Back up your PC for disaster recovery
As you may or may not know, Windows XP and Vista feature a utility called System Restore. This tool can restore basic Windows system function in the case of trouble, but it generally cannot fix bootup issues and won't restore anything but Windows files and the Windows registry. It won't save your games, pictures or documents. For that, you can use the included MS Backup utility in Accessories, but you *must* set it up.
Windows Vista Business, Ultimate and Enterprise also sport a new feature called "Complete PC Backup".
What this does is to copy all drive/partition data almost down to the hard drive's bare metal to a single compressed file - like a Zip file. This file includes all boot information and blocks, fragmentation status and basically everything that's there. This file must be placed on another drive/partition or it will be lost in a disaster and of no use.. A smart user will use a separate drive like USB, Firewire or eSATA to store this image. DVDs and CDs are just too small to be of real use here. You need many gigabytes of space. The compression used by these programs reduces the data by about 40%, but you should know that XP alone without added programs will use 5GB of your hard drive - exceeding the capacity of all but double density DVDs and Blue-ray/HD DVD.
So, you need to either partition your drive in two or get a >250GB drive realistically. I'm done with recommending partitioning because:
1. It ain't easy.
2. It won't save your bootie if the hard drive goes dead.
Now, what if you don't have Windows Vista Ultimate? Well, you can use various free and paid-for programs to do the same thing as Complete PC Backup and more. These programs are also great for restoring when an annoying bug crops up. If you don't like the way the PC is working, restore in 30 minutes. Got a virus or spyware? Ditto.
Paragon is offering a FREE backup program now called Drive Backup Express.
Drive Image XML
This is a beauty. It works in Windows and can be scheduled to back up in the background. It's primary limitation is that there is no option for creating a bootable CD. You must use BartPE or UBCD for Windows to create an emergency CD, but that's not so easy either because they require the user to find and install the Drive Image plugin. Still, it's free and that makes it worth learning to use it.
Drive Image XML does not see hidden factory "restore" partitions. These are hidden hard drive sections that contain a factory image of your PC's original condition - made by programs like the ones here in this article. If you have one before the C drive, don't use this. Move on to paid versions.
Again, it's free, but it cannot image in Windows so you must reboot the PC and operate in a DOS-like environment. This is for nerds only.
Acronis True Image
This is a favorite. It's the most flexible and easy to use of all imaging programs. It backs up entire drives or just the Windows System State (like System Restore). It can back up specific files or exclude the files of choice (like those huge downloaded video files you don't plan on keeping anyway). It can create a hidden partition (like the big companies use) and allow you to just press F11 while starting the PC and restore without any bootable CD, DVD or floppy. This feature is fantastic, but again, it won't save you is the hard drive dies. True Image allows you to create a bootable CD/DVD for disaster recovery. You can even create an ISO (compressed file) of this Linux-based CD for easy transportation so that you can burn a True Image CD anywhere and at any time. They thought of everything!
One caveat - True Image is notorious for creating corrupted backups. Backup verification is therefore *mandatory*.
A bit more nerdy than True Image, but just as powerful. A little resource-hungry (will slow down your PC a bit). It costs $20 more than True Image Home. You just don't get as much for your money. It does, however, come bundled with Norton Systemworks Premium. That would make it a bargain. I would suspect that future Systemworks bundles will include Norton Save and Restore instead.
Norton Save and Restore
De-nerdified Ghost. 95% as good as True Image, Very easy to use. It cannot create boot CDs, so copy the original CD as a backup - immediately.
Paragon Drive Backup
Every bit as good as True Image. Can create a hidden partition. Good price too. Highly Recommended.
Here's some more dope on the hidden partition thing. It's a great feature for single-drive systems like laptops, but the user should move to a separate drive ASAP anyway. The hidden partition *can* be created on the separate drive and password protected to keep prying mice out of it, so it's still of use. You should use this feature, but always on a separate drive when possible. It can also be used on the primary drive in case you simply can't afford another drive, but (I can't stress this enough), you need to put a second drive at the top of your shopping list.
Terabyte Drive Image
Cheaper by at least $10, but nowhere near as flexible as the top dogs. Forget it.
There you have it. If you are the owner of Vista Ultimate, all you need is a spare drive. If not, True Image and Drive Backup are the way to go judging by the feature-to-price ratio. Ghost is pricey, but works. Save and Restore is perfectly adequate and easy to use. If you have skilz, get Drive Image XML for free.
No matter which technique you use, it's a good idea to verify all backup images before moving on. It takes time, but it's important. A corrupted backup is no backup at all.
Always create your bootable CD/Media as soon as you install these programs. In the case of Drive Image XML, create a BartPE or UBCD with the appropriate plugin and also Swiss Knife. Read about that in the tutorial links on the Drive Image XML page.
No more stalling. No more excuses. Be prepared for the worst - because I can guarantee that the worst will happen. Don't kid yourself and say "I can't afford it". You can't afford not to.
Another hot tip is to "move" your My Documents folder to a safer location than your C drive. This is stone simple. Right-click on My Documents and select Properties. The "Move" button is right there. Create a folder in the new location before actually moving it. Name the new folder "John's Documents" or whatever your name is so that it's easy to spot.
If you choose to move your Documents to another drive, it's a good idea to use MS Backup to archive it to another location on a regular basis. I actually store it on D and then back it up to the C drive on single drive system so that the documents are always in two locations at any point in time.
Another option is to use Genie Backup Manager V8 with DR implemented.
I give a 25% discount.
My site isn't ready yet but you can use this link for the time being.
Bear in mind Open File Backup is $40 minus 25% discount too but it is not uploaded yet and it is worth having as it supersedes VSS.
If this sis problem Bill you can delete this post.
My site is also on a test page but it will be at www.software-discounts.co.uk in time.
But Acronic TI and moving MD is a smart move too, expecially on a second HDD and then on offline storage media.
Geniesoft is new to the bare-metal backup game. They really specialize in file backup - an enhanced version of the MS Backup program that comes free with Windows. Honestly, their interface is still cluttered and the idea of asking for considerably more money to get open file backup is just nuts. All of the programs mentioned use Windows Volume Shadow Copy to back up open files and open volumes. It's standard with the competition.
The 25% discount you offer does compensate somewhat, but that's what it should cost to start with to be competitive. Hence, it is really not competitive - especially if a discount is available for True Image, Save and Restore or Drive Backup.
Still, Geniesoft is better at profile and file backup than these products. It's much quicker than bare metal imagers. It really doesn't belong in this group - yet. Apples and oranges, my friend. Genie really needs to do what Symantec did and offer a simplified bare metal program like Save and Restore. Until they do that and include a hidden partition feature, I can't recommend them for disaster recovery.
A warning for those who decide to back up partitions instead of your entire drive.
The hidden partition that's on many name brand PCs is often placed in front of the C drive. Even though it is hidden, Windows sees it and includes it in the "ARC path" or boot path to start Windows. If you image just the C drive and are forced to restore it to a new drive, that hidden partiton will be gone and Windows will not be able to "find itself". Hence, no Windows/no startup. This situation can be rectified, but the solution is for nerds only.
Avoid this by being sure to back up all current hidden partitions that are before the C drive. All of these programs will show you if there is a hidden partition. You must be sure to look for it.
I forgot about this recently and it cost me an extra 4 hours to reinstall Windows on a Dell. After I was done, I realized what I had done wrong, but it was too late. Learn from my mistake.
Attached is an image of what a hidden restore partition looks like in these programs.
That is true Bill.
It is wise to ensure that any pre-built system from Dell and the like includes the hidden restore partition.
So always check with a partition app before imaging that there are no hidden partitions.
I'll say this about GenieSoft's product though - it's hands-down the best file backup system available for users and administrators. They know what they are doing and I would not be surprised if they are developing a simplified imaging program for endusers "as we type".
The 2 programs listed below are based on the OEM Acronis True Image 10 and are free for their respective hard drive owners of Seagate and/or Maxtor HD:
MAXTOR HARD DRIVE:
SEAGATE HARD DRIVE:
Free is a good price to me.
Yes - they are indeed free, but they are limited versions of older issues. I'm not sure if you can burn bootable emergency CDs and they definitely cannot create hidden partitions. They are essentially manual programs that can't be scheduled and don't operate in Windows AFAIK. Even the free Drive Image XML outdoes them.
So far, there is one glaring problem with GBM PRO - disaster recovery mode selects what IT thinks you need to back up and then presents a confusing tree to select other stuff. The trouble is that you don't know exactly what IT has selected. It should make things easy by showing partitions/drives. This is a deal killer. That is the PRO version @ $20 more than the competition. The interface is still cluttered once you get started. It looks simple at first, but the average user will be in over his head quickly.
I have yet to evaluate Home. I can tell you that there is a deal killer here too - it does not allow cloning or partition management.
This is not looking good.
If you would be so kind that would be very much appreciated if you could:
Give GBM Pro a real workout not only as a DR solution as it is much faster, has free plugins etc and has had over a years worth of development over the massive recoding of V7 over V6.
I've sent you my email so if you can give me a detailed analysis I will give it to the dev and tech support to check out.
It's always good to have a second pair of eyes on the problem.
I'II get you a free GBM Pro V8+ code for your troubles ;-)
IíII check the DR myself which I havenít as yet. I just havenít had the time. I moderate their forum, software test for them, got two degrees on the go and my own website ready to go online in 2 weeks.
Oh - I'm gonna beat the tar out of Home. Since this thread is not about Pro versions I will work on Home. Since Pro is very much like Home, the review should carry over.
This is about disaster recovery, so I won't be reviewing the file backup feature. Sorry, but that is too time-consuming. I will be doing DR only and I see another problem right off - Home leans toward file backup in the interface. It's not really simplified. It's just a neutered version of Pro.
Okay - GBM Home said it was going to back up Windows, programs and documents. It did not back up My Documents on my D drive. It should have checked the registry for that location. This is a fatal oversight. It should not be deciding what to back up. It should simply present drives. It cannot see hidden partitions and there is no provision for incuding them in the backup. That is another chink in it's armor.
In the CD boot environment, it only offered a command prompt and "DISKPART" to manage partitions. Heck, I don't even know how to use that. Forget that.
I backed up to a USB drive and GBM is warning me now to move the file to an external location! WTF is that? It can't tell local from external?
Otherwise, it's fine. Like I said, I don't believe that it belongs in this group. It's too nerdy and it's primary focus is file backup.
I'm now reviewing Save and Restore.
By the way, these programs are offered a discount on NewEgg in most cases. True Image is just $43 to download from there. Save and Restore is offered as a CD. Drive Backup is not available, but can be purchased at other online shops.
As it turns out, Save and Restore DOES offer a hidden partition option called LightsOut. It's still not every bit as flexible as True Image in excluding files, but it's pretty awesome. It backs up in 1/3 the time of GBM *and* found the My Documents folder on the D drive. It added it automatically and scheduled it daily. That is priceless.
It cannot create a recovery CD, however. The installation CD is all you get. If you go this way, be sure to copy the disk for a fallback.
I can safely say that Save and Restore is as good as True Image. Recommended.
Ok thanks for the insight Bill with regards to MD being on a different volume and GBM not backing it up.
I'm going test it myself so I hope to have more to offer in the way of suggestions for Genie-soft devs.
I'm in the process of writing a detailed entry on DR within my glossary on my site but with the research required and the software testing to get a sound handle on DR, caveats etc it is very time consuming.
I hope to have the entry Disaster Recovery completed by Christmas and a new 300,000 glossary by the end of 2008. Thatís the best I can do.
Thanks again. I'II also mention the hidden volume issue too.