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Windows 7: best practice for OS only backup

07 Nov 2015   #1
8th Decader

windows 7 home premium 64 bit
best practice for OS only backup

I thought I’d cracked this but I think I need some confirming advice.
I want to create the easiest and most foolproof way of restoring a freshly installed Windows 7 OS should it go totally pear shaped in the future.
Very simply I have a gifted 2 year old PC. It has a 120gb SSD and I have added extra mech hard drives.
At present it has Win 7 Home Premium 64bit installed on the clean SSD and one mech hard drive has been reformatted ready for use. After loading the OS I installed the latest drivers chipset, LAN, USB, etc and repeatedly ran Windows Update until everything availableis there, on the SSD. I’ve tweaked a twin monitor set up until it shows what I want.
Nothing else, not even an anti-virus app has been installed.
I know the SSD has limited capacity. 56.8GBs, more than half of the available 111gbs, already shows being used. Hence the reformatted mech HD which is ready to accept new apps and have transferred to it everything it is capable of having moved to it. (That I can do)’
So what is a) the easiest, b) the most foolproof and dependable, way of being able to put back onto the SSD (or its replacement if the existing fails beyond recovery), the OS, exactly as it exists at this moment in time and c) exactly how is it put back on? I ask this because I am assuming that whatever is on the SSD at the time this operation is required will have to be removed – or a replacement drive for the OS fitted. I just don’t understand how it can be done otherwise.
There’s space on the other hard drives to create a partition specifically for this job. Or, my gut feeling, I can use a USB memory stick, or an external drive. The question is; is there one “best practice” solution to this which is also simple and does not require proprietary software?
I very much look forward to your replies. I may not be able to reply straight away. Some rather wild weather is hitting poor old Queensland right now (golf ball sized hail stones) and I expect the most high tech thing around here shortly will be torches and candles!!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2015   #2

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64 +Linux_VMs +Chromium_VM

I use Macrium Reflect free, and it works reliably for me.
You have more control and options than the built in Windows Backup program.
There are other 3rd party Backup programs available such as AOMEI, EaseUS, Acronis, etc. - I prefer Macrium.

Macrium Reflect Free
I prefer to download Macrium from MajorGeeks rather than the default location Macrium uses for downloading.
Download Macrium Reflect FREE Edition - MajorGeeks

imho, To really know what you like best and what works best for you, you would need to test the different programs available.
For that, could you setup a small unimportant "Test" partition that you could Backup and Restore, to learn with ?

For best practice, create backups as often as necessary, that depends on how often/much you change your OS partition, and how much you are willing to lose/redo, if you have to recover.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2015   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by 8th Decader View Post
It has a 120gb has Win 7 Home Premium 64bit installed on the clean SSD............not even an anti-virus app has been installed...........56.8GBs, more than half of the available 111gbs, already shows being used............Hence the reformatted mech HD which is ready to accept new apps...........There’s space on the other hard drives to create a partition specifically for this job...............I can use a USB memory stick, or an external drive. The question is; is there one “best practice” solution to this which is also simple
I second the Macrium recommendation.

Some points however regarding the above quoted stuff that you wrote:

1: If you have just done a fresh Win 7 install, with no apps, you certainly should NOT have used up 57 GB of the available 111. Offhand, 25 GB would be much closer to what I would expect. So, something else is going on. I have close to 60 apps on a 5 year old Win 7 installation and use a total of 40 GB.

How much memory is installed? Do you use hibernation? How large is your swap file?

2: Why are you thinking about putting apps on a mechanical HD? The SSD is the best spot for apps unless they won't fit. The advantage of SSDs is speed---why not take advantage of it?

3: You don't need to create a partition on the mechanical HD "specifically for this job". The Macrium application will simply create a single image file and that file can be kept on the mechanical HD just like any other file. Just put it in a folder called "images" along with whatever other data files are on the mechanical HD. Back up the image file just like you would any other important data.

4: An internal or external drive is fine for the purpose and either would be preferable to a USB stick. A Macrium image file will take up roughly half the space of the partitions it represents. If your C partition uses 57 GB, the image file would take up somewhere between 20 and 30 GB.

Macrium is about as simple as these apps get, but you need to fully understand it. Most importantly, you have to make a bootable rescue disk within Macrium that will in fact boot your PC. If it won't boot your PC, you cannot restore and are totally out of luck. So, confirm it boots the PC and make sure you understand the steps you need to take after you boot the PC from the rescue disk---you don't want to try to learn that AFTER you have a disaster.

You quite possibly need to include multiple partitions in the image file: C and System Reserved if you have a System Reserved. It's (normally) not enough to just make an image of C alone.

It would be best for you to post a screen shot of your Windows Disk Management so we can know for sure what partitions need to be included.

And figure out why you are using 57 GB already. Definitely not standard.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

07 Nov 2015   #4

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1

If it is a desktop you can get rid of hibernation and for an SSD OS drive plus 8GB Ram you can substantially reduce the size of your pagefile. I have mine set to 2GB but I'm not sure I even need that.
I agree with the comment to keep your installed apps on C (games may be a different matter).
Macrium is a good reliable system imaging program.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2015   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Service Pack 1

I concur with everything said above. Here is a tutorial on Macrium. Imaging with free Macrium It is for a previous version but is mostly the same.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2015   #6

Windows 7 Pro x64 Windows 10 Pro x64

I use Windows native imaging and Macrium, better to be safe then sorry.

As suggested, lower the page file, disable hibernation, and turn off system restore unless you use it.

You will gain back a lot of space.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Nov 2015   #7
8th Decader

windows 7 home premium 64 bit

First, thank you all for your generosity in providing advice.

Macrium Reflect Free seems to be highly regarded and I shall use that. (Downloaded from MajorGeeks as recommended! Thank you, too, for the link to a tutorial. I’m currently reading that.

As regards ignatzatsonic’s concerns over the size of ‘C’, (which terrifies me) there is a noticeable difference between ‘Properties’ which show 57.9GBs on ’C’ as used, 53.7GB free and the total used if the 7 directories in ‘C’ are added up. The breakdown is:

Intel 1mb
Nvidia 707mb
Perflogs 0mb
Program Files 1.39GB
Program Files (x86) 409mb
Users 561mb
Windows 24GB (22844 folders : 160,448 files)

If this is unusual, then I am at a complete loss to understand how or why it has happened. As I explained, this was an absolutely clean installation onto a formatted SSD drive. I followed the very helpful advice step by step guide in Newegg’s tutorial for the installation. I first downloaded the latest chipset, LAN, USB 3 and VGA drivers (not SATA Raid) as I have no intention of setting up a raid array, disconnected the mech hard drives, then put the OS disc in, deleted the existing partitions on the SSD and sat back as Widows installed.
After establishing an internet connection, Windows update was repeatedly run (well over 200 updates installed over a couple of days). Then I reconnected the other mechanical HDs.

Disk Management strangely shows Disks 0 and 1 are the first two of the mech HDS although I believe, from reading other posts in the past, that this is not unusual. Disc 2 is the SSD and contains the expected small reserved 100MB partition with the description System, active , primary, and ‘C’, which is 111.69Gb in size with the description Boot, Page File, Crash Dump, Primary Partition – exactly as shown in the Newegg tutorial. All drives are shown as healthy.

There is in fact 16GBs of RAM, not 8GBs as I mistakenly first stated.
The default Power Options show the preferred plan is ‘balanced’ – the display to turn off after 10 mins, the computer to go to sleep after 30mins.

Again, the defaults for pressing power button will shut down, pressing sleep will choose sleep.

The total paging files for all drives is shown as 16344MB and this is ticked to be automatically managed. The recommended size is actually shown as 24516MB, more than that currently allocated.

Has something gone wrong somewhere along the line re the amount of the SSD taken up by Windows?

Dealing with other questions:
I intended apps and moving Desktop, Downloads, My X,Y Z etc to the mech HD formatted and ready for that purpose because I was previously running out of space on the SSD and because this is recommended by quite a few people on other help forums. I’ve not actually found the extra speed associated with a SSD to be a ‘can’t do without’ issue. A quick start up is obviously helpful after switching on but processes aren’t annoyingly slower on this non-SSD PC than they are on the newer SSD equipped PC.
The main reason behind by original post is this. If a reformat is required in a couple of years’ time, it would be helpful, not to have to back to the very beginning but to the point where I am now – a new instal with several years updates, but otherwise completely clean of apps. Apps may or may not have been added or removed between now and then. In any event a reformat is an excellent opportunity to do a lot of house-keeping and prune dead wood.
A future reformat would thus give me a head start. If Macrium does that, it meets the requirement that, when a reformat becomes possibly the best option in future, I simply delete everything on the SSD and with a few clicks, get back to where I am now (assuming the usage question is resolved!)

I should mention Data backups are kept on a pair of external HDs and regularly updated and modified as necessary.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Nov 2015   #8

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit

If you do not use hibernation, you can likely regain considerable space by deleting the hibernation file.

Do you or don't you have any interest in hibernation? I do not and have deleted that file, saving an amount of space equal to installed RAM--16 GB in your case.

You can easily reduce the paging file considerably as well. Don't accept automatic management. Reduce it to something like 1 GB minimum and 2 GB maximum.

Have you or have you not checked how much space is devoted to System Restore? Typically, 6 or 8 GB should be enough and that amount is entirely within your control via Control Panel/System.

None of the above adjustments are necessary UNLESS you are concerned about space used on the SSD--and you seem to be concerned. So, take action, and report back on space used.

You CANNOT rely on the sum of individual folder sizes to be accurate.

You can likely make the SSD disk 0 by swapping cables, but making that change is not a big deal.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Nov 2015   #9

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64 +Linux_VMs +Chromium_VM

WizTree (free) can help see where space is used.
They have a portable version available, no install needed.
Antibody Software - WizTree finds the files and folders using the most disk space on your hard drive
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Nov 2015   #10

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Service Pack 1

Junction Point redirects of which Windows has many make the individual folder values unreliable.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 best practice for OS only backup

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