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First Time Backing Up My Computer... Advice?


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Hello smart people! I don't know too much about computers :D !

 

I've been intending to back up my hard drive, and I have an external hard drive with a lot of room. I've read a couple of articles on how to do it from pcworld.com and pcadvisor.com.

 

I'm a little wary of the process. This computer has a C drive and a D drive - I used to think they were separate drives, now, after reading articles, I image they are just partitioned from each other. Anyhow - if, say, I had to re-install Windows (because I mis-followed some malware removal instructions, and now I'm stuck in a windows update feedback loop), I want to keep all of my programs, all of my data, photos, music, art, projects, and any folders I don't realize I need... where do I begin transferring the folders to my hard drive? AND - what if I have a hidden virus, and I move it along with my other files?

 

I'm not sure where to begin, how to protect what I need, and beyond that, how to set up a regular routine of backing up my gear/files/etc.

 

Thanks so much for your advice.

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Anyhow - if, say, I had to re-install Windows (because I mis-followed some malware removal instructions, and now I'm stuck in a windows update feedback loop)

 

Is this a problem you have now?

 

If not, I recommend Macrium Reflect Free.

 

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/73828-imaging-free-macrium.html?filter[2]=Backup%20Restore

 

Or you can use the built in to windows tool.

 

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/663-backup-complete-computer-create-image-backup.html?filter[2]=Backup%20Restore

 

Personally I like Macrium. You have much more control of your images.

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Yes - the broken Windows Back-up loop is one problem and the inability of my computer to connect several links because I messed up some file locations while thinking I was going to "Remove Java" - that's another problem. Ron L. has been patiently helping me sort through these problems, but I know I ought to be able to back up my computer anyhow...

 

I've made a mess of my computer. It still works for most everything - but slowly. Maybe I should just follow his instructions only - but I feel bad for being a headache for him. Not like he's making me feel bad or anything. He's so nice. But really. I just feel like I should know more - so I thought posting on here would alleviate his pains in dealing with my novice-ness...

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I want to keep all of my programs

 

Since your having issues. It is always good practice to have a backup before making major changes. That being said if you end up having to REINSTALL you OS you will NOT be able to keep your installed programs, Just data, photos, music, art, projects, ect.

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Hello smart people! I don't know too much about computers :D !

 

I've been intending to back up my hard drive, and I have an external hard drive with a lot of room. I've read a couple of articles on how to do it from pcworld.com and pcadvisor.com.

 

I'm a little wary of the process. This computer has a C drive and a D drive - I used to think they were separate drives, now, after reading articles, I image they are just partitioned from each other. Anyhow - if, say, I had to re-install Windows (because I mis-followed some malware removal instructions, and now I'm stuck in a windows update feedback loop), I want to keep all of my programs, all of my data, photos, music, art, projects, and any folders I don't realize I need... where do I begin transferring the folders to my hard drive? AND - what if I have a hidden virus, and I move it along with my other files?

 

I'm not sure where to begin, how to protect what I need, and beyond that, how to set up a regular routine of backing up my gear/files/etc.

 

Thanks so much for your advice.

 

Hi :)  I'm not in the category of the smart members here, but I'll give you my pov on backups.

 

Porthos provided very good advice.   I've read the thread over at the Windows 7 forum that he linked here.  It's a good thread to read about the product.

 

I haven't downloaded Macruim yet but am leaning in that direction for Imaging activities.

 

I've been using "Acronis" to periodically clone my HDD every 4 weeks.  I also have a 3rd spare HDD that's about 8 months old as an emergency replacement.

 

I've also used a freeware tool called "Clonezilla" but that's not one I'd recommend for novice PC users as its user interface is more in-depth than Macruim, Acronis, or some other backup products that are available.

 

In my opinion, the way to approach your backup scheme is to have some kind of scheduled incremental tool that runs daily or as frequently as you prefer, and also maintain a complete HDD backup routine.

 

I use "Acronis" to run a twice-daily unattended backup that backs up my "must-have" items, things that are being edited or changed frequently, such as my Outlook data file, and a few of my Excel files, as well as my "Quicken" data file.

 

The reason I clone periodically is so that I'm protected against nearly all malware's, viruses, user mistakes (such as making a mistake in my Registry, or downloading a bad item, etc), as well as being protected against an actual HDD failure.

 

The only scenario where I'm vulnerable is, if my everyday HDD has been infected by some kind of "stealth" intrusion where I've observed no indications of its presence.  In that case, I'd be copying that infection onto my spare HDD.

 

To help guard against that occurrence, I run unattended daily overnight full system scans with my AV and MBAM.  To many, that's "overkill" scanning, but my Desktop and Laptop are idle during that time so I'd rather use the scanning tools that are available to me during that time.  Full HDD scans can also detect or indicate bad sectors or other issues on HDD's so I'd rather be made aware of those potential issues as early as possible.

 

As yet, I've not read, in forums, etc, where someone has experienced "stealth" type of infections where no visible signs of its presence on one's HDD are visible.  I'm guessing that they exist but I'll go with the odds that those occurrences are rather rare to encounter.  Even if that happened, I have my 3rd spare HDD to install in such an instance.

 

During the 9 years that I've been surfing with home 'net, I've yet to see that happen on my PC's.  I always know almost immediately when I've been hit with a malware, virus, etc.

 

When I clone, I do a couple of things that may be unnecessary but it protects me from myself :D, such as cloning in reverse and formatting my "Source" HDD (erasing my everyday HDD), resulting in this picture...

 

2aenl77.jpg

 

I always clone from a bootable CD, such as my Acronis CD.  I like to do that since I'm outside of Windows during the cloning process. 

 

I format my Target HDD the same way, using a freeware HDD tool called "Gparted".  The reason I do this is to prevent Windows from seeing 2 identical HDD's in my system, ie, 2 HDDs with the MBR, etc.

 

 

So here's what I do every 4 weeks.  The entire process takes me a little more than an hour to complete:

 

- Format my "Target" (spare cloned HDD that is on the shelf) HDD with "Gparted".  To do that, I boot up and then access my "temporary" boot priority list from the BIOS.  This can be done by pressing my F8 key when the POST screen is displayed.

 

The reason that I format my Target HDD before beginning the actual cloning process is to make it just about impossible to select the wrong HDD before the cloning step begins.

 

In other words, when I'm setting up the cloning step from my "Acronis" software, it asks me to select my "Source" and "Target" HDD's.  If my Target HDD has been pre-formatted, it's easy to identify it in the setup step since the cloning software tool will show the Target HDD as being empty of data.

 

- Shut down the PC.  Insert my Acronis CD.  Boot to the CD again as indicated earlier.  Begin the cloning process.

 

For my 1 Tb HDD, it takes about 35 minutes to clone the HDD to the Target HDD.

 

- When the cloning process completes,. shut down the PC. 

 

- Remove my Source HDD.  I do this so that I can boot up my newly-cloned Target HDD and also prevent Windows from seeing 2 identical bootable HDD's in the same PC.

 

- Boot up on my Target HDD.  Insure that it's a complete working spare HDD.  I usually launch a few things, like Outlook, IE, a couple of programs, to verify I have a complete HDD spare.

 

- Shut down the PC.  Remove the Target HDD.  Re-install my Source HDD.   Boot up and resume everyday PC use as normal.

 

It may seem complicated, but it's really simply once you get familiar with cloning.  I like my routine since I am insuring I have a tested complete working spare HDD and it's removed from my PC (not vulnerable to any possible intrusions or user errors).

 

I've used this routine for a couple of years.  During that time, I've experienced a couple of malware / virus intrusions which either weren't cleanable (for me) or I didn't want to invest the time in downloading cleanup tools, etc, or seek out experienced help in recovering my HDD.

 

For me, it's faster and less annoying to remove the infected HDD, install my spare shelf HDD, which is always no more than 4 weeks behind my existing HDD, and install that HDD.

 

Then all I need to do is to copy my "must-have" items that are up to date on my USB HDD (the ones that are backed up twice daily with my Acronis software) to my working HDD.  Then I'll need to run any Windows, AV, MBAM updates that occurred since the last time I was running on my previous HDD.

 

That process is, for me, much faster and less annoying than spending time trying to clean/recover the infected HDD.

 

I currently am not running any Imaging backups but I've been looking into that recently.  That's how I ran across that Windows 7 forum "Macrium" thread. 

 

My existing software, "Acronis", is also an Imaging tool so I'll probably try that as well as Macrium and then decide on what I prefer for scheduled Imaging.

 

In my opinion, there are pros and cons to both cloning and imaging, depending on one's objectives.

 

One reason I prefer cloning is that for me, it's faster to boot up on the newly-cloned HDD to test it.  I don't have to go through the imaging recovery steps in order to test my spare bootable HDD.

 

In order for me to clone in a fairly fast mode and for convenience, I installed 2 "hot-swap" SATA racks in my Desktop Tower.  The ones that I use are these from Amazon:

 

Kingwin KF-1000

 

I use an "Enclosure" device for my Laptop cloning, something similar to this:

 

SATA 2.5 HDD to USB Enclosure

 

Mine's not as nice as this one :D, it's a 2.0 USB, but it's a great little device for cloning my Laptop HDD.

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Porthos, thanks for showing me that imaging link. I'll be digging into that while I begin turning over this new leaf of being more proactive with my computer health.

 

Scoop, your detailed description of your process and decisions you made were very helpful to me. It gives me guidelines and parameters of all that will be involved when I take more responsibility with my computer use. I really appreciate the time you took to lay that all out. 

 

I kind of need to get busy with rescuing my pc, and keeping it out of future trouble. This advice has been very helpful, and I'm sure open to more.

 

Thank you!

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Porthos, thanks for showing me that imaging link. I'll be digging into that while I begin turning over this new leaf of being more proactive with my computer health.

 

Scoop, your detailed description of your process and decisions you made were very helpful to me. It gives me guidelines and parameters of all that will be involved when I take more responsibility with my computer use. I really appreciate the time you took to lay that all out. 

 

I kind of need to get busy with rescuing my pc, and keeping it out of future trouble. This advice has been very helpful, and I'm sure open to more.

 

Thank you!

 

2yv1geu.jpg

 

I forgot to mention my last part of the earlier post.

 

- If I've been hit with an intrusion on my everyday HDD and have installed the cloned HDD and am running as normal on my PC.  I'll need to re-clone back to my original HDD so I'll have a spare HDD on the shelf again.

 

The last time I had to recover with my spare HDD, I ran on the spare HDD for a couple of hours to insure all was well.  Then I formatted the infected HDD and cloned back to it from my good HDD.

 

Some PC users may be confused as to the difference between cloning and imaging.  I was a little unclear at first about the differences.

 

Cloning makes a complete bit-by-bit copy of one HDD to another HDD without requiring a software tool-specific compression scheme.  The completed cloned HDD will be a plug-and-play replacement HDD.

 

Imaging will effectively do the same but it does it differently than cloning.

 

If one selects a "full-disc" mode with an Imaging tool, that will copy the entire HDD but it uses a specific-software compression scheme so the completed result will create a compressed folder of your original HDD.

 

For example, Acronis software uses a *.tib  proprietary compression method.  Macrium will use their particular compression method, thus will create the compressed image with their extension name.

 

To recover from a HDD failure or infection with Imaging, you'll need to boot from your specific Imaging product CD or flash drive and use the "recovery" steps.

 

One popular method of imaging is to run an initial full-disc image to an external HDD.  Then, schedule a daily (or whatever frequency the user prefers) backup that can be merged with the full-disc image in the event of a necessary recovery.

 

The 2 main kinds of daily/frequent images are:

 

- Incremental

 

- Differential

 

Incremental imaging will copy all items (files, folders, etc) that have been changed since the last incremental or full-disc image backup process.

 

Differential imaging will copy all items that have been changed since the last full-disc image backup process.

 

Incremental-imaging (in conjunction with an earlier-run full disc backup) will usually take longer to process the recovery steps than a differential backup scheme, if the user is imaging with Acronis.  I'm not sure if this applies to all imaging tools.

 

The advantage of imaging is that you can run scheduled incremental or differential backups, thus you'll be a lot closer to a "real-time" replacement alternative vs cloning, unless one clones daily.

 

It's a trade-off in the sense that, with cloning, I have a plug/play replacement available without depending on specific software to recover and without implementing recovery steps with a bootable CD.

 

The advantage that I'd have if I was running a scheduled imaging scheme, is that I'd be more up to date with my recovered image to my HDD.

 

One of the main things that attracts me to cloning is that I can test my cloned HDD faster than testing an image.  I plug it in and boot up and I know within minutes I have a complete spared working HDD available.

 

The other advantage that I see with my cloning setup is that my spare HDD is not connected to my PC so it's completely protected from any malware or virus hit on my PC.

 

If one is running unattended scheduled imaging activities, they'd need to keep their storage device continuously connected to the PC or remember to disconnect it after each imaging backup or take the risk, albeit small (I think) chance that an intrusion will proliferate to all external devices.

 

I imagine that experienced imagers can also recover their complete HDD almost as fast as me but they'll need to go through the recovery steps with a bootable software-specific media.  That's my understanding of it.

 

The other reason that I like my cloning method and have not as yet started a scheduled imaging routine, is that I've only had to recover (from an infection) twice with my cloned HDD during the last several years.

 

I figure at that rate, I'm fairly safe with my cloning method since I'm not hit that often with a malware / virus infection since I've only had to do it 2 times thus far.

 

I've been hit a couple of other times with intrusions that were cleanable with "safe-mode" scans, etc.

 

However, now my choice is to reach for the shelf and install the spare HDD when my next intrusion event occurs and skip all time spent trying to run cleanup scans or download item-specific tools to clean the original HDD.

 

I'm planning on starting an imaging routine since I'd like to have both backup methods and I want to get more familiar with imaging.

 

Whatever you do, don't let someone tell you that a "Raid" configuration is all you need to rely on a backup/recovery method.

 

Raid technology is a good plan in the event of a sudden HDD failure as you can instantly switch over to a mirrored HDD but if the PC is hit with malware / virus, that will also get written over to the mirror HDD.

 

I used to run a "Raid 1" config on my PC but due to an unrelated issue, I discontinued Raid and went with my periodic cloning routine.

 

I don't want to sell Raid technology short, but in my opinion as a home PC user, I'm better off going with my current plan vs a Raid (1) setup.

 

33zfxp2.jpg  :D

 

                ↓

                ↓

 

Best advice I can give those that haven't as yet implemented a full-disc backup scheme, is don't let inexperience prevent you from taking those first steps in getting familiar with the basics of running backup routines.

 

Once you learn a few do's & don't's about this stuff, it's fairly simple to maintain it and the big payoff is, you get a "peace of mind" insurance that will protect you against virtually all cyber intrusions.

 

I'm a member of the Norton AV forum and I read daily posts about members that are hampered with malware or virus headaches, all which could have been avoided if they had maintained a backup plan with their PC's.

 

Since I've been there years ago, I feel for those members, paying online tech support, returning PC's to the store, etc.

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To help guard against that occurrence, I run unattended daily overnight full system scans with my AV and MBAM.  To many, that's "overkill" scanning, but my Desktop and Laptop are idle during that time so I'd rather use the scanning tools that are available to me during that time.  Full HDD scans can also detect or indicate bad sectors or other issues on HDD's so I'd rather be made aware of those potential issues as early as possible.

IMO doing daily overnight full scans with your AV and MBAM is putting a lot of wear and tear on your hard drive. I would schedule it to once a week on your AV and daily quick scan with Malwarebytes. That should be sufficient.
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IMO doing daily overnight full scans with your AV and MBAM is putting a lot of wear and tear on your hard drive. I would schedule it to once a week on your AV and daily quick scan with Malwarebytes. That should be sufficient.

 

Good points.  I've been considering that.  One reason I'm not concerned about HDD wear/life is that I have another HDD that's a complete spare plug-play HDD.

 

I think some of my thinking can be traced back to those early "I didn't have a backup HDD ready" days where my previous AV's weren't making the grade and were allowing more intrusions into my HDD than I figured they should.

 

I think I will go with the MBAM Quick Scan for the daily scan and maybe a full scan weekly.

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