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.
In this video excerpt from an Ask Leo! webinar, I’ll provide a brief overview of one of the options: Backup & Recovery 2011 (Advanced) Free.
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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.
18 comments on “A brief overview of Paragon Backup and Recovery”
I think I am using the same program(Paragon 2011 Advanced) and I think there is a slight but important error in the commentary. When restoring the whole of C drive it is not necessary to use the boot media (CD or Flash) Paragon will start the restore process and then ask if you wish to proceed by shutting down and restarting the PC. If you choose to do this Paragon will reboot the machine and complete the restore after which the machine will be turned on and your desk top will appear. All automatic and without the use of external media.
Doesn’t Windows 7 do the same thing? Create a system boot disk first, then do an image back up for complete restore?
What I want to know is, does either Paragon, or Acronis allow you to backup — not to restore, mind you, but to actually BACKUP  — the computer from the (so-called) “Rescue Media” — that is, from totally outside of Windows? I have never trusted those programs that have purported to back up Windows from within Windows — that is, while it was up, active, and running (what was the name they used? “Shadow copying”, or something like that…?) Uh-huh. Yeah. Right… Not bloody likely!!!
So — does either Paragon or Acronis offer backup entirely from the CD, withe Windows inactive…?
i used to use acronis; i’ve been using paragon for past copule years (various reasons, reliability), and paid version. I feel it is a great program.
re: windows 7 doing same thing; in a nutshell, no; windows will do backup/recovedry, but is limited in options, whree to store, how to recover, etc
one advantage of paragon is not only that the backup can be password protected, but that when pasword protecting the back up, it actually (from my understanding) ENCRHYPTS the backup data, so that if someone got the image, they could not get into the data at all, even to raw data.
it can even back up directly to a truecrypt mounted drive (so can do backup to an external drive that has been truecrypted (there are special steps to MOUNT the truecrypted image, I have been in corespondence with paragon about this, have to use a workaround currently), but overall has been a reliable program.
Hi Tim & Glenn, Yes with Win7 you can create a recovery disk and make a drive image. I choose to use Paragon because although you have a recovery disk option for when it isn’t possible to boot otherwise you can ,under most circumstances, just restore without having to go to the trouble of digging out your recovery media. Win 7,if I am not mistaken, doesn’t allow this. Also the image that Win 7 makes is not compressed although I will say I have only limited experience with the Win 7 backup facility and perhaps that option exists. The Paragon images are just a little over 50% of the original.
With Paragon you can do a backup outside of Windows but I have never done this and although I restore full images once a week I have NEVER had a problem. I get the same machine back that I imaged, every time. It works perfectly from within Windows so again I can skip the recovery disk.
If you create the Recovery Media Builder on one version of Paragon, then you update Paragon, do you have to recreate the Recovery Media Builder on flash drive or CD? Does the Recovery Media Builder only need to be done once?
From my experience with Macrium Reflect I would say I used the same media for three years +, so it survived updates. I have now moved to Paragon so I am not sure about the situation but what I would say that creating the recovery media is very, very easy. Your program will do all the work. You do not have to search for files, just select “Burn recovery Disk” or something similar. You just need a CD or flash drive.
Hi again Jean,
In Paragon the option is found under Tools/Recovery Media Builder
The program will also ask you if you wish to do this when you first start to use it as will Macrium.
It will then open a very simple Wizard to guide you through.
After making your restore/boot cd, be sure and try using it to be sure you can restore your image. Both Paragon and Macrium would not access my images on a external HD. EaseUS Todo and Windows 7 backup work however.
One comment asked about the ability to create the backup from the rescue CD. I do not know about Paragon, but I do know that PING (freeware) works completely from a CD. You burn the ISO and that is it. Nothing is installed on you hard drive. Copying and restoring is done exclusively from the CD. I have done 32 bit XP and WIN7 backups and restorations using PING. I agree with Glenn P that it is best to do the copy with Windows dormant. Clonezilla is another tool that works like PING except for me Clonezilla is too confusing. Try PING if, like me, you have a need to do an image copy with Windows closed.
Ia m not sure that I understand the reluctance to make an image with Windows open as I must have made approximately 100 images this way without a single problem on restore.Nothing was missing or corrupt (image verification will show you this) and my machine always behaves as it did at the time I made the image. For me the advantage is the speed and convenience of not having to use the CD and being able to use my machine whilst the back up is in progress.
Have you had problems doing it this way or is it just a gut feeling and distrust that makes you want to be out of Windows when you make an image ? If the latter is the case then I can only say that it does work how the program writers intend it to.
Thanks for a very informative article/video.
I have , in the last couple of days, started a trial with this backup program, but I am doing a Differential backup. In your video and notes you refer to the absence of the Incremental option, and later you add to that Differential.
I wonder if there are different versions for different countries – I am in Australia.
In my case, with the Advanced box in the left pane expanded I see the choice of Differentail backup, and this is what I have been using.
(I took a screen shot of the expanded Advanced box, and of the log, but this won’t paste here, so I can’t show it.)
I will run this as a daily schedule for about a month and then complete my test by restoring to a separate internal hard drive.
I am in England and I too have the option to make a differential (but not incremental) image.
I think Leo’s knowledge of anything “Computer” is encyclopaedic and I am an avid fan of his common sense easy to understand articles. In this case I think however that he possibly did not explore all the options that Paragon offers.As well as the differential image he also missed that it is possible to restore the C drive without using any external media. Paragon will simply ask for permission to reboot and then complete the restore without the use of a CD or flash drive.
To be fair to Leo I think he uses Acronis so is not too familier with Paragon.
Hi Leo, Thanks for the turorial. It is pretty comrehensive. I have made a similar one for free Macrium which might be interesting in the context ( http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/73828-imaging-free-macrium.html?ltr=I )
I noticed that your screen capture is pretty fuzzy. That seems to be a problem with embedded videos. That’s why I always post the direct link (in my case on Vimeo) with the embedding. That seems to work better.
For high quality capture, I use the free version of Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Screen Capture ( http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/Encoder4_Overview.aspx ). That one produces the very best quality I have seen. The downside is that the free version allows you only 10 minutes per shot. But that is OK for me because after 10 minutes I usually need a break anyhow. I then paste the píeces together with WLMM.
Another downside is that after recording, you have to encode the piece to get .wmv output. That requires a lot of muscle. It is OK on my i7, but even the Q6600 struggles. You have to figure 1 minute (i7) to 4 minutes (2.5GHz duo core) per recorded minute for the encoding. But the results are really splendid.
Here’s an article on Ask Leo explaining the difference between incremental and differential backups.
“So — does either Paragon or Acronis offer backup entirely from the CD, with Windows inactive…?
(1) “I believe that both do…”: Could you kindly find out for sure, please? It would be truly nasty to buy the product — on your say-so! — and then find out that it didn’t do what you said it did!
(2) “But Windows added support to make live full backups a reality some time ago…”: Exactly how long ago is “some time ago”? I have Windows XP Professional SP3 (and regardless, I STILL don’t trust Shadow Copy)!
New installation of 32-bit Vista on Gateway FX Desktop. Installed Paragon B&R Advanced 2011. Cannot create recovery CD. Select the option and nothing happens. I have reinstalled, turned off AV, etc. Any ideas?
to L. Malinofsky
the most possible reason is a third-party burning software which interferes with paragon drivers, try to temporarily disable or even uninstall if any (eg. Nero) and see if the issue presists, btw here is comparison review of Acronis True Image 2013 vs Paragon Backup and Recovery 12 Home http://www.acroniscoupon.info/acronis-true-image-2013-vs-paragon-backup-recovery-12-home.html it may help you decide which backup solution suites best for you