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Windows 7: Backup or Save data?

27 Apr 2018   #11

Windows 10 Pro x64 x3, Ubuntu

Most of the modern backup solutions for Consumers and especially business customers now use standard compression algorithms, so recovery will be more assured than previously.

However, you should also use common sense with your backup procedures.

If and when the software changes ... If you have any doubt in the viability, possibly even if you do not ..
  • read the small print on the viability of recovering previous backups
  • Make a test backup
  • make sure you have a copy of the older software's installer
  • uninstall it
  • install the new software.
  • try a test restore of your test backup

If all is good you can continue to use the new software without worry

If you have unsolvable issues with the recovery you have two viable options ...
  1. Archive old backup software installer with the old backups and include a notes document explaining what needs to be done to restore them - Do immediate full backup[s] of all your data and set up any schedules and rules to take advantage of the new software improvements
  2. Continue to use the old software for as long as is practical until you can find an alternative or follow option 1

My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Apr 2018   #12

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Being concerned about image restorability is being wise! Along with what others have posted...if you do routine, meaning weekly or bi-monthly OS partition and Data partition full image backups onto external media; and you keep perhaps the last two Cs and two Ds (shorthand for C partition and D partition); the odds of successfully restoring parts of or the whole full image is greatly in your favor. On the average, due to increased data stuff, I now have on each laptop's two dedicated usb ext HDs two System Reserved partitions, two C partitions, and at least one D partition.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Apr 2018   #13

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by OnTheRopes View Post
What do you consider the advantage of backing up data rather than just copying the files elesewhere? Space saving? What worries me if compressed by software that i will not be able to recover it at some point when needed.
First of all, "just copying files elsewhere" IS a backup! It could seem a rudimentary one, but it fulfills the function of a backup.
Basically, a "backup" is a redundant copy of something for use in case of problems with the original. Using dedicated backup software certainly achieves that, but even a trivial CTRL+C, CTRL+V in Windows Explorer to a separate location suffices that purpose. In case of losing the original, you can restore it from the copy you made. That's exactly the ability you want when you make a backup.

For starters, using a simple copy-paste operation for backup is enough (and certainly better than nothing), but having a dedicated backup program is worth considering for many reasons, I can think of a few here:
- Automation of the job, you configure it and it goes backing it up for you on the background. People naturally tends to forget about making backups.
- Backup software help with versioning and lifetime of backups. You can often configure how many copies you want to keep and for how long.
- It can help generating differential and incremental backups, where you only copy what changed since the last time instead of the whole thing.
- It can also help with providing compression and encryption to the plain data.
- Some software also allows for running other commands before or after the copy.

To be fair, backup programs give nothing you cann't do yourself within Windows Explorer plus a few supporting tools, but having it all packed together with a nice interface running in the background without needing your intervention each time helps greatly.

I clearly understand your concern about needing the software to use the backup, that's why I always restrict myself to backup software that outputs standard file formats or just plain file copies. Restoring is either a plain copy back to the original location or using a normal software like WinZip or the like. Any standard, widely used or open format is fine to me. I run away from anything that generates a file that can only be used with that program, specially if the program is not open source.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by OnTheRopes View Post
So am I running any unnecessary risks? If C: was to go down then I can just re-install windows and software I guess and I suppose I will have hassle finding the drivers and such. So I suppose being able to restore will save this problem, what else am I not getting?
"risks" against what? Always define what do you intent to protect against when talking about risks and security. Your current backup strategy for example covers very well against accidental modification/deletion, but won't withstand an electrical failure that fries the whole computer. Some prefer to have an offsite backup for those cases, or another, unpluged drive, or another internal drive. Each one covers different scenarios.

If you reinstall the OS on the C drive, your data is still safe in the others, but yes, you need to reconfigure everything (which has many benefits despite the work required). For drivers and software, I always recommend that you keep installers of everything you use as part of your backups. That way if the need for a reformat arrises (or you want to build another computer) you just draw the installers and you're running within a short time.

Taking an image (widely advertised here despite not being a good backup) could serve as one in some cases, but that doesn't eliminates the need for backing up the software as well as data.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

27 Apr 2018   #14

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Alejandro, thanks for adding the pot 'o knowledge and experiences! Even though we all might disagree with one another on a few things here and there, we all offer the OP a nice sized "store" from which to pick hardware and software and procedures/processes - that suits and works for the OP :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Apr 2018   #15
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Sadly, there is a lot of bad information floating around in this thread. For data to be reasonably safe, it must exist in three separate places. for most people, this would be on the computer, on an onsite backup drive, and on an offsite backup drive. The backup drives must be kept disconnected from the the computer, powered down, and stored away from the computer except while updating the backup. You are already using an external drive so you are off to a good start.

I recommend that you remove your L: drive from your computer and place it into an external drive enclosure. Having a backup drive installed inside your computer, while seemingly convenient, is a bad idea because it is exposed to the same dangers as the other drives in your computer, such as viruses and other malware, PSU failures that fry your computer components, a powerline current surge or voltage spike that plows through any surge arrestors you may have also frying you componets, theft of the computer, accidentally knocking over your computer which damages the drives inside, etc.

Onsite computer backup drives should be stored away from the computer out of sight of the computer, preferably in another room, to reduce the chance of them also being stolen if your computer is stolen. If the computer should catch fire but the damage is limited to just the computer and the immediate area around it, the chances are your data will still be safe.

Since even an onsite backup can be stolen or lost to thest, fire, flood, or other disasters, it is strongly adviseable that you have some kind of offsite backup. This is usually a second backup drive stored as far as physically practical from your home. I used to suggest storing it at a trusted friend's, neighbor's, or relative's home or in a locked drawer or locker at work or school until someone recently pointed out to me that if a home where the backup drive is located gets stolen should that home be robbed, the thief will then have access to your data. Similarly, an employer or school administration could access anything you have in a locked drawer or locker without the need of a search warrant or even a good reason.

The safest place to keep an offsite backup drive is in a safe deposit box in a vault at a bank or credit union. Only you or anyone else you have authorized will be able to access it without a proper search warrant. I pay only $60/year for my safe deposit box where I keep my offsite backup drives. Since I would have the box for important papers that I'm legally required to keep original copies of anyway, the added expense for the additional space for the backup drives was nominal.

Offsite and onsite backups should be swapped out as often as practical to facilitate keeping both as up to date as possible.

I've already recommended using Macrium Reflect Free to backup your C: drive. Desoite a claim here to the contrary, imaging is the best way to backup your OS and programs (cloning can also be used but is too time and drive space intensive for backups; it should be used only for vreating a duplicate of the C: drive, such as when replacing it with a new or larger drive). Nigel (Barman58) gave an excellent response for concerns of of backups becoming obsolete. To expand on that, one reason I recommend Macrium Reflect is, even if the company should go out of buiness, you can still use it to make backup images (which must be stored on an external drive, btw) and the images will remain compatible with the OS used to make it, allowing you to still restore them. The media (hard drive, SSD, USB stick, etc.) the image is stored on is highly unlikely to become obsolete during the life of the OS. You still need to be on the watch for when certain media becomes obsolete, as has happened with, for example, floppy disks, but all that is needed to avoid that problem is to make your backups onto current media. Most media today (with the possible exception of optical disks: CDs, DVDs, BDs) aren't going anywhere soon. One precaution you should take is to have multiple copies of your rescue disk or USB drive (I recommend using USB sticks) so you won't be up the creek if one should die on you (or get lost). It wouldn't hurt to store an extra copy or two of your rescue drive with your offsite backups.

While you can just reinstall your OS and programs, you will spend hours to days doing that whereas restoring from an image only takes minutes.

For data only, I recommend a folder/file syncing program used in Mirror mode, such as FreeFileSync. A folder/file syncing program will compare the data drive (or just a folder, if you choose

With one exception (a paid, cloud backup service; more on that in a moment), you should never use automatic backups since they require that the backup drive be kept connected to the computer, a very bad idea for reasons already discussed. Also, one should always run Antivirus and other antimalware scans immediately prior to backing up anything to reduce the risk of infecting your backups.

If opting for a cloud backup, stay away from cloud storage, especially the freebies, such as Google Drive or MS One Drive. For starters, the free storage options are rarely, if ever, encrypted. Free cloud services of any kind, but especially storage, are subject to disappearing with no to inadequate warning and your data will be lost (Google is especially notorious for discontinuing free services). Most cloud storage options are unencryoted and have more lax security measures, making your data subject to hacking. You are also subject to your data being mined for personal information (in fact, count on it).

A good paid, cloud backup service, on the other hand, will put software on your computer that will run in the background—you will never see any effects, such as computer slowdowns—and encryt your data before it ever leaves your computer. They usually have far better security against hacking and malware infection. Their servers are in secure, physical locations that are guarded and have backup air conditioning, power generation equipment, etc. to avoid losing data to mechanical and power failures. A good, paid cloud backup service is not nearly as likely to disappear without adequate warning. Paid, cloud backup services are a good option for offsite backups and are the only kind of automatic backup I recommend. A good, reasonably priced cloud backup service for home systems is Backblaze. There are even better business oriented services but those are expensive. Backblaze was only $50/year the last time I checked (I use a business service).

The major disadvantages of a paid, cloud backup service is cost, the need for a broadband internet connection, and the time required to make the initial upload of data and the time needed to download all of your data if you need a full recovery. The advantages include being able to maintain an onsite backup, including keeping it up to date, with minimal effort.

I use a combination of a cloud backup and offsite backup drives. If I loose the data on my computer and my onsite backups, downloading all of it from the cloud would take months (my ISP's data cap exacerbates the problem). However, I can far more quickly recover most of my data from my offsite backup drives, then recover what little was added or changed on my computer since the last time the offsite backup drives were updated from the cloud backup service. Overall recovery time will go from several months to less than a handful of days

Keep in mind if you use a paid, cloud backup service for offsite backup, you will still need need an onsite backup. Never depend on only one backup.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Apr 2018   #16

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

LadyF's many words are apples of gold on a silver platter! Yes, my early post was lax. I was glad that backups were being done! As this thread progressed, many ideas were forwarded to make backups better (which includes restorability) and safer (which includes security against bad things happening to said backups). On The 'Net is an idea often called 3-2-1 backups, which is similar to LadyF's idea of having duplicate backups in more than simply one place, three places are best.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Apr 2018   #17

Windows Prox64

Wow, some great comments here and thanks to all for taking the time for such complete responses and if I do not quote you direct it doesn't mean I don't value your input.

So I think for now, this will be my procedure.

Data copied from D: (data) to L: (Backup) drive (both internal)
Data also copied from D: to External hard drive and kept offsite.
Image backup of C: Drive kept on External hard drive and kept offsite.

I forgot to mention I have a partition on D: which has been setup specifically to test backups will restore, so I shall have to start using that again as it fell into disuse.

Possibly buy another external drive for duplicate.

I will consider cloud storage though I am not sure I am ready for a subscription service though I appreciate the data security issues mentioned by Lady F.
Malwarebytes actually blocks that link to freefilesync for potentially unwanted PUP
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Apr 2018   #18
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by OnTheRopes View Post
...Malwarebytes actually blocks that link to freefilesync for potentially unwanted PUP
That is an annoying quirk of Malwarebytes (MB) because it often assumes that all PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) are malicious and blocks them all. A PUP is normally found in a program installer and will install a sponsored program or two while installing the desired program.

The PUP in FreeFileSync (FFS) offers to install one or two additional programs, such as Chrome and Google Toolbar, while installing FFS but will also give you the opportunity to opt out of installing the addition program(s) as long as you pay attention while installing FFS (always use the expert installation when installing programs, btw, to ensure you get that opportunity). Even better, install a tiny program called Unchecky (Unchecky - Keeps your checkboxes clear). It will start at boot and sit idle in the background until it detects a PUP, then it it will uncheck any boxes for installing additional programs (most of the time; it occasionally will miss one so you still have to pay attention while installing programs). I always check for additional programs while installing programs anyway. I just have Unchecky running for the occasions I miss one.

The PUP in FFS' installer doesn't install on your computer and will run only while installing FFS so it is not the dire danger that Malwarebytes thinks it is. When I update FFS, I first turn off Malwarebytes (my antivirus program is still running), then download and install FFS. I like to keep my program installers in case I ever need to go back to an earlier version. To keep Malewarebytes from deleting the installer after I turn it back on, I zip the installer—I use 7-Zip ( Then I turn Malwarebytes back on and run a scan. I yet have had that scan find anything after I have had it turned off for a short while.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Apr 2018   #19

Windows Prox64

Thanks Lady F, I will be sure to check out Unchecky as I do from time to time forget and let something slip through.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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