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Windows 7: backup utilities

04 May 2016   #1

Win 7
backup utilities

I'm interested in utilities, free or paid, for backing up a drive to another drive on a network (or a USB drive). I am not talking about cloud backup here (that's another discussion). I have been using GFI backup (free) for many years, but I think it's an unsupported product now, and that makes me nervous.

I searched all over the internet for reviews of free and paid software, and it's disappointing how everything seems to have major problems. I need REALLY SOLID software with a good interface to trust my data to it.

My main requirement, besides that fact that the software is well-enough designed that I can trust it to work when the chips are down, is the ability to keep several old versions of a file and of course a usable interface for browsing those versions and choosing what to restore. Also keeping deleted files. I don't put a high priority on image backups.

My most common use case is the need to look at older versions of a file that I might have changed by accident. My second most common use case is the desire to restore everything to a certain date. I don't expect complete failure of my main drive to happen very often, so quick recovery to new hardware (i.e. imaging) is not a priority.

Here is a really simple restore capability that works well: choose the date that I want to restore to. Restore every file to its state as of that date.

Here are bad ideas. (1) choose which version file-by file. I've got 50,000 files, no thanks. (2) choose globally whether you want the most recent version of every file, the second-most recent of every file, the third-most recent, etc. This is a terrible idea (yet iDrive does it this way) because that's not what one needs in an actual problem situation-- your file data as of May 1 might be the most recent version of some files, and the second-most of other files, and so on.

Here is another bad idea (GFI backup has this problem): keep every old version forever, or give you only a clunky control for "cleaning up" old versions. Jungle Disk is much better (but that's an online service, just giving a sense here of what it does): you have all sorts of control over how many versions of each file are kept, the maximum amount of space to devote to versions, the maximum length of time to keep them, etc.

So here are some programs I looked at:
  • Built-in Windows backup. Doesn't appear to support file versioning.
  • Acronis True Image. The first sign these folks can't design software is that their website is terrible. But what makes it really out of the question is that they charge $20 for per-incident support. They say they refund your money if the problem is their fault, but we all know that many real-life problems are not actually bugs in the software, just difficulties that are difficult to troubleshoot, so I doubt they often assign the blame to themselves.
  • NTI backup. A reviewer on Amazon says he was getting generic errors with no indication what was causing the error. It took him a long time to trace it. It turns out that some of his files weren't getting backed up, silently. And this is a paid product!
  • Genie Timeline. Everyone who reviews this calls it "easy to use" and "doesn't have pages of complicated settings." I'm a power user, so this probably won't cut it. If it truly does what I want, then great, but I should probably focus elsewhere.
  • Areca. Open source free software. Doesn't does VSS shadow copying, meaning it can't back up any files in use.
  • Genie Backup Manager Professional. It has nearly 50% 1-star reviews on Amazon thanks to its lovely tendency to omit files from your backup.
  • There are a number of open-source backup programs which require both client and server processes and have lots and lots of enterprise-type features, but it's not clear they are practical for the home user, or can even do anything I want.

Ones I'm not sure about, need to research.
  • Comodo (free if you don't get the online storage). The "features" page doesn't mention versioning, so it's a good bet it doesn't have it, but I'm not sure.
  • Norton Security. I don't want most of this, but it does include backup. Not sure if the backup can be used independently. Not sure what its capabilities are. Probably not a lot of backup capability as it's a bundled product with the emphasis on non-backup capabilities like anti-virus. Also there is no "try before you buy" and very little written about what it can actually do.
  • Paragon Home. Seems to be oriented to disk imaging. No discussion on the website of file versioning, but lots of advanced features related to imaging.

Any ideas welcome. Also how should I go about searching for possibilities and reviews? Amazon sells a few backup programs and seems to be a good source for comments on how the software works when the boots hit the ground.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 May 2016   #2
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

Your main point of concern seems to be holding onto versions of files. Try using free TortoiseSVN. I use that at work on far more files than you have, and it works flawlessly.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 May 2016   #3

Win 7

Many aspects of my use case are backup-related. I didn't mention them because they are common to all backup situations. I need to set up jobs by specifying folders, not individual files. And the job needs to run on a schedule. I don't think a version control system does those things. Also a version control system is way more complicated than necessary when restoring. Way more complicated for everything. Also it's not a good way to handle binary files, and there's probably not a way to set rules to purge old data.

A good backup design is Jungle Disk, which does all these things. Unfortunately that is (1) for the cloud only, and (2) insanely expensive compared to most other cloud services. They cost $150/month for 1 TB. IDrive, although not a very good program, costs $5/month for 1 TB.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

04 May 2016   #4
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

With sub-versioning there is no need to purge files - only one subversion backup is needed, with the entire history of each and every file permanently recorded.

TortoiseSVN does handle binary files, and exceptionally well...I've been using it for almost 10 years with files ranging from 1kb through to 80Gb. Never missed a beat.

Automation of subversion commital is easy to accomplish using Windows Task Scheduler.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 May 2016   #5

Win 7

A common use case in backup is naming a folder, and assuming that every file and subfolder will be included in the backup, and any new files and subfolders will be seen automatically. Does SVN do that, or does one have to add files explicitly?

I don't actually want to record the entire history of every file, which would eventually swell my data considerably. I only need that last 60 days or so. But perhaps I could get by without purging old versions. Drives keep getting cheaper and I'm still below 500 GB current data size, so there wouldn't be a problem for a long time, if ever.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 May 2016   #6

Win 7

Oh, can TortoiseSVN copy files in use via the VSS system? That's an absolute requirement.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 May 2016   #7

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

I was going to recommend Macrium Reflect Pro, however, you might have already looked into that one :)
MR free or pay-for uses VSS.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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