFileSync—in which case, it doesn't take long to manually run a backup. On most days, I can run four backups in less than 20 minutes; I usually run them while watching the news.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

17 Oct 2014   #4
Doctor Ed

Windows 7 Pro 64 bit

What is the prevalence of malware that attacks data files? And wouldn't such malware also be able to attack files in an external drive as soon as it is connected?

Anyway, point taken, and the solution for me is to do more frequent syncs to the external drive, and keep it offline except for when backing up.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Oct 2014   #5
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Doctor Ed View Post
What is the prevalence of malware that attacks data files?...
Good question for which I don't have a good answer. I see it reports of it happening from time to time; I just don't have any hard statistics to give you. I did have a couple of Word docs get infected once a little over a year ago. I had to copy and paste the data in the docs to new docs to recover the data, then nuke the infected docs. Fortunately, the nasty little bugger didn't copy and paste to the new docs.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Doctor Ed View Post
...And wouldn't such malware also be able to attack files in an external drive as soon as it is connected?...
Another good question for which I do have an answer for you. Yes, malware can attack data on an external drive once it's connected. The trick is to get rid of the malware before connecting the external drive. I always run my AV/anti-malware scans just before connecting my backup drives. I also scan the backup drives every now and then but I have yet to find malware on them.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 A simple backup method

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