Best way to backup C drive?

Thread Starter

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,531
It has been more than 10 years since I assembled my desktop as Windows XP. Operating system is now Windows 7 Pro. Hardware is a single, 256GB SSD for C, which has only programs and e-mail. A pair of drives are in RAID 1 for data. That is logically divided to D and E drives. The E drive was used for work, but it is now empty.

I just got a Samsung 860 Pro 256GB (MLC) drive to backup the C drive. Windows 7 does have a backup function, but I have not used it and am not sure how it works. What I would like to have is a backup drive that can operate on its own, should the original SSD die.

Is Windows backup the way to go, or are there better ways to do that?
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
6,975
Windows backup is more concerned with the file system. It does have a system backup that backs up the Windows installation, including all the hives. To use this, you also need a drive backup to save all the files on the drive.

To recover, you’d restore the system backup followed by the drive backup. Then, configure the hardware to boot from the restored drive. Note this requires two additional drives. One for the backups and one as the recovery drive. You do not want to restore to the original drive, in case the restore fails.

What I did was use a drive cloning utility. This makes an exact copy of the drive for recovery. One would clone the drive on a schedule and recover to the last clone point.

If you have an extra drive bay, which I required on all systems, I’d tell Windows to mirror the drive. Then if the drive failed, I’d replace it and let Windows rebuild the drive in the background.

Which method you use depends on what you are protecting against. Drive corruption = cloning. Drive (hardware) failure = mirroring.
 

Thread Starter

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,531
If you have an extra drive bay, which I required on all systems, I’d tell Windows to mirror the drive. Then if the drive failed, I’d replace it and let Windows rebuild the drive in the background.

Which method you use depends on what you are protecting against. Drive corruption = cloning. Drive (hardware) failure = mirroring.
Thanks, mirroring was on my mind. Yes, I have an extra drive bay. The only way I know to mirror two drives is using RAID 1, but as I recall there would be some tricks needed to create a new RAID 1 volume with the current C drive as a member without losing current data on the C drive. For example: https://superuser.com/questions/430464/how-to-convert-existing-disk-to-raid1-in-debian

Are there any catches in setting a new RAID volume as a default boot drive? My current RAID volume doesn't become "active" until well after I boot the PC -- perhaps a few minutes. It's called "Intel Rapid Storage Technology."
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
21,639
I use a couple of programs by Acronis, one is for cloning copy, the other for setting up virtual drives, with a different operating system on each virtual drive.
Max.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
6,975
@jpanhalt

It’s been a while, but I don’t remember mirroring in Windows causing any data loss at all. (MS doesn’t call it Raid 1) I remember creating and breaking mirrors at will.
 

Thread Starter

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,531
I will look into that. I think my RAID is hardware (Intel), but that detail goes back even further than my current system -- a Dell something circa 2000. I was working a day job then, which I why I set up the E drive partition.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,369
+1 for acronis, that's what I use. It has utilities for cloning and regular incremental backups (backing up only those files which have changed). It is not free, but neither is it expensive, and it is the best out there that I know of. One of the main reasons I use it is for its "Universal Restore" feature. With that feature you can restore a backup of one computer, onto a different computer with totally different hardware. If you've ever tried to do that using a regular backup you know how futile it is. I've spent time on eBay in the past, looking for used computers with the same model#, processor, etc so that I would have a viable machine to restore a backup onto. Acronis replaces the drivers for the original system in the backup's OS, with drivers for the target system. It does use some generic drivers if it doesn't have the exact ones needed, which in my experience has been "good enough" to boot into windows and download the exact correct drivers.
 

jgessling

Joined Jul 31, 2009
82
Having spent years in the Windows system business let me give you my advice. There are lots of backup “solutions” available. But until you do the backups and have a failure then you’ve got nothing unless you can recover from it. Are you willing to actually test your backups by recovering from a failure? Most people are not. In that case save your money and hope for the best.
 

Thread Starter

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,531
Interesting point. No, I am not willing to test preemptively the system drive.

I do have experience with disk failures on my RAID1 data drive, and it saved my data. I have also had a system drive fail at least twice and had to rebuild. Reloading programs is not such a big deal (except Windows updates). In the worst case I lost was e-mails. Most of them were recovered using a recovery program. That was about 20 years ago. I had another failure about 5 years ago, but had saved backups.
 
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