Backups are an oft-discussed topic on Ask Leo!, but options for how best to perform backups and what tools to use can be both confusing and difficult to find.
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Download: paragon.mp4 (39M).
Paragon has a free backup utility and I’ve already installed it here. Backup utilities in general are going to want to have administrative level access to your system so when you when you fire them up, they will in all likelihood throw UAC prompt if you have UAC enabled.
I’m not going to try and actually perform backup here. The issue is that with, ideally I’d like a 20 minute segment here on a particular program; a backup is going to take much longer than that so I’m simply going to walk you through some of the processes that apply to this program.
One of the important tools that you almost always want to start with regardless of what tool you are using is the Recovery Media Builder. Acronis called it the Rescue Media; other tools have different names for it but the bottom line is that when your hard disk fails in the worst possible way and you cannot boot your system, then you need a way to boot your machine such that then you run your backup’s software to be able to restore a backup image to the failed hard drive or replacement hard drive.
The program, this particular program has a Recovery Media Builder. What it allows you to do is create Recovery Media to Flash Memory which you can boot from or to CD/DVD. In general, there are some advanced kinds of things you can play with here but for the most part, you just really don’t need to unless you just have specific needs that go beyond the need to recover things.
So, in this particular case, what Paragon has is this emulator. This particular virtual machine that I’m using to demonstrate the software on does not have a writable CD ROM/DVD ROM drive so instead what they offer is this emulator that when I say ‘next’ it will go off and create a .ISO file. A .ISO file is an image of a CD or DVD that can then later be burned to CD or DVD. That then, once burned to that media, is something you can then use on your computer to boot and then automatically run. In fact, I’m going to see if we can’t automatically run from this thing in a moment. That thing actually runs in such a way that it allows you…it actually runs a copy of the backup software. You can use it not only for restoring but for actually performing image backups if you so desire but the most important thing is that it runs the backup software so that you can perform a recovery that will identify your backup drive; it will let you select the backup that you want to restore and then the hard drive you want to restore that backup to.
Now, this is the free version of Paragon. Backing up a machine is actually fairly straight forward. They have a nice little wizard that allows you to select what it is that you want to back up. In this particular machine, I have two hard drives. I have what is the ‘C’ drive on this machine and then I also have a second drive, the ‘D’ drive that I’m using as my example of my external backup drive.
So one would simply select that particular drive to be backed up. You can see that they’ve taken a look at not just the size of the drive but the size of the data on the drive and estimated that it’s going to take this 32 GB drive is gonna take about 3.5 GB to back up. And that includes some amount of compression. I think there’s roughly around 6 GB of data on here.
Changing backup settings is what allows us to configure some more specific things like how do you want things named, what kind of compression do you want to use…in some cases, depending on what it is you are backing up to, you may need to be able to take the image and chop it up into multiple files that can each then be stored separately. Usually if you are backing up to an external drive that’s formatted say ‘NTFS’ this simply isn’t an issue.
A lot of people like to password protect their archives; that’s a good idea if you are potentially concerned that someone might actually access your backups who shouldn’t, because obviously then they would be able to restore them themselves and examine what’s on there.
One of the things that I’ve noticed that these utilities do is, or that Paragon does that I wasn’t familiar with previously, is that they will skip what they call OS auxiliary files. Specifically that means pagefile.sys and hiberfile.sys. In other words, your paging file and your hibernation file. There’s actually no reason to back those files up and they tend to be kinda large. So that’s an easy one to get. Raw processing is something, again, you can ignore. That actually backs up empty sectors as well as the sectors that contain data. ‘Skipping the archive files that are stored in archive library…’ typically what I believe this covers is that you can actually store your backups on the drive you are backing up. That typically doesn’t make sense, but it also means you don’t want to back up your ‘backups’. You should in general be backing up to another drive – ideally an external drive and possibly a drive over on another machine over on your network.
Let’s see…there are some options for recording; again, most of these you can ignore. Hot processing is simply a way that files can be backed up while they are in use; the defaults are great. You can actually have it exclude certain files. Again, I want a full backup; what we’re about to do here is the closest thing to a system image that you’re gonna get. And in that case, I don’t want it to skip anything; I want it to back up everything.
So we are going to save data to a local drive. As you can see, you can burn to CD or DVD; you can actually FTP it somewhere or you can save it to a naked, unformatted or formatted physical partition which essentially is a true drive cloning operation.
Now we’re backing up local drive C so what we really want to do is to place this on ‘D’. And in D there already is an archive for one of the days here I was testing this out already. So we’re gonna go ahead and have this save it on D; going to hit ‘next’ – this kind of allows us to add a comment to the backup and at this point we could schedule this backup or we could backup now. I’m gonna say ‘backup now’. It summarizes all of the choices that we’ve made; we hit ‘next’, and we hit ‘finish’. Now, the thing that’s a little bit odd about Paragon and this actually reflects, I believe, their history of being a partition management tool or at least having this software be derived from a partition management tool is that we’ve said everything; we’ve defined the backup and we’ve said ‘finish’ but in fact it hasn’t started yet.
Much like partition management tools, they’ll let you define a number of operations and then they’re not done until you actually say ‘apply’, this backup program does the same thing. So I’m not going to apply as I said earlier, I’m going to go ahead and discard and go on to a couple of other things. Now one of the options that you’ll notice that are missing in our backup and it’s true regardless of whether you do the backup directly or if you schedule it is that there’s no incremental backup. Paragon Free only does full or file-based system backups. What that means is that my normally recommended approach of doing a full backup followed by a periodic incremental backup isn’t available in the free tool.
Now, any backup is better than no backup. I certainly don’t want that to get in the way of things and it’s a free tool; it’s a wonderful way to system images or system restores but if you’re looking for more features; if you want to set up the more traditional periodic full and incremental or differential backups, that’s at the point at which you’ll probably need to upgrade to the next version- to the paid version of Paragon.
Restoring is a simple task. There are two approaches that you can take here. The first one is we can of course is that we can go in and (take a look at the hard drive) we can actually go in and walk the contents of that backup image and say I want to restore this file and this file and then it will do so. Or, more commonly, you can select the whole thing and it will restore the entire thing. Now in the case of the C drive, that doesn’t necessarily work. In other words, restoring the entire drive may or may not actually work because of course, you are running your system from it. That’s when the bootable Rescue Media comes into play. And I think given the amount of time where this is going on, I’m not going to show you that today. The goal here is that this interface allows you to go into a system backup; go into a full backup and extract and restore specific files which in my experience 80 – 90% of what you end up wanting to do with your backups any way is not restore your entire system but restore a specific file that you lost some time prior or specific file to which specific changes have been made and you want the older versions. This is one to way to make sure that absolutely every file has been backed up and then can be individually recovered later.
If we were to actually reboot from the recovery disk, what you would see is a second interface that is actually very similar to what you are seeing here. In this particular case, it happens to be a Linux based tool but that doesn’t really matter. The Paragon utility is pretty much the same thing of what you would see here. The difference being that since you would be running from the CD or USB drive that you’ve booted from the C drive, the drive that you are attempting to restore to would be fully available and then could be restore in its entirety.
The Virtualization Tasks I actually would ignore, to be honest. I’m not sure that I completely understand them myself other than to say that apparently there are some interesting ways to copy backups to and from drive images created by various popular virtual machine technologies unfortunately, not including Parallels Desktop which I happen to use. In a sense, that’s Paragon in a nutshell; that is a free drive imaging tool; you can do full system backups with this thing; you can do a system image or image of any drive for free and be able to recover completely or in part. If you want to start setting up more complex backups, and incremental backups then it will be time to upgrade to the paid version of Paragon.