Backups, System Images and Cloud Storage Services

The five golden rules that should be applied when creating backups or system images

1. – The backup program as well as the backup image files, must not be on the C: drive that Windows is usually on, or even on a partition on the same hard disk drive that includes the C: drive. It could be on another internal hard disk drive, which would make it vulnerable to theft, lightning strikes, fire, etc, so the best place is on an external hard drive or SSD drive kept elsewhere in a safe place such as a fireproof safe. The backup program itself should be either on a bootable CD/DVD or USB flash drive. Note that Backup and Restore in Windows 7 runs from within Windows and places the backup where it has been set to do so. This is not ideal because Windows itself is running when the backup or system image is being made. It is much better to use a boot disc or bootable flash drive with the backup program on it to create backups because Windows is not using its files, which can create errors in the backup. With Windows 7 you must create a Repair Disc, which is used to boot the system and restore a backup or system image. Have a recordable CD/DVD ready and enter the words repair disc in the Start => Search… box to be presented with a link that when clicked on will create the disc. Note that the system’s BIOS setup program has to have the CD/DVD drive set at the first boot device in order to boot the system from a boot disc.

Note that the Home Premium versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 Home Premium can back up to an external hard drive, but not to a network location (to a network storage device). For that feature you need the Professional or Ultimate versions of Win7. Vista’s Business version is the equivalent of Win7’s Professional version.The way Windows 8.1 backs up compared to Windows Vista and 7 has changed. There is more information on the changes further down on this page. Images are just restorable snapshots of an entire drive or system that can be stored on several partitions on a drive. They can’t be restored partially, only totally. The following article provides all of the information a user needs to know about standard backups, which can be restored totally and partially (the restoration of individual files and folders).

Data Backup and Recovery –

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb727010.aspx

2. – The backup must incorporate everything on the C: drive, including boot sector, master directory, etc., so that the backup can be restored to a blank hard disk drive that will then be able to boot into Windows at startup. A system image is a restorable image of Windows and/or every partition on a particular drive. The user can select what to include in the image. Restoring it successfully restores everything that was selected to be imaged.

3. – Every reputable backup program remembers where it has placed its backup files, therefore never move them or the backup program will be unable to locate them, which it must be able to do to perform a restore operation.

4. – After creating a backup, you must use the backup program’s verification option to verify that the files have been backed up properly. Every reputable backup program provides an option to verify what it has created.

5. – The backup files must be located away from the computer that they were created on in case of fire, theft, lightning strikes, etc. Do not use an external hard disk drive to store backups on and leave it near or connected to the computer that the backups were created from. Note that many problems have been reported with people trying to backup and restore Windows 7 with Windows 7’s Backup and Restore program, so if you have valuable data it’s best to use a less problematic backup tool, such as Acronis True Image for which there is no free version. The free version of Macrium Reflect is very well-regarded. It is difficult to find on its developer’s website. Here is the link:

http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx

Here is a good tip I found on how best to use it: “I installed Macrium on my Win7 machine and, when I did, it made a boot [menu] entry whereupon booting my computer I am given a choice to boot into Macrium or boot into Windows. If I am going to run a backup I always boot into Macrium or use the Rescue boot disk. I never run Macrium from Windows. The reason for that is I don’t have any problems that way.”

If you’re using Windows 7’s Backup and Restore, the backup will be located in a folder called “WindowsDiskImage” on the drive to which the backup or image was saved. Note that if you create a new system image, the previous image is overwritten. If you want to keep a previous image, rename the folder, say, by dating it – e.g., WindowsDiskImage-16-July-2012. The backup program will recreate the WindowsDiskImage folder for the latest backup/image. I have three computers backed up into that folder. Each computer has its own folder within that folder. It is a good idea to keep the previous backup/image in case something goes wrong with the latest one. Acronis True Image and other backup programs allow the creation of a new image without overwriting the previous one.

Increasingly, PC’s, laptops in particular, are coming with SSD drives as their boot drives instead of standard hard disk drives. But you should be aware that SSD drives fail in different ways and can fail faster than standard hard drives, because their data storage cells made of flash RAM memory have a shorter life span than the magnetic platters used in hard drives, so making regular backups/system images is more vital if you don’t want to lose valuable data.

Because wear-levelling and garbage collection is performed on an SSD continually, you won’t be able to recover deleted files in the same ways as you can with the files stored on a standard hard disk drive, where the files remain intact until overwritten and only the entries addressing the files in the file system are removed, which makes SSD-drive backing up essential. For this reason, it’s advisable to install the operating system (Windows, Linux, OS X, etc) on the boot SSD and store data, documents, music, images, videos, etc., on a standard internal hard drive or external hard drive or network attached storage device (NAS).

Restore Previous Versions

Before discussing full backups and creating system images, if you have deleted a file or folder and it is not in the Recycle Bin, you should be aware that you can still recover previous versions of files and folders in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 (but not Windows XP) by using the Restore Previous Versions (RPV) feature.To find information on how to use it, use the search query: restore previous versions in windows [add your version of Windows].

Note that this feature is linked to the System Restore feature. If a restore point created by System Restore on a specific date is still available that contains the file or folder that you want to restore, then it should be recoverable. However, Windows only reserves a certain number of restore points that depends on how much hard-disk space has been reserved for them. Windows deletes old restore points to free up space for new restore points, so, in order to give this feature as much scope as possible means having to give System Restore as much reserved disk space as possible.

In fact, the main reason that System Restore and Restore Previous Versions fail to work is because not enough disk space has been reserved for them to function properly. That said, I have all-too-often failed to restore any of several restore points made by System Restore on a particular computer, so it is advisable not to rely on it.

System Restore and the RPV feature must be enabled in Vista and Windows 7, so, in Windows 7, if you are not sure press the Windows key (the keys with a Windows flag on them) and Pause/Break keys, click the System Protection link (in the left-hand navigation bar) then click the Configure button and make sure Restore system settings and previous versions of files is enabled by activating its radio button. Click the Apply and OK buttons. If System Restore wasn’t turned on, turn it on for the applicable drive and click the Create button to create a new Restore Point (RP) that is used to restore all of the system files in use at the time of its creation. If, for some reason, you need to recover a lost or corrupted file, all you have to do is open Windows Explorer by right-clicking with the mouse pointer on the Start button, click on Open Windows Explorer, right-click on the folder where it is/was kept and select Restore Previous Versions. After a few moments it should list by date all of the saved versions of the file in question.

Note that Windows 8.0/8.1 uses File History to restore previous versions of files.

Restoring files or folders using File History –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows-8/how-use-file-history

Restore previous versions of your files easily in Windows 8

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/msgulfcommunity/archive/2013/04/29/…

How much disk space does System Restore require? [Win7] –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/How-much-disk-space-does-System-Restore-require

Previous versions of files: frequently asked questions –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/previous-versions-files-faq#1TC=windows-7

Backing up and system-imaging in Windows 7 and 8 and 8.1

Windows 7 and Windows Vista have the best backup options provided by any operating system, which, if used properly, should mean that a user never has to rely on alternative means of restoring or recovering Windows itself or individual files or folders. When a user makes use of the Backup and Restore feature is Win7, preferably saving the backups to an external hard drive that can be disconnected from the system, it creates a standard full backup and a system image. Individual files cannot be recovered from a system image, it can only restore the whole system, but individual files can be restored from a standard backup. The restoration processes for both types of restoration (whole system or individual files/folders) are very user-friendly (self-explanatory), but anyone who needs illustrated assistance to use them can find articles on the web. Search for How to use Windows 7 Backup and Restore. (Microsoft keeps changing its page links.) More information on backing up with the different versions of Windows is provided further down in this article. The Windows 7 Backup and Restore is available in Windows 8, but backing up has changed in Windows 8.1. Read the following articles to find out more in this subject.

What’s happened to Backup and Restore [in Windows 8.1]? –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-8/what-happened-to-backup-restore

Here is an article on how to use the backup options provided by Windows 8.0/8.1.

How to Create and Restore System Image Backups on Windows 8.1 –

“We previously reported that the system image backup feature was removed in Windows 8.1. This isn’t entirely true — while the graphical interface for creating system images was removed, you can still create system images with a PowerShell cmdlet.” – http://www.howtogeek.com/167984/…

Windows 8.0 must be updated to 8.1 and it has to have been fully updated itself (with Update 1 in May 2014) before any updates are made available from Windows Update, so it is not possible to hang on to Windows 8 unless you don’t want to update it. Microsoft is clearly no longer willing to update multiple versions of Windows, which is fair enough given that all of the updates are free.

Page 3 – Online backup services

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