If I want to restore an image backup from a previous computer, complete with its operating system, onto another computer with a different operating system, will the operating system on the backup be allowed to install and override the operating system on the other computer? If so, how do I get around this?
It’s not a question of “allowing”.
Restoring a full image backup will completely overwrite everything that exists on the hard disk, replacing whatever was there before, no matter what it was. The previous operating system, along with everything else on the hard disk, will be overwritten and replaced with the contents of the image backup.
How do I “back up” my computer? I am sure my question is ridiculous to you, but I honestly have no clue what I should be doing.
Your question isn’t ridiculous at all. In fact, I’m certain it’s one reason so many people don’t back up: they simply don’t know how.
For something as critically important as backing up, that’s more than a little scary. I hear from people who lose important, valuable information all the time. Whether it’s from malware, hardware failure, account hacks, or other disasters, a backup can easily prevent such loss.
First, let’s look at what it means to back up a computer, and what your options are. Then, I’ll share some guidelines and tell you what I recommend for typical users.
I love how this question is phrased, because it made me examine backing up — a topic I’ve written about frequently — in a completely different way. Instead of looking at just the tools and techniques, it made me consider trust.
In so many ways, all the tools and techniques are secondary to your ability to trust a backup. And trust itself can mean several different things.
Spoiler: I don’t trust any single method completely. Instead, I trust several methods a lot.
For years, I’ve had a collection of 8mm and Super-8 movies stored in my basement. As technology has progressed and the projector deteriorated, I realized that the only way I would ever see them would be to get them converted to a digital format.
That involved shipping them across the country. If that makes you nervous, it absolutely should. It did me.
Backing up is kind of like eating healthier: everyone knows we should, and few of us actually do. Much like the heart attack victim who no longer binges on french fries, when it comes to backing up, the most religious are those who’ve been bitten hard by a failure in their past.
Asking what backup program to use is very much like asking, “What’s the best exercise program?”
The best program for exercise — or backup — is whichever one you’ll actually do. In order to choose what’s going to work best for you, there are several questions to ask.
If my computer is scheduled to back up my files on, for instance, Saturday night, and it’s sleeping, does the backup still occur? I received a warning that my backup was not successful: “The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.” I’m backing up to a Western Digital external hard drive.
The short answer is: probably not.
But that answer doesn’t relate to the error message you’re seeing.
In your response to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities the first thing you recommended was to back up. Why? How does that relate to anything? How does backing up help protect me from vulnerabilities?
I do harp on backing up a lot, I know. But it’s on purpose.
As I’ve said elsewhere, nothing protects you and your data like a complete, recent backup.
Why? Because so much can go wrong. And sadly, some of the folks trying to protect themselves from Spectre and Meltdown are probably wishing they’d backed up before doing so.
What are your criteria for deciding whether or not to take Microsoft updates?
I have Win10 and Office 2003. Regularly, when I get an update from Microsoft it trashes my Excel 2003. If I try to paste into a spreadsheet or format a cell the program crashes. I have to reinstall from my last Macrium full back-up (which includes the o/s) and then my last data backup (which does not include the o/s). I’m fed up with doing that, so I’m intending to turn off Microsoft updates. I can’t use the PC without Excel. I could go back to Win8, which is stable but nasty. I’m certainly not going to buy a new version of Office which will look nothing like Office 2003. REALISTICALLY, as opposed to THEORETICALLY, what are the dangers from turning off the Win10 updates?
Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that Windows 10 might not be compatible with 14-year-old software. I know you like it, I get that, but Office 2003 + Windows 10 is a match made … well, somewhere other than heaven.
I’ll address the pragmatic reality of avoiding updates, and I’ll also review what I see as your alternatives with respect to Windows 10 and Office 2003.
One of the scenarios that causes problems for many people is secure boot — how to boot from anything other than the computer’s currently installed operating system. Booting from an optical or USB drive can be complicated due to UEFI and secure boot.
I recently went through the process of backing up and restoring an image backup to my Dell Latitude laptop computer, which runs Windows 10 with UEFI and secure boot enabled.
I won’t cover the process step-by-step, since those would be useful only for owners of the exact same model of laptop. Instead, I’ll review what I did at a conceptual level.
I’ve got an HP computer, a couple of months old, that came with Microsoft Office starter pre-installed. I tried to access the program and it won’t come up. It tells me to go to Control Panel and repair, but I’ve had no success there. I’ve gone to the Microsoft site; still no luck. I tried again to open file, right-click, repair – nothing. Right-click compatibility – nothing. Help! I’ve gone to a past restore point and as a matter of fact, several. Nothing has changed. Help me please! Too late for today’s report, but maybe sometime in the future. I can’t afford to purchase Office. What in your opinion is the best free alternative for simple Word and Excel usage?
Microsoft Office is certainly the biggest player in the area of office applications. It’s become the de-facto standard across the business world. It’s also something Microsoft pushes fairly hard when you install Windows, by including the “starter” edition and the “Get Office” app in Windows 10.
There are many, many alternatives. Unfortunately, whether any of them are appropriate for your circumstance is impossible for me to say.
I keep all my data in a cloud which is backed up automatically by the provider. Isn’t that enough?
Almost certainly not.
If your data is kept only with that one online provider — be it email, online photo albums, online music collections, generic “cloud” storage, or more — there’s a good chance you really have no backup at all.
The key is this: the backups online services make aren’t for your protection at all; they’re for the provider’s.
In a prior article, we created an image backup of your PC using the free version of EaseUS Todo.
Image backups are one of the most important types of backups, because they backup absolutely everything. Should you need to replace a failed hard drive, for example, an image backup will restore everything and let you continue as if nothing had happened.
But what if you don’t want everything? What if you just need a single file you know is somewhere in that image backup?
If one should fall victim to hostile file encryption, instantaneous backup to OneDrive presumably would result in those being encrypted too.
In other words, if you’re using OneDrive (or Dropbox, or other similar services) to automatically back up files online whenever they change, doesn’t that mean that ransomware would cause those backups to automatically be replaced with their encrypted versions?
But before you give in to a knee-jerk reaction to avoid online backups completely, consider this: they’ll give you more options, not fewer, should ransomware ever strike. In fact, they could save you in ways other backups might not.
Apparently, Microsoft has decided to pull the plug on image backups (known as the “Windows 7 Backup” tool in Windows 10). My current understanding is that it is at least “deprecated”, and will likely actually be removed from a future Windows 10 update. This will leave Windows 10 with no built-in image backup capability of its own.
The official word from Microsoft is that third party utilities should be used instead. This doesn’t break my heart, as I was never a fan of the tool. I had hoped, however, that they would improve, rather than remove, the facility.
EaseUS Todo is a backup program whose free edition is superior to Windows’ built-in tool. I’ll show you how to create an image backup using it. The bonus is, this is not limited to Windows 10 at all; as of this writing, the free edition works with Windows XP, Vista, and all versions of 7, 8, and 10.
In a prior article, we turned on File History. Since then, our computer has been carefully looking for files that have changed since the last time it looked, and making backup copies to our external drive of any that have changed.
Great. So how do we access those backup copies when we need them?
There are two ways. Both are fairly straightforward.
In a previous article, we created an image backup using Windows 10’s built-in image backup tool, which it refers to as the “Windows 7 Backup.” We’ve also looked at how to restore that image, in its entirety, to your hard disk.
But what if you don’t want to restore the entire image? What if all you want is just a single file or set of files contained within the image? That’s why image backups are awesome, after all. They contain everything.
The good news is you don’t need to restore everything if you don’t want to.
Let’s restore a single file contained within a Windows 10 image backup.
Backing up the files you care about on a regular basis is a common (if incomplete) approach to backing up. While I much prefer an image backup, choosing to regularly back up only the files you work on is what many would consider a minimal approach to backing up.
On the other hand, regularly backing up the files you’re working on, in addition to perhaps less-frequent image backups, represents a more robust back-up strategy.
As it turns out, Windows includes such a feature, and it’s called “File History”.
I’ve discussed Windows built-in image backup software in prior articles. Let’s build that more robust backup strategy by enabling File History.
I encrypt my hard disk with BitLocker. My backup program tells me it can only perform a “sector by sector” backup, whatever that is. So, when I back up, is the backup encrypted or not? If not, how should I back up securely?
As with so many things, the answer is: it depends.
Different backup programs work in different ways, particularly when it comes to encrypted disks.
And even then, what actually happens may not reflect what probably should happen.
I purchased backup software and even after reading the online documentation, I don’t understand what files I should be choosing to back up. And will I burn these to a disc or put them on my hard drive? I have the PC’s installation files so I know I don’t really need these, but I am so confused.
Good for you for even getting this far. So many people don’t bother to back up at all and end up regretting it later when the inevitable disaster happens.
There are several answers to both of your questions. Which to choose depends on what you have, your level of expertise, and how much effort you want to put into understanding and configuring your backup.
Everyone with a smartphone has a camera, and they’re using ’em right and left to snap photos and shoot videos. Add to that numerous digital cameras, from inexpensive to professional, and you’ve got a lot of digital media being created every day.
A lot of it isn’t getting backed up.
Let’s remember the goal: never have only a single copy of your photographs.
If there’s only a single copy, it’s not backed up.
I do backups of my data using Windows but it’s not maybe as retrievable as I would like it to be. I don’t know exactly how to test backups to know whether they’re really there. It says they are but are they? I’ve had to use the system image to restore function once when my computer became infected with something. I basically just transferred the system image back to my C drive and it solved all my problems. I must say I’m thankful to you for strongly encouraging everyone to do backups. I can’t tell you how many friends and family have lost stuff – everything – because of not backing up. Pictures, important data. Loss of pictures seems to be the most heartbreaking.
Yeah, I hear those heartbreaking stories all the time, and yes, it is indeed one of the reasons that I talk so much about backing up.
Your concern about not knowing whether the backups are there or not is actually very common, as is the desire to test backups. It’s so common that I include a chapter about it in each of my books about backing up with specific tools.
Let’s review how you can get a little bit of confidence that what you have will be there when you need it.
For security in case of a crash, can I just copy my whole hard drive to an external drive as a backup rather than using a backup program? At the present time I am just copying My Documents to a flash drive, but am concerned that to recover I would have to rebuild all the files and updates if I had a crash.
The short answer is that you can, and it certainly provides a level of protection.
But your safety net has a hole in it.
There are definitely things you’re missing that a managed backup would catch and back up for you … things you’ll really care about should the worst happen.
When I did my backup I got this pop up message. “Checking the partitions found errors on two partitions without drive letter (Unknown Partition). Click ‘OK’ to create a sector by sector backup or ‘Cancel’ the backup.” I did the sector to sector. Did I do right?
Yes, but we might want to do a little more.
The problem here is that EaseUS has detected a problem with your hard disk. The good news is that this problem is not in any partition you use regularly.
But hard disk problems still make me uncomfortable, and it’s possible that this type of problem could impact your ability to perform certain types of recovery in the future.
I am a relatively new PC user and want to start backing up my hard drive. I have an external drive, and my PC has two internal drives configured in a raid set up. The PC drive has four partitions on it.
Must I create the same four partitions on the external and back up the contents of each partition in the PC to the relevant new partition on the external?
First let me say good on you for setting up a backup. Sadly, you’re in a minority. Most people still don’t think about backups until it’s too late.
The answer to your question depends in part on the capabilities of the backup software you use. But I do have some ideas and recommendations.
Windows 10 backup appears to offer two options: ‘File History’ and ‘Backup and Restore (Windows 7)’. Since upgrading to Windows 10, I have continued to back up using the ‘Backup and Restore (Windows 7)’ option, mainly because I have set up it up to take a system image as well as copy user files, and it doesn’t look as though that is offered with the ‘File History’ option. However the reference to Windows 7 bothers me – am I really backing up in an appropriate way for a Windows 10 system? I would appreciate your advice on this.
In fact, built-in Windows backup continues a history of disappointment. Like Windows 7 and 8 before it, Windows 10 backup is at best only “acceptable”, meaning it has enough functionality to be better than nothing at all. Sadly, even that represents an improvement over previous versions of Windows.
And, no, I don’t consider “better than nothing” to be a ringing endorsement.
One of the common questions I get after talking about image backups is “Great – how do I make one?”
There are many ways and tools with which to make image backups. Detailed instructions will vary, of course, depending on exactly which tool you want to use.
In the brief video linked above, I’m going to show you the steps to create an image backup using Macrium Reflect’s free edition (there’s a link to the transcript of the video at the end of this post). This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive how-to, but rather a very quick demonstration of just how easy it can be to create an image backup. As brief and simple as it is, it’s possible that this may be all you need to create your own backup image.
I wrote to suggest, …, that you write an article IN CAPITAL LETTERS if necessary that verifying a back-up is exigent. Exigent.
As you might expect, after doing this for over a decade, there are individuals that I hear from fairly regularly, and whose names and/or email addresses become quite familiar to me. Over time, they start to feel like extended family.
This comment came from one of my long-time readers – a member of that family – after she detailed a story of … well, it really all boils down to this heartbreaking statement:
I had FIVE YEARS’ worth of files backed up in multiple places […]. Leo, I am astonished–just mind-blowingly astonished: while both [external drives had] backed up random, helter-skelter, files–sometimes redundant to the point of absurdity–BOTH did not make a backup.
She experienced a failed Windows 10 upgrade, and restored to Windows 7 only to find that massive amounts of data had been lost in the process.
A member of the family requests that we all learn from her painful experience.
My hard drive states that failure is imminent and I should replace it immediately. My questions are as follows: When I replace my hard drive, will I need to install a new operating system? Is there a way to clone my current hard drive completely including my operating system? If I am able to clone my entire hard drive, will I need hardware or some device to set up between the old hard drive and the new while I do the transfer? What is the best way to save my existing files if I can’t salvage my entire hard drive? Are there software programs that can help me do this?
There are indeed programs that can help.
They’re called “backup programs”.
While there are many, many ways to do what you’re looking to do, I’m going to review what I think is the most appropriate way.
In fact, it’s the exact way that I frequently do exactly what you’re asking about.
I keep hearing about online backup services that will back up your data to “the cloud”. Assuming it’s secure, why shouldn’t I do that and skip the hassle of doing backups to an external hard drive or whatever?
I’ve written some about free online backup services before, but I want to take this opportunity to look at the entire concept of online backups, whether they’re free or paid.
Online backup services can be a useful component of a broader backup strategy, but there are a number of factors to consider before deciding if online backup is the right thing to do, including security, completeness, speed, and cost.
On your recommendation I recently purchased an external drive to use as a place to put my backups. I was surprised to find that it came with free backup software included. Why wouldn’t I just use that instead of downloading or even purchasing something else?
I get this question a lot, so you’re most certainly not alone in wondering.
Here’s my take on the situation: I don’t know what free backup software came with your drive.