View Full Version : A computer backup question.....

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 1:04 PM
Ok, I've got the computers up and running. LOML's computer backed up on DVD. The old hard drive that died, backed up on DVD. In doing so, I found a windows file that was only 400 MB (roughly) and the replacement was like 1.4 something gig. So, sounds like the hard drive didn't fail, she somehow lost her Windows XP program.:confused::confused: So, I'm going to try to use the old hard drive in the USB case as a backup device, partitions for each of us.
So the question: Anyone know of a freeware backup program that is easy to use, and allows you to see what's on the drive, like you can the back up to DVD?? I used the Windows 2000 Pro supplied back up, and you can't look at the files to verify visually what's there. Plus, my 2.3 gig C drive recorded as 3.3 as the back up, and that is bothersome. The D drive was within a few mb.
I tried a trial version of Accronis, but the C drive came out to 1.22 gig, much smaller than the original. Possibly it compresses the material, but again, you can't look at the files to verify what's there.
Thanks for any insights you might have, and have a great weekend!! Jim.

David DeCristoforo
08-16-2008, 1:21 PM
There are tons of "automated" back up utilities out there. But I have always found them to be somewhat unreliable. IMMHO, the "best" way to protect your data is to store your files on a separate hard drive from the one that houses your OS and apps. I use Macs so my exact process is a bit different from what you would use for windoze boxes. But here is the basic configuration:
"Primary" drive for the OS and applications
Drive #2 for a complete backup of the "Primary" drive updated whenever the system is changed in any way or new apps or drivers are installed.
Drive #3 holds all data. Pictures, music, video, documents, all are saved to this drive.
Drive #4 holds a complete backup of Drive #3 updated either daily, weekly or monthly depending on how much work I am doing at the time.

To back up the primary drive, I use a "cloning" app. This is easier on a Mac but there are similar apps for windoze such as this one:

All backups are done "manually" and "verified". By "verified" I mean that the system backup is booted to insure that it is solid and random data files are opened from the backup to insure that they are good.

Now, here's where I get fanatic. I also have two more hard drives in an external "e-SATA" enclosure with redundant copies of my back ups. These drives are only connected to the computer when making or restoring back ups. The rest of the time the enclosure is disconnected and powered down.

Backing up to optical disks is risky because the disks are just not that reliable. Plus, compared to hard drives, they are slow and do not hold nearly enough data which means that you will have to burn at least several disks to back up one drive.

Scott Shepherd
08-16-2008, 1:23 PM
Jim, I don't use any free backup software, but I can highly recommend spending $50 a year. Yes, a YEAR, not a month, for Carbonite.com. It keeps everything backed up and can retrieve anything, including previous versions of files that may have changed.

I've been using it for a couple of months now and it's now on every computer I own. I never worry about backups or recoveries now. Saved me a lot of time and has given me a lot of more in just knowing it's all backed up offsite.

If there is a fire, all your backup drives will be burned up too!

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 1:33 PM
David, that is what I'm trying to do. My external enclosure is eSATA and USB2. I just formated my C backup again, and redid it with the Win 2k Pro utility, and it came out 1.71 gig where the first time it was 3.4 something. And I can't open the file and "see" what's there. That bugs me.
Scott, that might be something my wife would like. I'll tell her about it. It would be a business expense for her. Might be worthwhile.
Thanks for the info. But I still need to find a way to duplicate My C and D on the external enclosure where I can look at the info and verify what's there. I don't want to get to a back up need and find that what's backed up isn't what I thought I put on it!! Jim.

David DeCristoforo
08-16-2008, 1:44 PM
"...And I can't open the file and "see" what's there..."

That's why you need to "clone" the drive rather than make a "back up". The windoze back up utility (and most 3rd party ones as well) really just creates a "restore point" whereas a clone is an exact "stand alone" duplicate of the drive that can be booted independently.

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 1:49 PM
So, is what I need to do what some people call a ghost image or ghost program? Jim.

David DeCristoforo
08-16-2008, 1:55 PM
More or less the same thing. As I said, I'm more familiar with Macs which work a bit differently than windoze systems. But basically, you are looking for something that exactly duplicates the boot drive rather than simply copying files.

Steve knight
08-16-2008, 2:11 PM
been using http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/sbse.html for a couple of years. it is fairly easy to use and gives you a bunch of different options. what I like is it will let you save as many versions of a file as you want so if you have to go back a few it is not a problem. it is only 30.00
for free you can also use foldershare to sync files on several machines over the internet. I really liek this as I can keep the same files on my work and home machines with no effort. it is free.

Greg Peterson
08-16-2008, 2:25 PM

When it comes to backups, there are a few principles that apply to any PC whether it be Mack (Linux) or Windows.

First is what backup best fits your requirements? Size, speed, security and so on. Keep in mind that what seems reasonable today may be as outdated tomorrow as the 5" floppies of yesterday.

Second, what are you going to back up? Many folks assume they want to backup, clone or copy their entire hard disk. There are some instances where one may actually need this. For non-production purposes (i.e. casual home users) simply backing up the data files is usually sufficient. By data files I mean files such as, but not limited to: Pictures (.jpg, .bmp ...), documents (.doc, .xls, .qws, .txt, .wpd and so on), Internet browser bookmarks......... You get the idea. No need to backup up your OS directory, Office Suite, browser, games (but certainly backup game user data, of course!), Adobe Reader.... You will reinstall those apps in the case of a hard drive failure.

Keep your backups manageable. And then store them on a 4 or 8 GB USB flash drive. Get two, keep one at the office and one at home, switch them around with whatever degree of frequency you feel comfortable with.

As you have installable copies of your applications you need not bother backing up these files. If you don't have copies of these files then you're going to have to consider cloning the entire drive since you won't be able to reinstall the apps.

So long as your file management is pretty straightforward, the included backup with Windows is sufficient for many users. If you have your data files all over the place, backup can become complicated. You could create a batch file that makes copies of all the directories you need, places them in a single directory and then have your backup utility simply back up that one directory each evening. Or you could simply select the folders via the backup applet and schedule the job. The batch file could create a new sub directory each time therefor you would not be overwriting previous versions of your backups.

Rather than use three or four drives for single, dedicated backups, I would take those three or four drives and use them in a RAID 5 or even RAID 10 configuration. When a drive dies, you don't lose any data. You replace the defective drive and the new drive is repopulated with data. RAID is used primarily in servers and mission cricitical production environments where resorting to installing backups is a last case scenario. But it is a technology that is accessible to most casual users.

In my experience, if you have a computer, Mack, Windows or Linux, you're going to have problems occasionally. I've had enough problems with Macks to come to the conclusion that they don't live up to their claims. They crash too. And files get corrupted. I had a recording session cancelled after an hour and a half because a driver on the Mack got corrupted. Hard drive is a hard drive. No computer is immune to bad sectors.

Steve knight
08-16-2008, 2:33 PM
I agree I find just backing up the important files and not the apps or os. I backup to an external drive at home and those same files are synced to my work computer and those are backed up on an external drive.
been trying out x drive that gives you 5 gigs of online backup. it's ok but not great.
the important files are synced between home and work using foldershare (free) so most of it is automated.
I also have 10 versions of the important files so I can go back if needed. it only cost me 30.00 for the software and a couple of hard drives. what I don't like about ms backup is that you just get one file and you have to use it to restore. where most of todays backup programs will copy files so you can go to the backup source and just copy the needed file.

mark page
08-16-2008, 2:40 PM
I use Norton Ghost 14 for my ghost images. A lot of people knock Norton for being a resource hog and it is. But I turn it off in MSCONFIG & Administrative services when it's not needed. I ghost about once a week now. Just recently saved my butt several times as the kids are doing something to shut down all my firewalls and anti-virus and had me locked out as administrator. I can be back up within a couple hours, but I also have massive amounts of data to restore.

Mike Henderson
08-16-2008, 3:11 PM
Jim, I don't use any free backup software, but I can highly recommend spending $50 a year. Yes, a YEAR, not a month, for Carbonite.com. It keeps everything backed up and can retrieve anything, including previous versions of files that may have changed.

I've been using it for a couple of months now and it's now on every computer I own. I never worry about backups or recoveries now. Saved me a lot of time and has given me a lot of more in just knowing it's all backed up offsite.

If there is a fire, all your backup drives will be burned up too!
I second Scott's recommendation of Carbonite. It's automatic and it backs things up almost as soon as you change them. And it's offsite so if you have a disaster, your backup is protected. You can also access the backup while you're on the road.

I used to do my own backups to a USB attached disk but the backup only ran at night so if I deleted or messed up something I created that day, I didn't have a backup. Also, the backup was in the same place as my computer so anything that destroyed my computer would also destroy my backup.

I have too much stuff on my computer now - I felt I really needed the offsite backup. And the price is good. $50 for a year or about $80 for two years (don't remember exactly so check the website).


mark page
08-16-2008, 3:24 PM
Another alternative would be to run a raid 4 system, but that still has its downfalls. If you drop a drive you are still protected, but if you catch a worm or virus, your still flappin in the breeze.

Dennis Peacock
08-16-2008, 3:49 PM
Microsoft OneCare has automated/scheduled backups to a central backup device you define. Cost is $40 per year for up to 3 PC's in your home. I have it, tested it, and use it. Backups run every week for both PC's in my house to an external 500GB USB drive. Works very well.

Matt Meiser
08-16-2008, 5:16 PM
For home, I use two different techniques. First, for things like photos and music that shouldn't change (and if they do its probably because we accidentally cropped one and saved it back of the original) I copy the new files to a network drive on the PC in my shop once a week. To prevent accidental overwrites of the photos, I also write protect everything in our photo album folder structure every day. For our desktops, favorites, my documents, etc, I zip those to the network drive once a week, but here I create a new zip every week. I do this all with a combination of VBScripting and Batch files. After I while I go in and clean out older files.

For my work computer, since I telecommute I have to worry about making sure my backups happen. There, I keep everything important under a single folder on the C: drive with subfolders under that to organize things. Once a day I back that up to a zip file on a USB drive. Again I use VBScripting and Batch files to make it happen automatically. Once a month I send a DVD containing copy of the most recent backup to the office too. Once a week I run a Norton Ghost image of the whole PC using Ghost's built-in scheduler. Should I have a catastrophic failure, I can restore the most recent Ghost, then get any files changed in the past few days from the backup.

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 6:07 PM
WOW!! Lots of answers that are a little out of my price range and know how. :) But neat to know they exist!! My brother, the computer nerd/brain, would know all of this, but since we say "Hi" once a year at holiday time, he's not who I would go to for help.
My wife may very well want to do the Carbonite route. Her computer is a big part of her business, and this would be a really good thing for her. Me? If I loose everything, I've basically lost nothing I can't rebuild. Except for the pictures.
On another note, while reading about different software and trying a couple with no luck, I stumbled across a blog or a forum page where someone said he just used his Partition Magic program to copy HD to HD. Duh, there is sits, on both computers. I've already done mine, and am able to read all the information on the external drive. I need to go in and do Glenna's while she is taking a nap. At least if the house caught on fire, this would be very easy to grab with the dogs and scoot out the door.
Thanks again for all the ideas!!! Jim.

Matt Meiser
08-16-2008, 9:57 PM
For her business, Ghost would be cheap insurance. You could have her machine back up after a failure in minutes rather than hours. I bought a copy a few weeks ago for $30 through Amazon.com with a $20 mail-in-rebate on top of that if you owned any virus software in the past other than one shipped with a PC. Its back up to $54 now though.

Don't get sucked into the hype on Norton 360. I had major problems with it conflicting with my Intel wireless software and Norton support ended up just giving me a refund after spending several hours remote controlling my machine. But while I had it installed I looked at the backup--basically I couldn't figure out how to make it work and control what it backed up. It just wanted to choose automatically and didn't show what.

Steve knight
08-16-2008, 10:21 PM
online backup is ok but if you have large files it is pretty slow. it is my third choice in backup xdrive is a free online service with 5 gigs. so I use it because it costs nothing and do it weekly. syncback I have it set to do regular daily backups of the most important things and weekly of the lesser. but I also have it do a synchronize of the most important things. so as soon as I change something it will back it up. and it will keep as many versions as I want it too. Plus if the other computer is online the file is sent to it and it is backed up the same way. all for 30.00 with no yearly fee.

here is xdrive 5 gigs free not too bad

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 11:14 PM
Well, after I posted my last note, I tried backing up LOML's computer with the external HD. Big mistake. Now I'm in my dog house with electricity and no running water. :eek: It locked up, stayed that way for about an hour. So I had to reset it. Then it wouldn't start Windows (XP Home) I've reloaded from the DVD backup, but still can't get the most important part for my wife...lost her e-mails and messages.:o I know Netscape (Mozilla) is hard to locate, and so far I've had no luck. It has to be on the back up discs, and I just haven't found it. YET. Should have quit when I was ahead. But NOOOOO. I'm going to go stick my head under a pillow....before Glenna does it for me. Jim.

David G Baker
08-16-2008, 11:44 PM
I no longer touch the LOML's computer due to reasons similar to your today's adventure. Took me a while but finally learned. I have too many "but NOOOOOs" in my life as it is with out pushing fate on her computer.

Jim O'Dell
08-16-2008, 11:54 PM
Yeah, I've said many times that I'm not touching her computer again...If I would just listen to myself!! It worked so well on mine, that I figured no big deal, I'm only copying from hers, not changing or adding anything, what could go wrong?? I think something similar happened to her with it last time that I had to get a new HD and start all over. She had just gotten all the email addresses pretty much restored from the Rescue families. Now they're gone again. It cost about 50.00 in postage to get them to email her, now we start over. But I have back up this time, and only a week old. I'm reinstalling drive D now, not that I think any of the information there was disturbed, or any of the missing information would be on D, but I figure it shows I'm trying.:D Jim.

Steve knight
08-17-2008, 12:58 AM
no matter how good you are with computers poop happens. no matter how well you back up stuff still gets lost.
but what you should have done is reboot and choose use the last good setting. or whatever it is called. or system restore.

Jim O'Dell
08-17-2008, 9:31 AM
I did that...first thing I tried. Evidently the last good setting was at the time I redid the hard drive last spring. Have I said before she is not good at backing up? That's why I was doing what I was doing, trying to find a quicker easier way to back up rather than the multiple DVDs. I've now loaded all 5 DVDs back on top of the files, but it hasn't changed anything. I know what I'll be doing today.:D Jim.

Chuck Wintle
08-18-2008, 10:53 AM

When the computer locked up which program were you using to do the backup? I use an external USB drive, nexstar 3, and a free program called Syncback which works extremely well. Never had any hiccups or lockups and backups are very easy to perform. I simply create a profile in Syncback and then run it. just my 2 cents.:D