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A Different Approach to a Book About Backing Up


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My backing up survey

As you probably remember, a couple of weeks ago I published a summary of a survey that I ran with my Ask Leo! Newsletter subscribers. The new subscribers were asked how they back up; if they back up; if they back up, how they do it; do they feel like it’s efficient for their needs – those kinds of questions.

In the summary that I published, I admitted I was actually a little disappointed (or maybe depressed would be a better word for it). The problem is that of the people who responded, upwards of 50% weren’t backing up or they weren’t backing up enough. More importantly, their back-up routines did not give me confidence that they weren’t setting themselves up for some serious, serious failure should a piece of hardware break, or should they have a malware infestation, or should a computer be stolen, or any of those kinds of things – any of the reasons or problems that we typically rely on backups to recover from.

So, that got me thinking, and I’ve been working on my next book. I teased it a little on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. As you might imagine, it’s going to be about backing up. But I want to take a slightly different twist on the subject, and rather than assume I’m covering all of the bases, I would like to hear from you.

Your biggest issue?

Please tell me: what’s the biggest issue that you have when it comes to backing up? If you’re not backing up, why not? What’s getting in the way? What’s preventing you? Are you are backing up in a half-hearted way, and you’re not really sure you are covered? What’s preventing you from feeling secure about the backups you are taking?

If you are one of those folks who are backing up completely and regularly, and you’re absolutely confident that you are totally covered, fantastic. But I’m sure you also know people who are in that 50% who aren’t backing up, or who aren’t backing up well enough. What do you hear as being the biggest obstacle to backing up? What is it that prevents people from saving their data, from backing up their data, from protecting themselves against all of these different things that can go wrong?

Give me a hand

I want to be sure I’m addressing the right issues in this upcoming book, and I’m asking for your help.  What I would like you to do is to visit, and in the comments section of this post, tell me: “What’s the biggest issue you or the people you know have about backing up?”

As I said, I have a new approach towards backing up for the new book.  It’s not something I’ve done before, and I want to be sure I’m doing in the right direction, or if I need to tweak it a bit, based on your feedback.

Give me a hand, and I’ll report the results back to you. Let me know what stops you from backing up thoroughly, and we’ll take it from there. Thanks!

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274 comments on “A Different Approach to a Book About Backing Up”

  1. I back up regularly – data (hourly & weekly, separately), and image (monthly). Stored online, offline and off-site, for different iterations. However, although the data is backed up automatically over my home network, it is slow! And images are copied to a portable drive, which I must carry to each computer and the image process is started manually. This is because imaging over the network brings the entire network to a standstill – data transfer rates are at phone modem speeds. Equipment: Win 7 & 8 laptops, very recent Linksys router, several 2 or 3 TB external drives. Back up software: DOS batch files for data (Xcopy), Macrium Reflect for images.

    I would like to be able to do automated images over the network. There is no room for the external HD by the remote laptops, and they move too much anyway. Root problem – slow data transfer over network.

    Hope I am on topic!

    • Most backup programs will backup over a network (I know Macrium does, because I do it! :-) ). The issue of slow network speed, however, isn’t something that we can magically fix, other than setting up a faster network.

  2. I teach basic PC use, in a senior center. We also have a twice monthly ‘club’, which is more learning, with a lot of questions and answers.
    In this environment, most people don’t backup, and most say it’s because of the level of difficulty.

  3. Hey Leo, I’ve read the above article. Sorry I did not read your previous post containing the survey. My answers to your “What’s the biggest issue you or the people you know have about backing up?” question are: I’m too lazy, it takes too long, I’m not sure I’m doing it right, I’ll get around to it, about the same time I make time to write an estate plan, doesn’t my computer do that automatically, there is nothing important on my computer, and, my favorite, can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? BTW, thanks for reminding me. Now where’s my thumb drive????

  4. 1) Problems that occur while backing up, such as pop-up errors when running backup programs. They need to spend time trying to figure out what’s going on. People just don’t bother to pursue it. Some ignore the errors and never discover til it’s too late that they never plugged in the backup drive or turned on the switch (if there is an on/off switch).
    2) Some don’t know about checking the help files or how to find online forums when problems occur.
    3) Inability or unwillingness to learn how to use computers well enough to install a backup program and set it up. Inability to navigate to the backup drive to see if it looks OK. Unable to test or restore a backup on their own.
    4) A popular online cloud service doesn’t backup videos and certain files unless you specifically tell it to, and people find out too late that it hadn’t backed those files up.
    5) People think their pictures are being stored in picture editing programs. So why bother backing up? The pictures are in the program, right? Wrong!
    6) Some don’t think about backing up files besides pictures/videos; such as documents, and databases.
    7) Backing up to a cloud but not backing up full size images. Not understanding a cloud service could suddenly have problems and lose your files. Synced files that go wrong. Thinking if everything is online, then everything is backed up.
    8) Not knowing what certain backup terms mean, such as Incremental, etc.
    9) The same people who don’t have backups also don’t run anti-malware, anti-virus programs, etc. They click on foolish things and forward junk to people. Education needs to reach those people. The education may need to be “dumbed-down” so they “get” it. Maybe create an educational “app” game they could play on their phones to learn about backups, but in a fun way.

  5. Hi Leo, I am a novel user at home. No on line “war games” etc. Just a web searcher, Facebook, email, pay bills. Basic stuff. I use my computer as a “storage file cabinet” I am not a computer “guru”. But I do have a good knowledge of computer basics, security and so on. My main problem with backing up is that there are so many choices to choose from and not knowing which one is right for me. External Hard Drive, the Cloud, thumb drive, and on and on. Then choosing a program that I can “understand” and has a user friendly interface. I know I need to back up and I know I don’t have a multimillion dollar business, but don’t want to loose whats important to ME.

    • Hi Leo, I have several backup programs (6) on this computer. I like Macrium Reflect.
      Some of the other software has backup programs that run. I had to disable part
      of the software. Seagate was backing up the entire “pictures” library. I disabled
      that. Windows 7 has a backup too.
      I have a 2T Seagate USB external HD that backups go to. I have made full
      image backups on DVD’s as I have a DVD burner. All my photos are backed up
      on DVD’s. Adobe PSE 10 does a backup to the USB hard drive.
      I read your article on incremental backup. I need to reread it. Do I have
      enough backed up? Thanks ! Esley

      • There was a time when Nero software was needed to burn images and photos to a CD or DVD. I lost a
        Windows XP computer because Asus no longer supported the motherboard. I bought another machine
        and loaded it with Nero 10 and Adobe PSE 10. I did not realize that Nero software was syncing with
        Adobe and writing a backup to F:\. I was occasionally using Adobe PSE 10; but I never ran Nero 10
        I backed all my photos up to CD’s and DVD’s. Thru the years I have lost about 3 HDD’s and one USB
        external HDD. Because of backups I still have my pictures and images.
        My present USB HDD has 42 backups from Nero on the F:\. My C:\ has photos and images on it.
        I also have My CD and DVD backups. My question is: Can I erase or delete the Nero files from my F:\
        The Nero 10 software has been removed from the computer but Adobe PSE 10 is still there

    • What Robert said, in spades (Feb 13, 09:59). I’m a retired guru, which means I’ve forgotten a lot since my certifications expired. I do full-system transfers from a desktop (which itself uses RAID 1 storage) back and forth to a laptop now and then, so at worst I’d lose a couple weeks’ data if a major failure occured. A good friend uses UNIX at home, and constantly brags about the backup capability of his system. If the hard drive fails, he has a simple DVD to boot from that restores the system fully from “on-line cloud” backup storage (RAID 1) in under an hour. Similarly for data storage volumes. That’s what I want, ultimately. I bought Macrium Reflect during a sale a while ago, but haven’t even installed it yet. I’m getting to the point that if I see some great new whiz-bang something-or-other its learning curve has to be downhill before I’m interested.

  6. i back up critical docs immediately to some type of cloud service (Google drive, or just email it to several different addresses such as Gmail and AOL). I also back up my Thunderbird profile periodically to a thumb drive. This works well for my low-volume stuff. Full back ups are another story. I typically use an external USB drive that is usually buried under piles of clutter, which is my first obstacle. When I make it through that, the next obstacle is that I’m not sure how to properly use Win 7 built in back up system (although it seems much better than previous methods). The next issue is that I’m not sure if the back up is valid and would even be usable, and I am scared to wipe out the hard drive to test it. (I do have your e-book using Macrium but am ashamed to admit I’ve not done it yet.)

    • Both the Macrium book (which I recommend over Windows 7’s backup) and the Windows 7 book include instructions to test the backup as well as you can without a destructive restore. Thanks!

      • “. . . include instructions to test the backup as well as you can without a destructive restore. Thanks!”

        Maybe I’m just old school but in the ‘dark ages (80’s, 90’s, and even into the early 21st century) the only way I would trust a backup (mainframe to PC) was to restore and try it. I don’t want to tell you the number of times we needed a back up and something failed – this was not a small company – this was a large pharma operation.

        We had a process to actually do a restore of defined critical systems once/year if for no other reason than to make sure things would work if you had to go to a recovery center.

        I can’t afford to keep a duplicate box around to do this.

        I back up all my data via Dropbox and Carbonite. I use 3 to 4 different computers in separate physical locations. I retain all original software media and know where I can go to get the software where I don’t have the media. My typical failure has been hard drive failure. In most cases I’m buying a new system as it is too old to replace what is there. An image restore may or may not work in this situation. I don’t write my own code these days – – – if I can’t find it in a box then I don’t do it!!

        I guess this is not the greatest way but I can certainly fully test this data at all times. The other methods don’t give me that level of conficence.

        Take it for what it’s worth.

      • One large university I know had a complete set of (mountable) hard disks for their large IBM 360 system. They’d back up the running drives to tape, restore the tapes to the extra set of disks, mount them, and see if everything worked. I don’t remember if they then continued operations on the newly restored disks, or re-mounted the backed up disks. This was done every night, and was a pretty thorough (but time-consuming) test of the backup process.

  7. I too teach at a Senior Center and am one besides. :-)
    My personal method of backup (both file and image) is Windows Home Server 2011. It works simply and wonderfully for all 6 computers in the house. The big problem is Microsoft no longer offers this great $50 server OS, but instead wants home users to buy the $300 Windows Server Essentials – a much more complicated product that, frankly, is not suitable for a home user.
    When I teach Windows Computer Maintenance, the #1 priority is backup. I try to make it as simple at possible because backup can be complicated; when you have to write books on how to backup it must be complicated! I start with Backup = copy, nothing more. Then I teach how to use Microsoft’s Synctoy to backup as it is conceptually very easy to understand and observe what it is doing. To restore files ‘backed up’ by Synctoy is also dead simple; just browse to the backup using nothing other than “My Computer”, find the file and copy it back. (Yes, I know it’s called Windows or File Explorer, but that’s not how the icon is labeled! Asking a Senior to double-click the explorer icon will guarantee that they’ll end up in IE.)
    From there it’s a small step to Windows Backup & Restore or File History. This is more complicated because one can’t simply browse to restore something; one has to use a separate program or the even more obscure right-click, previous versions.
    Like you, I recommend an external HD for backup. But that immediately results in the question, “Do I need to have the HD attached and running all the time?” And that leads to more complications with the ‘Yes but …’ or a ‘It depends …’ answer.
    I think it comes down to that backup is *not* a natural action in using computers – it’s something that has to be done outside the normal use of a Windows computer. Sure us old timers that grew up with these things – I still prefer POP3, hit a -S every few minutes, and marvel at a 3 GHz CPU (having started with a 4 Mhz), can’t believe 50+ Mbps downloads (I can’t read text much faster than 300 baud), and yes, do a backup every day – all that is really just a means to getting the job done. One does *not* hear much about “Backup your Tablet every day!” or “How to restore files to your iPhone” even though it’s just as important.
    So, keep it simple! This stuff *is* complicated, it’s our job to make it at least understandable.

  8. Hi Leo,

    I’m a Big fan of your backup philosophies and may have been pra cticing them back before even you published them in the mainframe world using iterations od ISAM, VSAM and DB2.

    I’m retired now and my biggest concern is keeping my home data backed up. I’ve taken a three metho approach to backup storage each has its benefits and drawbacks.

    Local Storage via a MY Book or similar external USB harddrive – Good Space (4TB seems reliable now) and speed, but lousy security in event of a local disaster, (Flood, Fire, etc). I use it for keeping a running backup active data file using “Handy Backup”.

    NAS – I use two Black Armour NAS devices a 2 drive and a 4 drive system using raid 1 on the smaller system and raid 5 on the larger NAS. Benefits excellent storage space, acceptable speed, but I’ve run into reliabilty probles with the harddrives shipped with the the units. replacment drives seem to be a little more reliable. I use these drives for image backups mostly and key financial data files. I currently use Macrium for these backups but have also used Acronis. Biggest problem is space management of the backed up files, seems like I’m always running out of storage space. Need to rethonk how many generations to keep and when to delete to oldest generation.

    I also use a couple of online storage options, one from my cable/Internet provider and the other from Norton. Available space is great, speed not so much (4mbps upload speeds). Cost can be factor (Norton), but the cable company option is mostly free. I may switch to online storage for my daily backup of changed files as it seems reliable and secure (disaster proof), a bit slow but I can live with automated overnight processes. Downloads are not too bad at 65mbps speeds.

    As you can see I’m not committed to any one style of backup, but I do need to simplify my methods as I’m a bit too complicated at this point.

    Which brings me to my main complaint for me and even more so for those acquaintances that have that blank look on their face when I ask them if they back up their files!

    Any Backup Program needs to at least have a default option for a KISS interface, where the user can push a button and everything of importance is backed up on a given computer with as few options as possible, (where and how often and a confirmation that all backups are performing as expected via text email, etc). Optional levels of granularity are of course welcome but should be hidden for non power users. BTW I feel Macrium is nearly perfect solution for this….

    • Thanks William. I have seen some programs try to provide one-button solutions and fail miserably. Totally agree, though, that complexity is at odds with most people’s backing up. Thanks!

      • Yeah, complexity — sadly, the bane of all things computer-related — is the antidote to good computer hygiene like backing up. There’s no question in my mind that if computers were simpler to use in general (as well as backup software in particular), more people would be backing up their data regularly. Very often an application’s “main page” is very poorly designed — sometimes with critical icons not even visible! (Again, this complaint applies to much software in general, not just backup software. But when people have a bad experience with any kind of software, it makes them gun-shy to try other software, like backup applications.)

        In the same vein, DOCUMENTATION — user manuals, help files, etc. — is often bad or even nonexistent. Again, this is “poison” to good computer hygiene. I know many people are too lazy to “RTFM”. But what about when there IS no effin’ manual??? Bad experiences with computers — especially when it’s the result of undue complexity (and/or cryptic error messages) coupled with lack of a proper instruction manual (or a poorly designed one) — leaves people with a negative or fearful attitude toward computers and software and is undoubtedly a main cause behind people’s failure to backup their data. If people are afraid that something is “too hard to do”, they will throw up their hands and say “to hell with it.”

        (That being said, I have to admit that the instruction manual that came with my Western Digital “My Passport Ultra” is pretty good. It’s an example if what such guides SHOULD look like. It’s kinda long, but that’s only because it clearly explains almost everything, and that’s what I WANT in a user manual. And the included WD backup software itself seems pretty simple and straightforward, too. So that’s what I use to backup my data. And I do back it up regularly, ever since a disastrous and unexpected total hard drive failure last October, which caused me to lose four years’ worth of data and is what turned me from a guy who almost never backed up his data into a backin’ up fanatic! It was a painful lesson, but at least I learned it [albeit the hard way].)

        (To answer Leo’s original question, the reason *I* almost never backed up my data previously was mostly an “I’ll get around to it one day” attitude combined with an “it won’t happen to me” attitude. Big mistake.)

        Last, Leo sez: “I have seen some programs try to provide one-button solutions and fail miserably.” Can you elaborate on that for us, Leo?

        • Without naming names several years ago now I did see one version of backup software specifically update to what they felt was a simpler, easier to use nearly one-button interface. It was simpler, but it was definitely not easier to use – it was really unclear what that one button DID, for example. Coupled with a severe lack of customer support that particular product lost my confidence to this day.

  9. I have been using Karen’s Replicator for years from I have it set to BU once a day at 5PM to an internal drive. I also have 2 other backup settings for 2 external drives I have that I use about every 2 weeks. That way I have 4 copies of all my files. I have Win 7 on my desktop and Win 8.1 on my laptop.

  10. I’ve used Macrium Reflect successfully since the days of Windows XP. I think in all that time I may have had three or four (at the most) catastrophic backup failures, which would have caused me a lot of work. I backup our two main computers every weekend, and this is set as a scheduled task with both machines. I keep two backups of each machine, mainly because of storage space restrictions. All I have to remember to do is turn on our NAS, and delete the oldest backup. That’s the biggest problem that I find other people have. When ever I explain a backup procedure, the biggest obstacle people come up with is actually having to remember to connect what ever device they’re backup up to, and to manage the space on that device. That seems to be enough to stop them from backing up at all. ‘It’s too hard to remember.’ ‘I’ll forget to do it.’ We’ve been backing up our computers for so long now, it’s just routine. That’s the point I make when people complain about having to remember to do something. I have a reminder in my Outlook calendar that prompts me to do what I have to do in order to ensure that the backups run (turn on the NAS, and delete the oldest backup), and that’s all I need. I find that other people seem to want the computer to do everything for them. Plug in the backup device, manage the space on that device, and then run a backup. Ultimately, they don’t want to take responsibility for managing their backups.

    That’s what I find.

    • I’m actually of the opinion that leaving the backup device always connected – or always on – while it has some risks is LESS risky than setting people up to have to remember something. Thanks for the thoughts!

      • At first glance, there’s nothing wrong with leaving your backup device connected at all times. Until your computer becomes infected with cryptovirus, or one of the variants. Cryptovirus will encrypt anything it finds, on any active network share, or USB device. If ‘anything’ includes your backup, you’ll lose that as well. With the greatest of respect, I have to disagree with you on this point.

        • My take is that the risk of not being backed up is MUCH GREATER than the risk of the crypto virus family. Many, for example, do not encrypt large files like image backups anyway. The compromise I advocate, if it’s a real concern, is to leave a drive connected always so that you’re guaranteed an automated backup, and then copy out the images, or swap drives, periodically to keep one or more of those backups inaccessible to malware.

  11. I teach classes at a local community center on various aspects of computer use. The importance of backing up is a subject I always cover, and the most frequent reason I hear about why people don’t do it is that they simply don’t understand how. I’m often told by people that they’ve searched for information on how to back up, but the instructions they ran into were so heavily couched in geek-speak that they gave up. I think that, too often, people who write about computers and how to get the most out of them forget that their audience is not necessarily tech savvy. Many of them, about as far from tech savvy as you can get. I’d love to see a book that covers backing up based on the assumption that their readers’ level of technical knowledge on the subject and on computers in general is at a Basics 101 level, or not far from it.

    • I just heard this referred to this morning as “the curse of knowledge”. We (aforementioned geeks) know too much, and as a result assume too much in our responses and instructions. It’s a fine line, and one that I have to continually watch. Thanks!

  12. I backup twice weekly to two different usb disks using Macrium Reflect. The backups are scheduled to occur at 1am. I have had to restore my C drive on one occasion and it went very smoothly, much faster and easier than it used to be in the days of tape. There are two areas that gave me trouble until I figured them out:

    1. Scheduling the backups and have them really happen. The first time I tried it, it failed because somehow I had not supplied the necessary login credentials. This is especially tricky if you do not have a password, as I do not on my desktop machine. The procedure for revising a schedule is also a little tricky.

    2. Restoring from a backup when the machine uses uefi. Macrium handles this with aplomb now, but it did not and I had quite a time finding the magic keys to hit a boot time to turn uefi on and off. With the current version of Macrium, there is no problem, but do not try to use an old restore disk!

    • I typically rely on “just in time delivery” for the restore disk – not actually making it until I need it. Now, naturally, that assumes I have another computer on which to make it, which is not true for many. Thanks!

  13. I never send in comments and if I’m doing so today it’s as a form of thanking you for your very helpful column over the years.
    I am actually quite surprised that the comments so far have not addressed what I personally consider to be the greatest disincentive to backing up – which files, and where are they? I am aware that this varies from person to person, so that a list covering 100% of possibilities is out of the question, but a list per operating system of the principal default storage folders for personal data (and what they probably can contain) might be found helpful by those starting to educate themselves about backups.
    Personally, I use Macrium Reflect on a monthly basis, and Bvckup 2 (very fast and straightforward) for daily backup of my principal folders.

      • Leo,
        That makes the back up too big and take too long which is a great incentive to skip it “just this one time”.

        I avoid the MS back up software because it appears too complicated and I want to be able to see the back up files using a plain vanilla File Explorer like tool.

        No one has mentioned Syncback ( There are various versions but I use the free one and it does what I want. It can be a little complex to set up if you want to specify the back up down to the file level but you can just point it at a folder like MyDocuments and it will back up everything. I want speed so I don’t back up anything that’s not useful or that will be recreated by reinstalled programs. I have a lash up using a batch file, Xcopy and Syncback that cycles through 5 back ups; a new one each time the batch file is run, after 5 it over writes the first one. Back up is to an “n” speed network, not particularly fast.

        Syncback appears to make 2 passes. The first determines what has changed between your computer’s hard drive and the selected back up. The second does the replacing or deleting of the changed files. The first 5 back ups take a while of course. Each of my 5 back ups is about 25 GB and 30,000 files but the number that change on any given day is small and back ups take just under 5 minutes.

        Some things may not need to be backed up. E-mails on a local client e-mail program can often be saved on the server. I use gmail with Thunderbird as my local client. Those things I really deem important I save locally and they get backed up by Syncback. But everything stays on the server just in case. I also have set up automatic forwarding of all my e-mail to another account on another service. On that service I have filters that delete the truly useless stuff to save space. If my gmail account gets hijacked I’ll still have my mail. I don’t keep any contacts on gmail only on my local Thunderbird program.

        I also back up some things to a free Mozy account but I’m leery of storing some private things in the cloud. I don’t care how much the experts sing the praises of this or that encryption algorithm there is no way for me to determine if they are secure. Encryption on my own machine and local back up to a pair of drives that can be removed to a remote location is the alternative I’m going with for now.

        I’m very good about backing up regularly. My scheme takes about as long as it takes me to go to the bathroom and back. But I admit that many folks are not and probably wouldn’t be happy with my system but it works for me and that’s what’s important.

        • I use xcopy and cloudbacko to backup them in daily & weekly basis at night. The strategy between xcopy and cloudbacko is different. xcopy sync all files from my laptop to my portable drive once a week while cloudbacko does it in daily basis. Coz xcopy will copy everything to another disk and so once a week should be enough while cloudbacko is only copying changes, so will be faster and once a day will be good enough

  14. I don’t back up regularly. I have 3 laptops to maintain two windows 8.1 and 1 windows 7. I cant afford the full macrium reflect or 3 separate external drives. I backed up with cds but took ages on windows back up.

  15. I don’t have the space to do full image backups, and it’s hard to sort out everything I need to have backed up, so my backup process is slow and manual. And it’s confusing to figure out what my best options are in my situation.

  16. I think my biggest issue with backing up is I’m not the most tech savvy individual. I read different articles on how to … and I’m frequently confused or when I use a step by step approach, the screens in the article or what should be on my screen is not. I really need a simplified process that a non tech guy can understand and operate.

  17. Most of the people I know are totally overwhelmed with the idea of backing up. I point them to your series on Macrium Reflect, but they don’t want to take the time to do all it entails. For some of my friends, I installed and performed 1 backup using Macrium Reflect. Since the free version takes too long to run daily for most people, as there’s no incremental, they at least can get a working system back when necessary. I then give them a .cmd file script to back up all (well actually probably only most) of their user data and set them up with a DropBox account to use as their working folder. This .cmd backup script runs at startup each time. This might be sufficient for many home users as they have a basic system to restore to plus all of their user created data. I also set them up to use Thunderbird with IMAP or POP3 with the Leave mail on server option, and export their address book to a folder in DropBox.
    Then there’s the question of maintenance. If they use the paid version, they could probably run incrementals for at least a year as most home users. The nightly image route would need to be purged often.

  18. For those of us not born with a computer chip (before 1970), I think it boils down to a staggering amount of information that’s overwhelming. Too many different ways, too confusing, too technical, too much to think about today –> I’ll research it more tomorrow. Can’t someone just invent a “Backup” button or setting to just do it automatically at whatever frequency is best? *half joking*

      • Check, Item#: ULR-102116388 | Model#: U12-43128

        Although I’ve bee a customer for many years, and have had good customer support with Ultra, I haven’t seen this product. Therefore, this is not a recommendation for it, just something to let you know companies are trying to make backups easier for less technical people.

  19. Issues that people I know personally have, presented in no particular order (I myself back up!):

    1. Why would I bother with ‘full system images’ when cloud programs will automatically save my stuff somewhere safe?
    2. I’ve never had a hard drive fail, go bad, etc. Going through the rigmarole of backing up is just a waste of time, because it HASN’T saved me from anything going wrong. You’ll spend more time mitigating the unlikely than you’ll save in the end.
    3. Backing up used to be necessary, but modern computers are so much more reliable that it’s not really important anymore.
    4. I have a RAID array, why should I do system images when everything is already duplicated?
    5. I have a solid-state drive, those don’t go bad like normal hard drives, so I don’t need to back up anymore!
    6. What if my backups get corrupted? Then if I need them, they won’t be there! That stresses me out, so I’m just not going to do it.
    7. I used a backup program once, and it just ate up so much space on my computer that I could barely use it afterwards!
    8. Eh, I never use my computer for anything important. What’s the point of backing up for me?
    9. Computer? Ha, I use my phone for everything. Backing up doesn’t apply to phones!
    10. (This one is actually about as common as all the others put together…) I have a Mac. They JUST WORK – you might need ‘back-ups’ on your low-quality Windows box, but just like anti-virus, it’s not at all needed on my Mac.
    11. If my system has a virus on it, won’t my backups include it, especially if I only keep my 3 most recent backups?

    Hope those help!

    • I have a friend with a Mac who really, truly believed that Macs never crash. That a crash is something that only “those Windows people” had to worry about. Then one night, the impossible happened and his Mac crashed. A bad crash. He was able to get the machine back up and running and he was able to recover some of his data, but he still lost a lot. You can be he’s a believer in backing up now. He’s also a believer that there doesn’t exist a computer anywhere that is immune to crashing.

  20. I don’t want to backup my malware along with my computer and I’m also having trouble with windows not updating properly. I want to backup my updates as well. Thanks.

    • The point of backing up regularly is so that you have a malware free backup to fall back on. If you find you’ve backed up malware, you’ll have to roll your system back to a time when there was no malware. Then you can go into the later backups which may contain malware and recover any files you may need.

  21. Leo,

    About Back Ups..
    I do a total backup regularly .
    Additionally, most of my friends do not, because I think, they are frightened out the complicated(they believe)
    process required to to do so.
    The process, albiet Macrium Reflect, Acronis, etc, is frightening to them.
    BU needs to be VERY simplified, if possible.
    I do the backup for them, then tell them how to do it when they need it. They always call me for the backup to be done by me again.

    I guess computer operation is too technical for some folks.


  22. I do back up, but not on a “regular” basis, and certainly not daily. I back up about once every week or two, and whenever I add something to my computer that I feel is important not to lose. I don’t like the idea of leaving my computer on when I’m not using it (i.e. during the night), and don’t want to leave my dedicated USB drives connected (for security reasons) when I’m not backing up. I have 2 dedicated backup drives, and each time I run a backup I take that drive to the bank where I put it in a safety deposit box, and remove the one that’s already there. This way I’m covered in case a disaster occurs at my home. Going to the bank daily would not be reasonable for me.

  23. I started to back up with Windows 7 built in backup after using something else (cannot remember what), and have now nearly filled my 1Tb external drive. I’d like help with what to save or discard so that I am not losing important files. I had a look at Macrium free after you recommended it, but am not sure it would be useful for me as I would want to save incremental backups. At the moment I am thinking of getting a new external drive and starting afresh. I’d appreciate some help on the problem.

  24. I backup very regularly. I backup my entire primary drive, including the operating system using Future System Solutions Casper software to a secondary drive. I also backup all my Data to the cloud which is encrypted using the free Boxcryptor software. Because of my knowledge, I am often called upon by friends and family for computer help. I feel many more people would preform backups if the process was simple. I also believe most users do not fully understand the implications of not backing up. They blindly think they can take their computer to a tech and have everything fixed. Most users have very limited computer skills therefore the who process seems very intimidating so they just avoid it. Hence, users need to understand and appreciate the SERIOUS consequences of not backup up and the backup process must be VERY simple. My two cents worth.

  25. My family usually asks me for computer advice especially when they are having problems. Just recently my father asked me if I could take a look at my uncles laptop. I told him no problem then asked what is going on. I got so many different answers that I just told him to bring it to me and I’ll take a look. Well, when turning it on I found what looked like to be a freshly installed OS with nothing on it. After talking more with my father I found that the computer had a virus, maybe, my uncle hit a key and it all vanished, maybe, he took it to the geek squad and they redid it, maybe. All that I know is that there was nothing else on it other than the OS. When I gave it back to my father he then asked what he should tell my uncle to do with his files so they don’t “vanish” again. The first thing I thought to myself was there is no “easy” button or a magic pill, just put them somewhere other than one place :-) I try to discuss backing up the important files to my family but they just don’t get it or have the time or want to put the time in to doing it. Due to their skill level I usually just recommend an external drive of sorts yet they get all glassy eyed and anxious like this is some high tech type thing or finding a drive is worse than shopping for a used car. My mother recently told me that if I have any old ones I don’t need she would be happy for me to set them up on her laptop. I will admit, I haven’t been the best at doing backups but I do have some redundancy in place with drive pooling, raids, and separate computers to house backups of backups but I have started to actually put my backup game plan together. I have been trying out Macrium Reflect V5 for the last month and it has really helped with cleaning up and expanding my knowledge and eagerness to put a solid plan together (for my home). I thought about purchasing your book “Saved! Backing up with Macrium Reflect” but V6 of Reflect just came out so am wondering if it would benefit purchasing that book or waiting for this one? Then that creates a problem because if I wait for this one I could have a failure between then and now….oh the humanity! :-)

    • Two things:

      One: v6 is similar to (but not identical to) v5. If you’re good at generalizing then the existing v5 book will work for you with v6.

      Two: I’ll probably update the Macrium Reflect book to … uh … “reflect” the changes. The update would be free to folks who’ve registered their purchase. I have to say “probably”, since they also increased the price and I’m concerned that I might need to instead spend time developing a version for a different backup tool recommendation that’s less costly.

      • Wow: Macrium wants me to pay $41.95 to “upgrade” from Reflect v 5, which I purchased less than a year ago (they charge “only” $69.95 for a new purchase). I hope you will review the new features of v 6, Leo, and give us your opinion about the implications of this development for satisfied users of v 5. (And I am very satisfied with it. After nearly 30 years of frustration with the complexities and inadequacies of every backup system I tried, guilt over repeatedly failing to back up regularly, and anxiety that my irregular backups would prove be adequate when a hard drive crash finally happened, I eventually discovered your book, made the effort to master Macrium Reflect, and have been following your recommendations to the letter for the past 9 months. Still no hard drive crash to put it to the ultimate test, but I did accidentally destroy a very complex Photoshop file I use repeatedly the other day and was delighted to see how quick and easy it was to recover that file from an incremental backup.)

        • Yeah, I have to admit that the pricing has me concerned about whether or not they really want the home market. It’s a good product, but the new price puts it out of the reach of many.

  26. Reasons I’ve never backed up my stuff: 1) don’t know how; I have a flash drive to do it but don’t know how to back things up on it. Don’t know what things I should back up on it. Not even sure you back up to a thumb drive. 2) actually afraid I won’t do it right and lose my stuff and not know it til I need to put it on another computer. 3) length of time that it will take to back up. Don’t have a clue to this so hesitate to start and it take longer time than I have to deal with it.
    These are some of the reasons I have not backed up my stuff. Figured I’d give you my outlook on the matter. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us ordinary folks who are in the learning process.

  27. I bought a Seagate for back up. It said it was for back up. I started backing up on a monthly basis. Then I lost some files and tried to upload from the Seagate back up. The files had been changed to DAT files. I could not find anyone who knew how to bring them back. I lost a lot of information that I thought I had in the back up files. I have not backed up since because I am not sure I would have files if I needed them. Seagate denied that what happened was their fault. Said it should not make DAT files.

    • Wow. This is one of the reasons I generally don’t use whatever software actually comes with those drives. It changes and you don’t really know what you’re getting. Sorry for your horror story, but thanks for sharing it.

  28. I try to back up regularly and fail miserably; my biggest issue is where to back up to. I bought a WD My Book but the backup software slowed down my computer so much I took it off. Space is an issue if I want multiple backup history and I’m not sure which way to go (e.g. burn to DVD, buy multiple hard drives, cloud storage, etc.) and this leads to cost issues; no mater which route I take it’s going to cost me (either direct cost of buying hard drives or the monthly cost of cloud storage or DVD media). At least my computer runs on mirrored drives so if one fails I can recover off the other one.

    I would love to hear about some ways to put together backup hardware strategies to give me some options on where to back up to.


    • I saw your comment about the WD hard drive and had to comment. I also got a WD, a My Passport, and tried to use the included software. It was horrible – I spent the next couple days finding and fixing what it did to my laptop. I recommend deleting the WD software and using something else on the drive. The problem is the software, not the hd itself.

  29. I don’t backup for 3 reasons: I have nothing on my computer that I really need as I do not buy on the computer, I do not do any office/computer programs on my computer so I don’t do any kind of that work. I have a permanent smart unit attached to my computer but don’t how to use it or care to learn as I am 80+ and as long as I wake up on the right side of the grass, hurray! I only use the computer for games and email.facebook and collect pictures which I occasionally print. I own 3 computers(desktop,laptop,tablet) because i CAN so if something happens to anyone it back to the computer service center for repairs!

    • I’m not quite as old as you Thomas but I use my computer for a lot of things that I wouldn’t want to loose. However, I don’t make image back ups for much the same reason as you mention. If my computer crashes the failure will be on the hard drive or in the rest of the machine. If the rest of the machine it’s toast and I’ll get a new one, install my software using this opportunity to determine if I really need that program. Then I’ll add the existing HD as secondary drive and move my backed up data to where it’s needed on the the new machine’s HD and I’m done. If the HD is bad I’ll get a new one, probably have to buy a retail version of the OS and reinstall it. Then copy the backed up data to it.

      I recently had a lightning strike very near our house. My main computer was toast. Couldn’t get it to do anything. But cost is not a big issue for me so I called Dell and had a nearly identical replacement in a few days. Installing my software (I save all the important installation files or media), back up data was done in another day or so and a few things got tossed.

      I put a high value on getting back to “normal” so I can get my regular work done. That’s why buying a new computer (nothing fancy) is a good option for me too Thomas.

  30. I back up an image of my desktop every day using Macrium Reflect. I keep the last 4 days and each day takes up about 140Gb. These are all saved to an external disk drive. I would like to save it offsite to the cloud (in case of fire, theft, etc), but feel the file is too large and might also be subject to piracy (my tax files, etc. are included in the backups). So, I simply continue to backup to an external drive hoping fire/theft will not occur.

    • Even doing just that you’re WAY ahead of the game. You might consider putting a password on the backup with Macrium Reflect – that’ll encrypts it and will make you feel safer keeping an image elsewhere. If the files are too big//slow to upload, consider just taking a copy to a friends house or a safe-deposit box every so often.

  31. The biggest hurdle to backing up I encounter is the software itself. As in most things having to do with computers, the more people have their decisions made for them, the better. So, for an incremental backup, the selected software should perform the initial total backup with one click, and setting up the increments should be an intuitive decision made by the backup software, based on files modified, software packages installed, etc. It should then provide a pop-up notification to the user to leave the PC on tonight with the external backup drive connected (if that’s the configuration). Then, if the user neglects to do that, another pop-up the following day to remind the user again. Ad nauseum until complied with. Call this the mother-in-law suite of software….

  32. Hi Leo,
    I use an external unit called ‘Clickfree’ automatic backup.
    It turns itself on during the day but I have yet to figure out how to tell if it is actually backing up everything on my computer.
    In addition, because it is wired to my computer I wonder if a virus that accessed my computer could not then just as easily access the
    Clickfree and delete the information stored there.
    Thanks so much for the good work you do.

  33. I use Win 8 backup. My main problem is I use two different laptops sitting in different chairs and locations during the day. I would like to have a backup system that would automatically back up to a hard drive connected to a Wifi network. I would like to do this only if it is possible not to compromise my security.

    • Should be quite possible, but not with Windows 8 backup that I can see. Other tools can backup over the network. In fact you could back up each laptop to the other, if you have enough disk space on both.

  34. Backup issues:
    Using the right backup software. I’m running Win7 64 bit and recently had to restore an image because of a major virus/Browser problem.
    1st I tried to use a recent Windows backup image and it ran for a hour and then hung up all night.
    Luckily, I had a Macrium Image and I restored my computed using it.
    I also use Dropbox and Carbonite for day to day backup.
    Other issues with backup are that one of my external hard drive failed. Luckily, I have two.
    Trying to image my hard drive to the cloud would take a very long time.
    So, to sum it up: use the right software and have a mix of external hard drive and cloud-based backup.

  35. I don’t backup anymore. Once every week I clone my solid state hard drive using AOMEI Backup to my secondary hard drive. I never thought about the computer being stolen or destroyed in a fire so I will clone an additional drive which I will place in my fireproof safe. There is nothing of any importance on my computer that I worry about losing except for my financial information, budget, etc.; that automatically backs up every 3 days to a thumb drive which I will keep in my safe from now on.

    I figure it is easier to clone the disk rather than face the torture of backing up. I did have a disk failure around 7 years ago and my backup was useless to me because I guess I did it wrong. Cloning is much easier!

  36. Following recommendations (!!) I use Macrium Pro to do a weekly WinRec backup and a separate docs backup, both to an ext HDD which is not left permanently switched on. Critical Docs get backed up daily to keyring usb. I’m comfortable with that – but not sure how to test it! Macrium doesn’t seem to have a validation function (or have I missed it?).

    • Macrium will validate a backup immediately after creating it, if you select that option when you create the backup definition. Only problem is that all this really does is validate that it was written properly to disk. Testing (which I outline in my backup books) involves simply restoring a single file from a backup image to prove that you can.

  37. I do back up as I would be seriously unhappy to lose my photos and scanned slides/negatives/prints etc. This has been useful to me as the HD on my last PC failed without any prior warning a couple of years ago. I lost a few hours work in Photoshop, but still had the original images. I know others who do not back up for various reasons, including not knowing how to, and not (apparently) being that bothered.

  38. I have window XP and NERO for my back up, which I admit I don’t do very often. I like to do a full back up Like you have said in the past, but am not sure how to do it. By the way I use CDs for backing up and also not sure if I have to use a new Cd every time I need to back up.I only use my computer for home like photos and emails etc.

  39. two external hard disk failures – I seem to have been unlucky. .
    New USB3 ext hard disk is tempramental
    Acronis was great for a few years then they made it into bloatware which also caused problems, like Norton which also used to be good
    Took your tip on Macrium and I think it works
    Macrium seems a bit opaque to me

  40. I use Macrium Reflect and clone my drive which contains the operating system and all my data to another hard drive. I have had drive failures in the past, usually things like corrupted boot records, never a major mechanical hard drive failure. In the event of a failure to boot, it only takes me a few seconds to swap the data cables on the drives over and in less that two minutes I am back in business. Because I am on a very limited income I use the free version of Macrium Reflect so cannot do anything other than a full clone which takes a little in excess of fifteen minutes on my main computer. I hadn’t really thought about backing up to a networked drive but in view of the comment that a virus could affect all drives on a system, I will consider that although not on as frequent a basis as I clone my system which is usually every two or three days.

  41. I just got a new laptop and have great difficulties in FINDING everything. I have backed up my previous 2 laptops with Windows 7 running and they are OK. Just get through the mess of Windows 8 is at this time my biggest problem to backing up.

  42. I have a Desktop with Windows 7 and have tried several different software programs over the years for creating an Disk Image and everyone has failed. My machine has 2 separate hard drives and I recently tried to image my main hard drive to the second drive with Easeus. The net result is that the second drive is now inaccessible and is being reported as ‘system reserved’ with a drive size of 100Mb when it is 931Gb. I cannot find a way to reverse this.
    I use Easeus for regular back ups to a external hard drive which works fine. I do only do that on a weekly basis and it runs automatically.

  43. My biggest issue with back-ups is “How many back-ups to save?” I do full “image” back-ups once a month (I set a monthly calendar tickler and manually start my backups) with Macrium Reflect (many thanks for recommending this). My computer has slowed down in the last six months for other reasons so I don’t want to have it starting incremental back-ups, I think it is my small (now) C: hard drive [283 GB] on my Dell computer.
    When I worked as a project manager years ago, I heard the IT staff saying that a “grandfather, father and son” was enough. Space is not a concern as I purchased a terabyte external drive.
    I also do “file and folder” back-ups for My Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music – monthly, and also specific back-ups for my Quicken financial data – weekly.

    • How many is really a personal decision (I mean, how far back in time might you ever want to go?). With a monthly backup I’d keep at least two. The family analogy – keeping 3 – is nice.

  44. Having experienced a number of crashes in the last three years, none caused by hardware or my fault, but generally by Windows updating, etc., I realize that my main concern is not the loss of data but the inability to return to the status quo, i.e., being able to boot back into my system. I have an external hard drive updating every five minutes from which I transfer any important photographs or documents by flash drive then to CD or CD Rom. Thus, I am only interested in being able to CLONE my hard drive and replace the affected drive, wipe the
    original with Seagate if not damaged.

    The ‘How to’ books do not make this aspect crystal and differentiate between CD and CD Rom emphasizing that it is the latter that is needed which should have the capacity to hold the contents of the original drive.

    Because laptops have smaller drives it is necessary to clarify which drive to purchase as the target because a larger drive will not fit back into the casing and whether one should (from then on if a 3.5″ drive is the target) operate the system externally from the new external drive. Sorry if a bit convoluted.

  45. Leo:
    I would appreciate your input along with others.
    I use Macrium Reflect. I have an external hard drive (WD Passport). I do a complete image about every 3 months. In the interim, there are some crucial files that I use and need every day. Every time I save them, I also save them remotely on my desktop (my main computer is a laptop) and in Dropbox. Also, about once a week I save the crucial stuff on a flashdrive. My gut feeling is this is enough. Is it?

    More importantly, I have a big fear: if my system crashes, I’m not sure what I would do. How would I get it started so that I can even load Macrium Reflect. I have made an emergency CD, but I am not sure that it would work. Also, I read that folks who have to restore their system are up and running in 25 minutes or so. Yet, I’m not sure how to do that. I would love to try it (I suppose I would use the RESTORE option in Macrium Reflect) but I sure don’t want to mess up my system. I need hand holding on that part of it.

    Oh, I have gone to RESTORE and used the VALIDATE option and it does look like my backups are okay. But, who really knows!


    • You are correct – to restore an image backup you create a restore CD, boot from that, and then restore the backup image to your hard disk. 25 minutes? No, I don’t think so unless you have a small or very fast disk :-). An hour or two depending on is what I tell people to count on. If they have a LOT of data it could be longer. My books talk about testing backups a little, basically by restoring a single file from the full image.

  46. I find back-up programs intimidating and not user friendly – so there for I don’t use one. I back up my database manually everyday. I’d like to have an automated back-up which would make my job easier.
    Thanks for all the work you do.

  47. I followed your advice, bought Macrium Reflect, and make regular backups in several ways for my main working W7 computer.
    1. Monthly full backups to both a second hard disk in my computer and to a networked WD backup drive. [full disk image]
    2. Daily incrementals to that second hard disk. 3x weekly to that networked drive. [full disk image updated daily]
    3. Daily “incrementals” to Carbonite of documents, data, .pst files, pictures, and similar data (but not programs or OS) [offsite backup plus remote access]
    4. Monthly clone of main hard disk to a second disk so I can swap out and be quickly running if mechanical failure occurs. [mechanical backup]
    I make images using Macrium Reflect on a less frequent basis for my PC laptops and tablets. Mainly so they can be fully restored if necessary.

    My concern is how reliable are the backups and will I be able to restore from them? I saw your reference above to describing how to “test” the backups without overwriting existing and will try it.

    I am a retired system engineer and think like you do about computers. However most other people don’t. Like the other comments above, most people are non technical and don’t know how to backup, won’t read how to do it, are scared they will screw something up. None of my friends would even know how to run Macrium. If they don’t run it properly, they can accidentally erase their source disk.

    My wife for example, uses MACs because she just wants to use them and not think too much about how to make them work. But she will plug in her backup hard drive and let Time Machine do its thing. If Windows backup was as easy as Time Machine, I think we would have more people backing up. Now, while TM appears to just work, I have never restored from it, nor know how difficult it is to fully restore if your hard drive crashes. So maybe your experience could shed some light on whether it is as safe as it appears. But if it works well, that concept of just plugging in the drive and letting it back up (at least your data) would save many of the non-techy people from losing precious data. Even if they don’t know how to restore, at least they would have the backup data and could find help to restore.

    So maybe a program that makes it that simple is what is needed.

    • I’ve avoided mentioning Time Machine mostly because I know of no equivalent in the PC world. Like you I wish there was one. I have heard from power users that they’ve had problems with it at times, but I use it on all my Macs. And yes, the one time I replaced a hard drive it was the Time Machine backup that I restored. It just worked.

  48. For the longest time, I only backed up those files that I thought were important, and did so in a very haphazard way — first with a ZIP drive (remember those?), burning CDs, copying files to thumb drives, and then on to an assortment of free online services. A year or so ago after reading your “how to backup” articles using Macrium Reflect, I finally decided if the need to restore ever occurred, I’d rather be able to do it quickly rather than reinstalling Windows and all its patches followed by copying files from who knows where.

    I now use Macrium Reflect 64-bit Professional Edition to make daily images and file backups to an external drive. I also use two cloud services just for my personal files. This arrangement is far better than what I used to do and I feel pretty good about it. Following a mini-disaster after a Patch Tuesday update, I successfully restored to a day old backup. It was a little nerve wracking, but proved that I’d somehow managed to get it all right.

    That was what prevented me from doing backups correctly in the past — the fear of not being able to do it right! Yeah, seems silly, but that was it. I’d tried another free backup utility and wasn’t able to create the rescue media right, but with Reflect, it was simple. I’ve restored once and although I hope I never have to do it again, know it’s possible — due in large part to your step-by-step instructions. Thank you!

  49. I backed up regularly then one day my computer died.

    I set up my new laptop but then I found that my trusty external hard drive would not even start up, getting the message “new software not found”

    After that experience I didn’t back up for a long while, having lost confidence, i.e. “what is the point”. All the four hundred CD’s I had painstakingly uploaded with Windows player .. gone. All my pictures .. gone. Everything .. gone. Even though my music is still on my i-pod I am told if I sync it to my new computer all that uploaded music will be deleted from the i-pod too, you can only save purchased songs.

    However, I recently bought your Macrium Reflect book after reading over and over in your articles that I should back up regularly. I now back up to a thumb drive, which incidentally is three times the capacity of the old bulky external drive.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to restore my files this time if I ever need to, and I’ll continue to follow your articles on the subject.

      • Thanks for your comment Leo. Any ideas on how I can revive the “real” external hard drive that let me down? Is “new software not found” a done deal?

        • Honestly I’m not sure what “new software not found” means – it’s not a Windows error message. I’m wondering if there’s some kind of auto-run software on the drive, and that the drive itself is working. Does it appear as an additional drive letter (F: for example) in Windows Explorer when it’s plugged in?

          • Hi Leo

            No, it no longer appears with a drive letter, as it did before on the old computer.

            I do remember there was an auto run software when I first started to use it.

            Now nothing happens except the green power light shows. I didn’t even get the “new software not found” message from the system tray area today.

            I have tried a different USB cable.

            It is a “Rock Mobile Disc” 3.5 inch mobile drive model HD2-U2

            Thanks for taking time with this.

  50. Three issues continue to get in the way of each other and force me to use a piece meal solution which results in inconsistency.
    1. Cloud services – guarantee off site safety but put security at risk.
    2. Onsite backups are fast and safe but leave your precious data at risk to break-ins or catastrophic issues.
    3. I hate encryption because I want all of my data available to me at all times in whatever quantities I desire.

    I settle for cloud and local backup and do most of it manually on a daily basis. A poor solution.

  51. I am in my early 70’s! I have been using computers for many years. I started with a Comador. I have been diagnosed with early onset dementia. I still use the computer and enjoy the freedom it gives me to communicate, keep close to my family spread across Canada and just finished my memoirs. My biggest problem is ‘passwords’, I understand why changing passwords regularly is nessary but lack the skill to perform that function! Until I find some technology to help me with this problem, I may have to give up the computer! That would change my life.

    I presume that as time goes on many more people will be in the same position! What advice do you have for us!
    Many thanks! Doug

  52. Leo,
    I am particularly concerned about making a reliable Image of my C-drive, because it consists of Windows8.1 and my 140 programs on an SSD. All other data is on my D-drive – a HDD. I have an F-drive, a G-drive and an H-drive – all external drives.

    ► In case of a problem that I cannot solve fast, I go to the Image and put it back on my C-drive.

    ► The other three drives are used for backup, each drive for a designated part of my data.

    The Image/Systemcopy is made using Paragon Backup & Recovery – twice a month; the data is copied very regularly and I do this simply with Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.

    The only issue I have is to find a way to automate these (unusual?) ways of backing up; for the Images and the Data.

    I hope to find a suggestion in your book.


  53. Hi Leo
    Having painfully discovered many years ago that a comprehensive ” Backup Habit ” was the solution to alleviating many hours of painstaking OS reinstallation and personal data recovery …. I have practised a regular backup program habit since the early days when my only source of recovery media was “floppies”…….. (mountains of em’ ) , and I frankly cannot understand why this “Backing up ” issue is viewed so negatively by a huge number of users when we have “low cost ” backup media and quality software that is so easy to use these days ?
    Whilst offering help to new computer users … I found that ” backing up ” was not part of very many peoples ” to do tasks ” …. and when asking why they felt this way …….. Many answered that it was ” it’s too much hassle ” ..or…… ” I can’t be certain I will be able to do it regularly ” etc; etc !
    To be honest , I think that it is a simple matter of an idea that the majority of users adopt where they wrongly assume that a “data loss scenario ” will not happen to them !
    These are the very people who then call me for help when aforesaid ” data loss ” does eventually present its’ calling card !
    I am certain that this aversion to carry out a sensible back up habit can be put down to what I have called ” Backapathy ” … a basic apathy by many users seem to have with regard to developing a sensible approach to possible data loss !
    Some of those I’ve helped have now started a back up habit …Sadly Leo …they are in the minority I’m afraid ????

    • Had to giggle at this one, Ed. I hope you charge the people who call you! Good small business to start with an ad to some extent: “People, when you crash and burn because you think you will never loose your pictures and data, files, and financials and it’s not important – call me…. ”

      As to Leo’s survey – like others in these comments, I do it using the windows File History and auto image, and to an external hard drive, then save actual important document files to a thumb drive and dropbox – but I am never “sure” if something happens if it will work. Would LOVE to have a simple program that one could trust. Was going to buy Maxim actually but now will wait, again, for Leos new book (!) due to the comments here…

      • Don’t wait till Leo’s new book to begin backing up. Start backing up now. Get the free Macrium Reflect and do an image backup. Since it doesn’t allow incremental backup, you could make a copy of the great majority of user programs by copying the folders which contain user data to your external drive. Those would be c:\users{user name}\documents
        c:\users{user name}\music
        c:\users{user name}\downloads
        c:\users{user name}\video
        c:\users{user name}\pictures
        I’ve set up a few friends ith this kind of backup. This gives them the possibility to restore their system to a working state and keep a copy of thhier most important data.
        I also set their computers up to get their email through IMAP so that their emails reside on the email server and on their computer.

  54. I collect tennis matches as a hobby. Don’t make any money from it. I have nearly 2000 matches, mainly copied from internet. I have four or five external hard drives, plus internal drives, totaling nearly 20TBs. The backup techniques used today are like batteries – they haven’t changed significantly in 30-40 years, and they are very inadequate for my needs.

    OK, cloud backups are new, and exciting, but expensive, and with the amount of drive space I use, would be slow. And will definitely affect my internet speed. And I’m not sure of their reliability, nor their safety.

    I will soon be buying two new 5TB drives. I’ll use one of them for backing up “the essentials”.

    It’s time for there to be a leap forward in backup technology. Short of buying an industrial 50TB HD, I have no alternatives to back up my complete computer system without exchanging in and out all the time. Go back to tape drives? If they handle 50TBs, yes, I would in a minute!

  55. Using XP, soon to be 7. Backed up last week using Windows built-in software. Haven’t the foggiest idea where it’s located on the HD. If I was given a choice, I don’t remember. I would hope for a more friendly interface. I was a tech editor/writer for 20 years with an aerospace outfit and even at that level we strived to make it understandable to the guy who polishes the cables on weekends. Thanks for the good work!

    • Hoepfully it’s not on the HD, but rather on an external drive or location. If it’s on the same HD as it’s backing up then the backups would be lost when the HD dies.

  56. I don’t backup it seems too complicated, too expensive. I tried saving to a thumb drive when I felt I needed to reset to original, but it came back up before I had a chance to reuse that info, I just need an easy way to do it that is not too time consuming.

  57. Hi Leo,

    My backup strategy is a fail-safe one or at least that’s what I think. I have 2 PCs at home. They are attached to 5 external
    Hard drives which give me plenty of space to do my back ups and store some personal documents. I backup regularly twice a week
    with three backup programs namely Acronis True Image, Macrium Reflect and Windows’ own installed backup program in Win 7 x 64-bit.
    Each one is scheduled to do the backup at a different day and time of the week mostly at night when I am not using my computers.
    In essence, I am basically backing up every day. Since my 5 aforementioned external HDD are never detached from my PCs, I have a sixth portable
    1 TB Touro Mobile external HDD that I never kept attached. I used it once or twice a week for emergency backups just to stay on the
    safe side in case of an infection or a hack by those bad guys out there.

    Lastly, I have to say among those 3 backup programs Macrium Reflect is my favorite because of its simplicity and speed. I have never had any
    problem with it but once. Acronis is a very good backup program but too complicated and sometimes too long for my test. Same thing goes for
    Windows’ own installed backup program. The latter definitely takes too long when comes the time to restore a backup.

  58. I use Windows 8.1 on my main use machine and 7 on my less used machines. I preform image backups about every two months using Windows backup. I also use File History on my Windows 8.1 machine. I know that I have to be aware of infections using File History but, I use it mostly because of self infliction. I use these methods to avoid confusion. What I would like to see is, one method/program that covers all machines with a step-by-step instruction to create the backup and then a step-by-step to restore the backup. I am an A+Cert holder and just turned 67 years of age. The seniors that I talk with say that, they would be more willing to do the chore if they had the step-by-step instructions instead of the mumbo jumbo (there words) that come with backup programs. They have even said that if the OS that they are using just popped up a message that said “do this now” and they clicked it and it started doing the backup without them doing anything would be great. I of course told them that there are ways to automate the backup but, the restore method is never totally automated. I hope this may help your quest.

      • Thanks for this comment Leo! That has been a quandary of mine for a year. This laptop I got with Windows 8.1 (hate it, dumbed it down with Classic Shell) I do the “one key recovery” it says to perform which supposedly goes to some “secret” section of the hard drive once every couple months. I also do the File History over to an external hard drive because I just kept wondering, “How will this one key recover thing work if the whole hard drive crashes?” Lenovo tells me to just push this one key, near the start up key, and it would configure and start up from whichever version I have last done their process on… but I am not trusting so much. So, I save my files and the original versions of extra software to the external manually. My main problem with doing all this is, as others have said, wondering if it is really worth the time and effort.

        Now I went to your bookstore and see the Saved series. So, if I follow your Saved advice in the Windows 8.1 book, do I then not need to buy other manuals and Macrium? My problem is, usually, there is TOO MUCH information which changes all the time. Like even here, you’ve been promoting the Macrium for a while and when I was about to try it, but worried it would be too complicated, I see you are not so sure about it. Can’t afford to buy new things every year!

        Thanks so much for your newsletters and work – you have helped me many times the last couple years.

  59. Started messing with personal computers back in the mid-70’s with a Tandy (Trash) 80 hooked to a cassette player and a TV. Have had numerous instances of lost data and computer crashes during all the intervening years so learned early the importance of backups.

    Was using a simplified method of backing up data files by copying to separate disks and storing the copies some place safe like a fireproof file cabinet. Then in the early 90’s a friend told me about Acronis backup software. Tried it, loved it and have been using it every since.

    Have taken your advice to heart and your comment that if it is only backed up in 1 place it’s not backed up. So about once a month I use WINRAR to compress and encrypt all important data files and store on Dropbox. The RAR files are password protected.

    I do a daily image backup starting with a full image and then 5 differential backups before the next full backup. Keep these on a 4 TB external USB3 hard drive that is always hooked up. I have Norton 360 and the professional version of Malwarebytes Anti-malware that are updated DAILY and both programs load at startup so I don’t worry about my computer or backup drive becoming contaminated. When the drive gets close to being full I delete the earliest version.

    Do instant backups during the day of critical files as they are changed to a different external harddrive.

    In conversations I’ve had with family and friends the most answers I get are:
    1. It’s to complicated.
    2. I don’t have the time.
    3. External harddrives are to expensive

    But my sense of their attitude is they just don’t want to take the time and effort to learn how and nothing anyone says is going to change that. The old cliche that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” seems to fit.

    My humble opinion is that you and others have published the information and (at least in your case) have made it as simple as possible and readily available via your books and your newsletter. I recommend them to anyone that asks.

  60. On backup:

    For many people, I think the problem is they don’t really see why they’re going to all this trouble just for some vague “insurance”. They don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t know how to tell if it worked.

    I use EaseUS Todo on my Windows 10 laptop, and it works well when I remember to fire it up. I use it instead of Macrium because of the ease of recovering specific files.

    I use Time Machine on my Mac Mini (running Windows 8.1 under Parallels), and it works whether I remember it or not. Four years of Time Machine on my wife’s iMac convinced me – the right thing for the user to have to do is NOTHING! She does nothing and it works. Unplug the external drive by accident, plug it back in again at some random time, no problem. No duties, no tasks, no schedule, never. And an impressive display of what you have anytime you want it. It’s backup done right!

  61. First, a thank you to you, Leo. I read your newsletters and learn a lot. I actually credit you with motivating me to get backing up.

    Far and away the biggest hurdle for me has been the (apparent) mind-numbing complexity of the issue. Compounding that: articles with unexplained jargon, writers that assume you know as much as they do, and arcane terminology that seems to shape-shift depending on who is using it. (Full, image, disk, system, clone, partition, incremental, differential — just a few of the backups I found offered.) I finally threw up my hands. I bought a My Passport external hard drive. I turned on Windows 7 built-in backup, and set it to back up everything there was a checkmark for to the Passport. I run it every couple of weeks, deleting old backups as needed to make space for new ones. It takes hours, and I still don’t know what I’d do with it if my current hd crashes, but I’m reasonably (not completely) sure I have a copy of anything I’d need to get going again. Not perfect I know. For one thing, the computer and Passport live in the same house, so there’s no safeguard against fire, etc. I’m working on it…

    Conclusion: There is a huge number of options, with inadequate – and often conflicting – explanations of what they do, how they are useful, and how to make them go.

    Recommendation: A 2-step approach. First, a simple ‘just do this’ explanation without much techy stuff for the computer-impaired, or those who just need to get something in place quickly. Then, all the in-depth exploration for those that have the desire and motivation to know more and take more control.

    Thanks for tackling this, Leo!

  62. Hello,
    I recently bought yourbook, downloaded Macrium, and purchased a separate 2T removable hard drive. I would say the main problem is simply confronting the topic enough to feel confident with the fundamentals to set up a practical program. For some reasons, it is not an easy topic to get one’s head around. As a retired technical writer, I would suggest having the book tested by a few novices. They will identify areas of confusion as well as formatting step-by-step instructions of optimal solutions.

    In answer to your question, I probably have the same response as many others: “why is it so complicated?”

    • Good point. On my first programming job, the documentation person was a guy with a master’s degree in medieval literature. If I could get him to understand the system, he could make it so that even Beowulf could understand it :)

  63. Years ago I bought an external HD for my Dell desktop with XP. It seemed to be working fine for awhile and then I began getting error messages, and had no idea how to deal with them. When I got my laptop Dell Vista I bought a passport HD and then on someone’s advice I thought I could trust, I tried Dropbox. Unfortunately it was when Dropbox was having many problems. My laptop was running for three days backing I thought. And then all the files on my laptop were gone or so it seemed. And also on the passport HD. I took it to a local computer place that fortunately was able to restore all my files! I was so grateful, but I unplugged the HD and never went back to Dropbox. I now use flash drives and copied all important stuff from my desktop and laptop. Now I have a new laptop, Dell Windows 8.1, and I bought a huge flash drive and kept it plugged in all the time. However, the Windows 8.1 operating system was backing up everything I did and keeping copies of every change, until I had no room left on the flash drive! I really do not like Windows 8.1 and do not understand what it is doing half the time, nor do I like the way it stores my documents and photos. I do put the flash drive in occasionally to copy important documents and all my photos. But I am just appalled at how hard and difficult the process is made for us seniors who were not brought up on this stuff, and do not understand GEEK. I do not understand why instructions cannot be in ordinary understandable English.

    • I forgot to add that the passport I bought at Best Buy was because the Geek squad guy said all I had to do was plug it in, and it would do the rest. HA! I spent hours on the phone with passport support and he could never get it working. Finally, we both just gave up and he said just copy and paste to the passport, which is what I ended up doing. So very frustrating!

      • Marlene – RE your comment on the WD Passport – Their software is some of the worst I have ever used. Spent hours trying to get it to work, then hours trying to fix the problems it caused. I recommend you delete the WD software, then use another program to back up to your Passport. (No need to copy and paste everything.)

      • Agree with Dan O.

        My sister-in-law feel into the same trap with the passport backup and I recommended she also remove the software that came with it and go use either Macrium or Acronis. She did purchase Macrium and Leo’s book and has been happy ever since.

      • I think it would be worth your while to again try using DropBox in addition to any other backup solutions you use. You only get 2GB of storage to start with, but it could be used to store the files that are most important to you.

  64. No big issues with backup at all. I always have an online backup system working and it has worked and saved my skin.

    I did have a one touch backup drive – maxstor or whatever but it was a nightmare to use and customise.

  65. Until quite recently I relied upon remembering, every now and then, to run a manual back up. I guess the issue which put me off doing a better job was the thought that it would be too complicated and time-consuming to bother about doing so.

    But thanks to you Leo, and to Macrium Reflect, all that has changed! So I no longer have any “back up” issues at all! Almost everything happens automatically. On the first day of each month Reflect creates an image of the whole of my C: drive, and then daily incremental images. All backups are verified as soon as they have been created, and the earliest month’s backups are deleted after a third new one has been created. The backups go to an external disk. My only manual intervention is that in addition I retain a copy of each complete image on a further external disk

    I have a second computer, running the same back up routines as above, with its own external disk.
    It’s not really backing up, but to complete the picture, I use SyncBackSE to synchronise my data between the two computers.

  66. I use Acronis True Image 2015 to do a weekly full backup and daily differential backups. The most problematic part of the routine for me is the few occasions when I need to do a restore. It ALWAYS is a big deal, and I usually end up getting on the phone with Acronis to finish the restore. I also tried Paragon and Macrium Reflect 5.0 (paid versions of both) and had a similar experience. I use Acronis after trying Paragon and Macrium because I find it easier to automate my backup and disk cleanups. For my money, talk about restoration from backups!

  67. I backed up my last xp computer and when I wanted to put all my backup on a new 8.1 computer it would not work.. I still have the external drive with all the backup and no way to use it. I used a program from nti called ez backup.

  68. For me, I am quite texhnologically comfortable, but I have a terrible memory.
    I get confused by the terms, and myriad if different kinds of back ups, and how each programming has a different interpretations if the same thing. But mostly, I get very frustrated when it eats up my memory does spite being sure its on incremental.
    I also seem to over type the original somehow.
    I find it utterly incredible in 20+ years of IT technology this is not automatic, simple and straightforward.
    I also find it too easy in getting my external drive attached and set up.
    I have zero confidence I could get my PC back to the way it was, restoration is too complicated too.
    I has high hopes for the cloud, but that was too costly.
    I had high hopes for a flash drive

    My ideal would be a memory card, with no profile, on the edge of my laptop and it just did it automatically and I never thought about it again. And I just click re inserted and clicked a button and it was his it was before failing.
    Is it really that big an ask?

  69. I follow the suggestions from your book exactly to back up daily to an external hard drive, and keep offline copies of OneDrive files as a convenient way to have dupicates of my documents, pictures, etc. I have twice had to restore an incremental image, and both times worked as expected. My concern is an of-site backup. I use MyPCBackup, which offers unlimited storage, so I try to back up everything. It runs pretty much all night every night, and I’m not sure I know how to restore from it. It bothers me that I can get 60 Mbps downloads but only 4 Mbps uploads. Why the discrepancy, and why does no one offer anything different? Every ISP available to me only offers uploads at a small percentage of the available upload speeds, no matter what plan you buy. What brand of cloud storage do you recommend? I have had horrible experience with Carbonite, and have been less than successful with Crashplan, but I’m not completely happy woth what I have, either.

    • Think of it this way: there’s a limited amount of “room” for transmission on the wires (or whatever) that connect you to your ISP. Since people generally do WAY more downloading than uploading, they choose to partition that room unevenly – people get MUCH faster downloads at the cost of slower uploads. Yes, they could divvy it up 50/50 (not easily, but possible), but then people would complain about the slow download speed :-).

  70. I was a COBOL programmer for 27 years, so I know a little about computers, but I was never that technical and frankly, I hate to do more than I have to and instructions are just too complicated for me to bother with. As a consequence, I only back up to an external hard drive once a month or so. I do it very simply by making a folder on the external HD and then 3 folders inside that one. Then I manually copy all my docs, pics, and music to the three folders.

  71. Leo;
    I see a couple of problems with backing up and most of them are in conflict with basic human nature.

    1. Computer mechanical failures are fairly rare.
    I have had several computers over the past 25 years (all desktops) and the machines were replaced to get increases in performance (CPU speed, memory size, more inputs/outputs) to accommodate the latest Windows version. I have never had a hard drive failure – and I don’t know of anyone who has. This doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. I’ve been lucky -or- my experience is probably typical of most computer owners and the darn things are pretty good.
    Your position, as a helper, means that people with problems come to you. All day long you hear sad stories. No one sends you an email and says, “My machine is fine. I have no problems.” Similarly, I imagine that policemen, after a few years on the job, have a hard time believing that most people are honest.
    After 25 years, the necessity for a backup because of mechanical failure hasn’t happened yet. That is a high psychological barrier for me, or anyone, to overcome.
    I live in southern California where the possibility of an large earthquake is very real. Yet most citizens have no “earthquake kit” (food and water for three days, first aid stuff, …). The Big One in California last happened in San Francisco in the 1800’s.
    It is human nature to only focus on the most likely pending problems.

    2. With good on-line behavior and an up-to-date anti-virus program, destructive malware is controllable. I have had a couple of infections – but I was able to get them resolved with your help (your books and other recommendations & Bob Rankin’s column). Once I had to take the machine to a shop and get a virus removed.
    When that happened, I upgraded my behavior. Potential damage became actual damage. It focused my attention. But, even then, data loss or software damage was not an issue.

    3. For maximum utility, software is written with many redundant capabilities. This makes it easy to learn how to do something (or, to shorten the learning curve for new programs).
    The downside is that the complexity makes the operator feel like he/she doesn’t really know what is happening with the machine. The typical person feels totally intimidated. To compound the problem, if many other people already know how to do something (make a computer do a task) and I don’t know how, I feel inferior, stupid, inadequate.
    Once again, human nature steps up. We tend to avoid problems, if possible. Doing backups, like getting more exercise and eating better, is good advice – and seems complex to do — too hard for me who doesn’t understand computers.
    The beauty of your book on Macrium (which I bought) is the step-by-step instructions. Even I can follow them.
    Aside: I decided to not jettison the BackupForAll program that I currently use because Macrium doesn’t make the backups when you power down (I turn off my computer daily). Things fail electronically either because of overheating or during power-up. If you wait for the next power-up to back-up, it would be too late.
    (Staying with BackupForAll could be a big mistake. The on-line operator’s manual is over 300 pages long and applies to the paid version and not the free one that I use.)

    4. Most people want to use a computer for a task (write email, watch videos, keep photos, compose the Great American Novel) – and they do not care how it works. I feel the same about the automatic transmission in my car. I have no idea how it works and I don’t want to know. I put it in Drive and it goes forward.
    Getting the typical non-computer educated person to care about an internal function of a computer is an uphill climb.

    The task that back-up does is keep the computer, and its memory, working. The problem for you, as an evangelist for good practices, is overcoming the inertia of computer-intimidated people, getting them to care about unlikely events, and asking them to change their behavior (with is always difficult).
    Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. The grief of data loss is so great that your efforts are well placed.
    Good luck,
    -Steve Darling
    {email address removed}

    • I’ve never had a virus problem which I couldn’t solve (yet), but the last time I had a virus, instead of spending the between 5 minutes and 5 hours it can take to deal with a virus, I just ran my Macrium restore and the problem was gone without any hair pulling on my part. The restore did take 3 hours, but I just went out and did my grocery shopping during the process.
      And I also had one of those rare hard disk failures that was easily solved by restoring from my Macrium backup file.
      An analogy: I’ve paid thousands in health insurance over the years and never got sick, so should I stop paying now?

  72. I should have added that I read what you said about reinstalling Win 7 rather than buying a new computer, but I didn’t get the disk when I bought my computer so I called in a guru for $200 and he did it. I backed up before he came and after 2 months, everything seems to be OK so I guess I backed up (and restored) everything correctly. However the number of operations that guy did to reinstall win 7 was hugh. I don’t think I could have done it myself.

    • The problem is that “backing up C:\” is ambiguous. Depending on who says it and what they mean, it could be exactly the same as an image backup, or it could be something completely different. Terminology is most definitely part of the problem.

      • That answer seems really ambiguous and leaves me feeling more confused than ever. I still don’t understand what the difference is (if any). Maybe if you could explain in simple terms what each means?

        • My answer was ambiguous because the terms themselves are ambiguous. By that I mean that there is no one definition for what it means to “Back up C:\”. For me it means create an image backup of everything using a tool like Macrium Reflect. But not everyone agrees with me, and thus will give that phrase a different definition. (Even the term “image backup” – which to me means a copy of literally every bit of information on that drive in some form – is not a definition that all agree on either.)

          My point wasn’t neccessarily to try and define the undefinable right here, but rather agree with you that yes, the complex and confusing terminology is a huge part of the problem.

  73. After reading the article and all of the many replies (and questions, complexities, etc.), it strikes me, when discussing the topic of backup performed by individuals in non-professional roles, that there are three main issues – recovery of the computer as well as user data, lack of simplicity, denial of the limits of technology value of the information that is stored on computers, and organization of information so that backups can be effectively performed. I’ve been supporting individuals for over 40 years personally, and in all that time, I’ve only run across a handful that actually incorporate ANY backup of data and/or their computer on a regular basis. The overwhelming majority don’t do backup (of anything) because it’s too complicated or it takes too long or they’re just not prepared to do it (they don’t have any idea or appreciation of what they have that needs backing up, they have no appreciation of the value of the information that they have, they think that technology problems can’t possibly happen to them or they’re just too unorganized to do back things up). I suspect that your survey results are very skewed because if someone is reading a newsletter like yours they are way out ahead, from the standpoint of an awareness of the possibilities, workings and limitations of technology!

    That being said, with all of the people that I now support personally, I employ a KISS (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) approach. Better a basic backup capability for these folks than none at all, which, for me, involves three things – basic data organization on their computer, a simple image backup capability, and a simple data backup capability. The last two are represented each by an icon on the desktop, optionally with a regularly scheduled process manager job for each. I further discuss each in their own paragraph, below.

    Getting a client to the level of having their data organized in some basic structure, and getting them to practice basic data organization on a continuing basis is the hardest of the three topics to implement. Luckily, Microsoft has made the task somewhat easier since Windows Vista. If you can get someone to store their information (folders, files, etc.) in one of the four major data store folders in Windows (My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos and My Music), then a data backup storage and retrieval program/process can be effectively implemented. This means that a client has to be trained on use of those four data stores (which implies that they also have to received some training on the use of Windows Explorer and Folders), which can be a challenge! On the other hand, if a client insists on storing their information wherever on their computer (this is more common than one would imagine), then frequent image backups are left as the only viable alternative.

    To implement a basic, but effective image backup capability, I use the free version of Macrium Reflect from Macrium. I set it up and run it for the first time for the people I support, saving the .XML file in its own folder and setting up a batch job (saving the batch job in its own folder under My Documents), with supporting desktop icon, so that the user can run the backup on-demand as desired simply by double-clicking on the icon. The backup image(s) are saved to an external drive in a named folder to make them easy to identify and work with. While doing this for the first time, I also set up the PC to check the CD/DVD drive first for bootable media when booting up, and create and test the Macrium Reflect emergency boot CD (to ensure that the CD will boot and that Macrium Reflect backup images can be accessed). I also manually verify the initial backup image to ensure that at least one of the backup images can be used to restore the PC should its primary hard disk fail. Optionally, I create a Task Scheduler job to automate the image backup process, but I’ve found that circumstances usually dictate that sufficient changes to the PC don’t occur on a regular basis, so it’s best for the user to have the ability to execute an on-demand image backup as their situation dictates. This also gives them some responsibility for ensuring image backups are done. As a last step, I do provide some familiarization training about why and when to do an image backup, but usually (at least initially) leave the process of recovering an image to me when required (since I’ll likely be getting a support call from them anyway!).

    For data backups, I currently use FreeFileSync from SourceForge. I’ve found this, hands-down, to be the easiest, most flexible and most capable data backup program to use to do data backups. Like setting up image backups, I create a full data backup job the first time, batch the job (and save it in its own folder under My Documents), and create an icon on the users’ desktop to run the job on-demand. I run the job the first time to create the initial data backup, and then run the job again (from the desktop icon) to show the client how it works and what they may expect to see (and roughly how long it takes). The “standard” full data backup job that I create synchronizes (from source to backup) 6 folders – My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, My Music, Desktop and My Favorites. If the client is using a PC-based email client (e.g. Outlook), I add another folder to the basic 6 to back up the appropriate email files and folders. Like the image backup process, since I am supporting people that are usually not technically proficient, I usually rely on a call from them when they need to recover data from their backup.

    A couple of notes – implementing a good data management process (using the standard Windows folders provided that reason) is the most important, and difficult discipline to impart, either for yourself or for other people that you support. FreeFileSync offers basic one-way data synchronization (source to backup), or a variety of other schemes (incremental, differential, etc.); I usually start with the basic and then modify the data backup job as required depending on the client’s expressed needs. FreeFileSync stores backed-up data in its native format; while this takes up the most space on the backup drive, over the years I’ve had bad experiences with data stored in proprietary, compressed formats. You can also use FreeFileSync to create partial data backup jobs (e.g. just back up the “My Documents” folder, or just files that are less than 2 weeks old), and even use it to create partial or full data recovery jobs, depending on your or your clients’ needs! To start, however, I almost always apply the KISS principle, which works 99% of the time. Both backup programs are free for personal use, so if you intend to use them otherwise, you’ll have to look for some other commercially-available equivalent (in the case of FreeFileSync), or purchase the paid-for version for your customer (in the case of Macrium Reflect). Finally, everything described above assumes backup to a local, external hard drive (which is usually connected continuously, but can be connected only intermittently if it is assigned its drive letter permanently). Not that both of the above-mentioned products can’t be used more expansively (e.g. backup to networked drives); I’ve just documented in this comment (and almost exclusively use) the simplest forms of image and data backup that can be used by most people in typical situations.

    Recommendations – divide the book into two sections. The first should cover “KISS” image and data backup, complete with considerations, assumptions, typical hardware and software needed, and detailed procedures. The first section should be detailed enough, soup-to-nuts, to get technically non-astute people who own a Windows computer interested and engaged in basic backup and recovery. The second section can cover expanded or more complex needs and considerations, required or desired additional hardware and software, and guidelines for implementation and use. The second section should be more of a guideline approach for people with sufficient interest or technical skill to fill in the blanks, so to speak. Because the information contained in the book will degrade in usefulness as time and technology progress, there should be some way that a purchaser can get updates or replacement editions for a period of time to encourage their continued interest in performing backups.

  74. Hi Leo,
    I’m backing up my personal data only (documents, videos pictures and other personal information).
    I’m using for this purpose external portable hard drives and for protection I’m using TrueCrypt encryption on all my drives external and internal (where this information is stored).
    Unfortunately, I’m not doing any computer / system / hardware backup since I do not know how and I didn’t really look into it seriously. I did have a few crashes and startup problems which I managed to recover from by going to safe mode and doing a restore (I guess I was lucky?).
    If you have a link to a tutorial on how to perform such a backup I would appreciate getting it, I definitely want to start to backup my programs, drivers hardware. etc..
    P.S: The only think I did do, is to create the recovery discs when I purchase the PC, not sure how helpful these will be in a serious crash??

    Thanks Rami

  75. Just one more comment that I forgot to mention in my comments above. I use FreeFileSync from SourceForge to do the date backups mentioned above.

  76. I’ve been using a Western Digital MyBookLive networked drive for backup. I tried their original Smartware Backup application but got into serious trouble with that software. I now backup using Windows Backup. My main concern is that I understand that “Ransomware” can access and encrypt Networked drives as easily as it can the “C” drive. The going advice is to backup to an external hard drive and then unplug it. This does not seem like a workable solution considering the frequency of my backups.

    My other concern is the fact that it would appear the only way to back up Windows software is to create a Disk Image. This is not always what I want to do, to retrieve a particular program. The expert’s advice is simply to pull out the original disks, and reinstall. Again- not always practical. I wondered just how many programs I had on my computer- I know it’s a whole bunch, between purchased applications, and downloaded ones. Anyone have an automated way to count them??

    Leo- Would you comment on; the differences, file inclusion, and formats among: a Disk Image, Windows Backup, and Windows.old?

    Thanks, and good luck with your new book.

  77. For years I have used Acronis True Image for backups. I have two computers, a big W7 desktop with seven hard drives (4 internal, 3 external) and a fairly new Lenovo laptop with Windows 8.1, a 1TB internal drive and two external hard drives (1TB & 2TB). On my Desktop computer, I back up the 1TB C: drive to my internal 2TB G: drive. It backs up every night, starting at 1 AM. It starts with a full drive image backup and then does a differential backup for the next four nights. On the fifth night, it performs a new full backup. On the sixth night it deletes the previous full backup and related incremental backups. I set this up so the target drive won’t fill up and cause a backup to fail. A full backup requires about 500 GB, so I don’t use cloud backup facilities. They are too slow and too expensive. I have a similar backup protocol for the laptop, except it backs up to an external 2TB drive. On my Desktop, i have an internal drive for photos that is backed up onto an external drive; I have another internal drive for videos that is backed up to another external drive. I have an external drive for music and back that up onto a different external drive. The videos, photos and music are backed up weekly, instead of daily, but I use a similar rotational backup scheme with full and incremental backups. The tricky part of all this is to determine how to backup automatically into a target drive with the timing set up for full and incremental backups and the cleanup timing so I’m never without a backup, and yet I never exceed the target drive space. I suspect a lot of users might get really confused at how to do this, but I am a retired engineer with a lot of programming experience. I realize the weakness in my scheme that I don’t have a backup to a remote location or to detached media that is kept in a safe place when not in the process of backing up. For me, it is a risk I’m willing to take. If my computer burns up, I’m going to lose a lot more stuff that is even more important. I have smoke detectors, and my house is on a monitored security system.

  78. One of the main items I want to backup are Movies, in various formats…..mkv….iso….DVD Bup…..mpg etc
    A lot of times the Cloud backup providers don’t seem to backup these types of files, even though they may claim to backup ‘everything’.
    As soon as I find a Cloud backup source who will accept my Movie files……they’ll get my money.

    At present I only have, (imperfect), internal hard disk and external hard disk backups…….last week Win 7 stopped ‘seeing’ three of my seven drives!!

  79. Hi Leo: I am 81 years old, bought my first real computer in 1983, which did not even have Windows! Over the years after having had many computers (XP my favorite), I have never backed up anything. What do people back up? I don’t think I have anything to back up, especially these days.
    I just subscribed to your newsletter – thank you.

    • This about everything you keep on your computer. Your email? Pictures? Contacts? Any banking information? Just think about what you use it for and what kinds of things are on it. Now, what would happen if one day it were all gone? If the answer is “who cares?”, then you don’t need to back up. On the other hand if you suddenly realize you’d miss your _______ (fill in the blank), then THAT’S what you want backed up. :-)

  80. Leo: Your records will show that I’ve subscribed to your newsletter from probably a decade. I rate your explanations of computer-related things about the best there is.

    I provide free tech support to ~a dozen families. While I wouldn’t call myself a “guru”, I’m reasonably (Windows) computer savvy and can virtually always solve fairly complex computer problems on my computers and peripherals, and those of others. Trying to get these users to understand how to use backup software is a challenge. Why? Because most BU software is too complex for the average user. Because you use and highly recommend Macrium Reflect (MR), that’s the BU program (free version) I use. But MR’s interface is intimidating (I don’t even like it), and the Help and tutorials are not written in terms that the average user can understand. So my comment to your question is in the same category as others here: BU software is too complicated.

    One of the failings of most backup software – and MR is a perfect example – is a lack of up-to-date tutorials written in layman’s terms. If you click “Help” in MR, “Introduction”, “What is Macrium Reflect?”, the page talks about “VBScript and MS-DOS batch file support”. I don’t even know what “VBScript” is, and when I looked it up, here’s the first definition I found: “VBScript is an interpreted script language from Microsoft that is a subset of its Visual Basic programming language designed for interpretation by Web browsers.” Well, that should certainly clarify things for the average user! Actually what it does it frighten and drive them away.

    And then there’s the pages you find if you Google “macrium reflect tutorial”. First hit is First sentence in that article says that “MR is a . . . backup solution for Windows XP, Vista and Server 2003”!!! No mention of Win 7 or 8. . . and Server 2003?? If you click “Contact us” to tell Macrium that their tutorial is out-of-date, you get a 404 (page not found). Mind you, this is all on Macrium’s Web site. It does not foster confidence in the program.

    I don’t mean to imply that Macrium is the only BU program with these problems. They all do. Until they change their rhetoric, it’s unlikely the average user will use them.

  81. Between my wife and I we have two desktops, 3 laptops and a netbook running a mix of XP, 7 AND 8. All of them have some files that need to be backed up and some of them are duplicated across machines and various thumbdrives and shirt pocket drives.
    I do backup on a very irregular basis by simply copying several directories down to a 1Tb shirt pocket drive that I carry from machine to machine. What I would love to have is a system that would put a 1 or 2 Tb drive on our wireless network and an automatic software on each machine that would back up each machine as a part of the shutdown process. We do turn our machines off after every use.
    I did buy the latest book but, so far, have not even cracked the cover.
    I do not trust any cloud environment out there regardless of their claims of security.

  82. Running Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1. Backup software: Macrium Reflect Standard Edition 64 bit. I do an image backup once per week to an external HD. Every week. It takes about an hour. I do not leave the external HD connected 24/7. I just plug it in once per week for the hour it takes to do the image backup. Actually I have two external HDs and I alternate each week between the two so if one of the external Hard Drives does fail I still have a recent image backup on the other one. I know the monetary value of my data far exceeds the cost of a new PC. I am into music and like you Leo all of my music was purchased legally. I estimate that if I had to replace all of my music it would be about $10,000. Prior to purchasing the Standard Edition of Macrium Reflect I had purchased other image backup software programs. Now all of these programs produced a successful image backup however two of these programs failed to successfully restore the image backup when I needed them. I had to reinstall the OS from scratch. That was my biggest concern prior to purchasing Macrium Reflect. Macrium Reflect ha a 100% success rate in restoring the backup image. One other thing I should mention: (especially when restoring an image backup) because you are using a rescue CD – always use a 2.0 USB drive in the (Back of the PC)! Even though your external HD is a 3.0. USB drives in the back of the PC are more robust and connected directly to the motherboard. I was told by a PC technician that when using a rescue CD the 3.0 USB drives can be a bit problematic. Since I have taken that advise, I have never had a problem.

  83. Hi Leo;
    Running win 7 home here.
    Back Up=Not me,lol.
    I have never backed up ever Leo-to confusing for me,lol.
    Enjoy ur tips-keep up the good work!

    • Fast note;
      If I have a problem,I just reformat the pc-perhaps its the hard way of doing things,and I lose all my downloads,but then I juts download again.
      Like I said-backing up seems to confusing to me(or perhaps I just never took the time to understand it,lol)


  84. I am a retired IT National Service Manager, and I now have a “hobby business” doing computer support for mainly older people who I have met through the University Of The Third Age. (U3A) The main reason that my customers say they don’t back up is that they say they have “Nothing important on my machine”. (That is until they have a disaster!!) The other major reasons are Ignorance, and lack of computer knowledge, and complacency.
    I find the people I deal with need to experience the inconvenience of a major problem, and the associated data loss, before they will be jolted out of their complacency and start to back up, or learn how to go about backing up.

  85. The human condition is too often the problem. That is, laziness and inertia rule. A person simply must overcome those challenges and establish a regular habit of backing up all files. With the ease and inexpensiveness of adding compact external drives to one’s desktop or laptop, for example, a person can have two or three drives that redundantly back up all data. Work on a project, save it every so often (every few minutes) to one’s hard drive, and when one is done with the project or done for the session or day, save the file again to one’s external drives. (I use one compact SSD drive and one standard, but compact, external hard drive.) Periodically I then save folders of various files (photos, music, etc.) to flash drives that contain only the one type of folder. This system is easy to set up and use, and it’s saved my butt twice!

  86. Hello Leo,

    I have a background in Information Technology so I definitely backup all of my data. I use an Iomega product that makes a full backup and then has you make changes to files during the day it records those changes. My only issue with this scheme is that since my Iomega is constantly attached it is vulnerable to online attacks. It looks like I need 2 backup systems. One online and the other a standalone backup that’s only available before my system comes online. Any comments?

    As far as for most people I know, they don’t backup at all because they don’t realize how vulnerable they are. They feel that it (online attacks or hard drive failure) can never happen to them…..



  87. I back up all my important data on two different cloud services automatically. My photos are on 3. I also have a 2nd hard drive for essentials, and another cloned hard drive with my operating system etc, which I update periodically. Not that difficult really, and well worth it to have my bases covered. Most of my friends and neighbors, however, never back up anything at all! Seems hard to believe.

  88. I purchased your “Saved Backing up with Macrium Reflect” and a paid version of MR. It appears to be doing full copy each month plus daily incrementals. My fingers are crossed that if my saved information is lost that MR will allow retrieval, but am not sure if it will work.

  89. I preach backups. I plead for backups. I warn my clients that they are risking loss of their user-generated documents, photos, financials, etc. But they still don’t do it because it involves effort which, as we all know, is scarce commodity . As an aid I put many on automated cloud backup services to remove the unreliable human factor. But even the so-called cloud backups are not foolproof unless regularly monitored for inclusions and accuracy. Few clients want to pay me to do that so, over time, their backed up data becomes inaccurate and incomplete — not to mention rife with malware and needless junk. I’ve been involved in this business over 40 years but have not yet been able to overcome human unreliability and laziness.

  90. Biggest issues re backing up?? (1) I don’t know what to back up. What’s sufficient? necessary? (2) How to back up without using a specific program and so that I can find things easily, should I need them?(e.g. “Click Free” backs up but when I want to restore or find something, I can’t make head nor tail of how to find what I need using this sort of backup program.) (3) How often do I really need to back up? (3) What’s the best kind of external device to which I should backup? (4) What the difference between backing up my day-to-day files and creating an image or restore copy of my files?

    Thank you for all the very helpful and easy to understand information in your newsletter.

  91. Reading the comments so far it seems to me there are two groups of people; us domestic users who have their computer to manage their payments/bank accounts/pics/social media sites etc. and those who run a business from home who need much more capacity for all their company data and manage their essential needs to provide their for livelihood. Not to over complicate it, I think the two are quite different; householders generally need simplicity with security while businesses require the essential high capacity back-up in multiple hard drives to provide them with the confidence in safekeeping their data for continuity.
    Also, a while ago Leo suggested to use Thunderbird to back up e-mails. I tried that but I could not sync Thunderbird to my Yahoo ISP (with Rogers in Canada) using IMAP; it just would not connect so I gave that up. But, I wondered why all this trouble? My e-mail data is stored in a folder which is backed up with all my other folders/files using WD essential passport portable drive so what’s the issue? I have checked the drive and all files are there…..using Thunderbird is just complicating the process??

  92. I do not back up w/ a schedule. I back up when I think enough time has passed to make it worth while.
    That is usually every 2 or 3 months, and what I do is use Acronis True Image to do an incremental backup of the whole C Drive, onto an external hard drive.
    Now, about 2 years ago, I had a crash with my Win7 64 system, and I was able to recover (using Acronis) 95% of everything on my computer. What I was not able to recover was the registry settings for Train Sim Modeler, and a good portion of MIcrosoft Train Simulator. Now, I have both programs up and running again, after a 2 year hiatus.
    What do I have on my computer that is worth the effort? Not very much. I keep no financial data on the machine. I keep the emails and some data relating to organizations that I work for and with. Normally, I do not think that a lot of the correspondence is worthy of backing up. Some of the data is, and I have been placing copies of that onto the OneDrive (SkyDrive) when I deem it important enough.
    I found that trying to figure out the Acronis program was a pain, and not something that is intuitive – so I really don’t like to mess with it, and that impedes my desire to make backups. Besides, I do not want to spend a lot of time backing up emails, and then having to figure out how to overwrite it or delete it later. I guess I grew up in an era when you depended on your memory to recall things, and I rarely have a need for a transcript. So, I do not consider backup to be a priority, and I hate to waste the time and computer assets for my daily drivel.
    Now you know.

  93. Leo,
    Your question is:
    “What’s the biggest issue you or the people you know have about backing up?”
    My answer is:
    Human Nature is the biggest issue the people I know have about backing up.
    It seems you’re doing your best to encourage as many people as possible to backup.
    My take is that you’re doing an excellent job and are not the only person frustrated with Human Nature.

    • I’m not frustrated (OK, maybe a little :-) ) as much as I am searching for something that will make it possible and easier for more people to do it. We shall see….

  94. Although I back up regularly, I am uncertain that I am doing it correctly.

    I backup via a external hard drive. Additionally, I also save many of my more important files on BOTH OneDrive and Google Drive. This second copy also gives me grief, as oftentimes, I cannot locate a file on my computer and only after searching, I find it on either OneDrive or Google Drive or both.

    Yikes! Please help me.

    Drowning in Arizona

  95. Hi Leo!

    I love your articles! Your simple, easy-to-understand, real-world approach to complex topics is refreshing and very helpful.

    I’ve been backing up my systems for years, using various software and devices, starting with tape drive backups. I consider myself a computer enthusiast and hobbyist. I’m now the go-to guy for friends and family with computer questions or issues.

    When it comes to backing up, my experience has been that most people just want to use their computers. They know little or nothing about backing up their personal files or systems, and they do not want to expend the time or energy learning how to do so. Explaining the possible disaster scenarios and instilling the fear of losing important files or precious photos produces some immediate incentive, but that incentive usually fades in a relatively short time. As with all disasters, it’s human nature to think, or at least hope, that it won’t happen to us.

    So, what’s it going to take to get people to backup at least their personal files?

    The importance of backing up data needs to be stressed more often in more places by more people in the industry, and the backup and recovery process needs to be very simple, easy and preferably automatic. Guides and instructions should be written in non-geek terms that can be easily understood even by novice users. If a backup has not been run for a predetermined time period, perhaps popup reminders should be employed to remind the user to backup data along with a warning that failing to do so could result in loss of data.

    Two of my friends just purchased new computers from the same manufacturer (don’t know if it’s appropriate to mention manufacturer’s name here). This manufacturer does, in fact, include a backup utility on its PCs that periodically reminds users to backup their files. I haven’t yet explored this particular backup utility, so I don’t know how well it works.

    Personally, I like to see the day when computers come equipped with operating systems and software that do a GOOD, THOROUGH job of cleaning junk and temporary files, performing malware scans and cleansing operations, and running file and system backups in the background with minimal or no user interaction and minimal effect on system resources. Dream on, eh?

    No doubt your book will help to raise the level of awareness about the importance of creating backups.

    Thanks for all your helpful articles and information!

  96. I have your book and Macrium Reflect. I have backed up three times to an external hard drive which is about once a year. I am retired and volunteer for several different groups. I don’t use my computer daily. I think I should back up about once a month. The trouble I have is that I don’t totally understand what I am doing even after reading your book and following the instructions. Each time I have backed up I have to start at the beginning and follow your instructions. I guess what I am saying is that not everyone needs to back up every day, or even every week. Perhaps a different schedule for different types of users? I have learned so much from reading your newsletters over the years and have told a ton of people about you. You are my computer guru :) Thanks.

  97. Hi Leo, I used to have separate hard drives for system (C) and data (D) in the belief that if I copied the data elsewhere I would be able to reinstall the system from media, update it from Windows update and put my data back in My Documents or whatever, if disaster struck. All of which was true, but soooooo time consuming!! Then I ‘got’ it, mainly from you ! So now I still have two hard drives on my PC, a big one and a not so big one. The big one is for incremental image backups taken weekly by Acronis 2011, on the principle that a system image contains everything, the not so big one (a nice fast SSD) is for the system and all the data, C. I also have an external hard drive that I connect from time to time to record a full system image, that hard drive also contains original installation images. In addition to this I archive the files that really matter to me (pictures) annually to DVDs and to the external hard drive, so they always exist in several places.
    The weaknesses of this ‘system’ are:
    1) that the incremental weekly backups exist on the same PC as the OS and so must be vulnerable to lightning strike type events, although their main purpose is to provide a way back in the event of malware or virus attacks.
    2)The incremental back ups are now in danger of filling that larger drive, I know I need to reset it by deleting the lot and starting over but somehow I never get round to it. (Aversion to deletion, even when its duplicated and makes perfect rational sense!)
    3)The occasional full system images recorded to the external drive rely on me remembering to make them!
    2 & 3 of course illustrate the weakest link in any system, the human element! Memories fail and, not often acknowledged, we may be inebriated. I fear that I may make a truly well informed and inspired decision one night and wake up to find my system inoperable, with little recollection of how that happened!
    Of course PCs cannot protect us from ourselves so here is my list of things not to do whilst under the affluence of incohol:
    Any sort of internet banking.
    Any inspired alterations to your back up regime.
    Absolutely any internet purchase!
    There are others of course (drive a car, propose marriage…..) but they are less relevant to the current topic.

  98. Since I have never backed up a computer before. My main issue is, not understanding how to install and set up the back up program. I do want to start backing up and I am willing to learn, but the information I’ve read has me confused. I don’t have any personal files stored on my computer. I’m not worried about losing any important information or pictures if something happens. It’s more about the inconvenience of spending hours/days reinstall all the Windows updated when things do go wrong.

    • @ Karl T.

      Even if in the minority – we are a large minority with exactly the needs you outline. No enough is written by the pundits
      about RESCUE OF THE SYSTEM. This is why (above) I have stressed my need to be able to CLONE my primary drive.



  99. I backup with an online service and also to a local drive. My biggest problem with backing up locally is knowing if the backup works successfully. Too many times I try to check the backup and it’s not current and I have difficulty figuring out why the scheduled backups haven’t happened. And then there is the different types of backups and what they really are. I have tried many backup programs and I have yet to find one that is easy to understand and intuitive to implement. In the end my online service (and yes it is a very well known service) has baled me out of the fire on several occasions over the years. Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to backup to a local drive.

  100. Hi Leo,

    I really enjoy your newsletters. I have used some of your suggestions in the past and have found them very useful. I appreciate you asking your readers for feedback concerning backing up. Years ago I used to awake in the early morning the annoying whir of Travan tapes singing their unpleasant songs. I was such a stickler for backing up in those days. I must admit that in recent times I “had” become much more lax in my backup routines, to the point that on Oct 25th 2014, I had a major crash that set me on the straight and narrow! You see now I am an avid amateur radio operator, and my PC is heavily integrated into my radio room with such things as comm port radio tuning controls, computer-based contact logs, radio frequency database transfer programs for multiple radios and a host of other stuff that is custom configured with GPS data and specialized RF radio commands and the like. Fortunately for me, many of my radio-teletype (Phase Shift Keying) logs could be rebuilt by importing them back in from websites that are used to send electronic QSL cards to other operators as soon as a contact is logged.

    To be honest, my losing everything not only taught me a good lesson in keeping back ups, but it also gave me the opportunity to take care of some issues that had worried me for some time with my current PC. I am running an older Dell 32-bit XPS420 that is fairly tricked out with cable labs certification, raid controller, and a pretty fast video card even by today’s standards. When I got the PC, it was running Vista on a Raid 0 configuration. Although I had updated the OS to Win7, I had never changed the raid configuration. Somewhere along the way one of the twin-sized drives was reporting an error, and so I feared that I was living on borrowed time and MY ISSUE with backing up was: if ONE HALF of my Raid 0 configuration was not functioning properly…would backing up REALLY do me any good anyway? So, after the big CRASH in October 2014. I decided to rebuild with a Raid 1 configuration, and after a clean install on formatted drives, there were NO MORE ERRORS! Now I feel better. Raid 1 gives me a mirrored image on two drives rather than two drives seen as one. AND I am backing up weekly.

    This really paid off this past weekend, when at the suggestion of another Ham I download a program I really did not want in the first place (TWO actually), because they were the programs that he uses to manage the club’s website, for which I am to begin learning to take over since he has left our area. Once I installed those programs, Microsoft’s runonce.exe began causing my screen to go black AFTER a successful boot up and while attempting to log into my profile. The ONLY way I could get back to my desktop, was to Ctrl-Alt-Del and start the Task Manager, then End the process on the runonce program. Silly I know, but I TRIED EVERYTHING. System Restore wouldn’t fix it…and since it was part of the OS I didn’t want to just delete it, and all references to it, from the system registry without knowing its relevance to the OS’s functioning. So I turned to my TRUSTY BACKUP!

    My back up program of choice has always been Norton Ghost. I have had tremendous success with it over the years, and so I decided to give it a run for the money. My backup image was only 4 or 5 days old, and I knew that anything I had done in that short a time would be easily recovered. Well, the restore from Norton Ghost came off without a hitch (as usual), and ALL is back to normal. I really don’t like to make automatic incremental back ups, because I have always been afraid of backing up a problem that I don’t know I have yet. Here are some of the things that I do on a regular basis, and ESPECIALLY before I back up.

    I run CHKDSK (Check Disk) on a very regular basis. Not necessarily the one that takes all night (unless I suspect disk errors), but the quick one!
    I update Microsoft Security Essentials daily. I run quick scans often.
    I update Spybot Search & Destroy regularly, Scan, Fix, and Immunize REGULARLY.
    I use private browsing most all the time now to keep annoying ads OFF my screen.
    I defragment the drive before backing it up.
    And I back up AT LEAST once a week.

    Here’s another GREAT suggestion I heard on a Handi-Hams podcast today. Why NOT use cloud storage (in my case Dropbox) to store data files that change frequently. Everyone thinks about storing their precious family photos and videos in the cloud, but who thinks about storing their data files like contact logbooks in the case of ham radio operators, or even macro config files for digital mode programs, radio programming databases, etc. Needless to say, I am ADDING THIS to my back up routine! What a GREAT idea!

    Thanks Leo, and GOOD LUCK on your book!


    • Awesome story and lessons, James. Sorry you had to go through it all, but definitely some good take-aways (including one or two that I’d already been thinking of for the book :-) ). 73

    • Your suggestion to use Dropbox for your ever changing files is a great one. Personally, that’s my main use for DropBox. The only photos I have on DropBox are my relatively recent ones. Eventually , I usually archive my photos by copying them to two separate external drives. Two being necessary to serve as a backup for each other.

  101. Leo: I DO backup everything on my computer (Notebooks… I use 2 different ones, one as my “home Notebook”, with MS Win-7 on it and my Fujitsu Lifebook with Ubuntu Linux on it as the one that I primarily use when I’m on the road and traveling), but I do things a bit differently than probably most folks (those that backup their data). Basically, I use 2 identical external HDD’s (with Mil. specs.; shock resistant, water resistant, [static] electricity resistant, dustproof, with the drive “embedded” in a type of “gel”), with 4-partions. Not really trusting Microsucks methods for backing up data, I use “a” program (that I keep a separate copy of) on partition-1 for the OS and all the programs; on partion-2, I use the same program for backing up ALL of my data; on partion-3, I literally COPY everything from my (D:) drive; on partition-4, I copy everything from my (E:) drive. On the other external HDD, Linux does a pretty good job all by itself, so I don’t really need or use any 3rd.-party software for that, plus I also copy all of my data onto partions 3 & 4. Partion-2 on the Linux external HDD is where everything is that is similar from both of my Notebooks! Because there is also all of my customer’s data on both of my Notebooks AND both of my external HDD’s, I only worry about them somehow getting “infected” or crashing!!! I really can’t afford to lose ANYTHING on any of them! But, should I also make a “hard-copy” (print it all out) just to be on the really safe side??? I check my backups and re-do everything every 3-months….. but, it takes up a lot of TIME (roughly 420 – 465GB of data / external HDD! I think and hope I’m doing OK with it all. Your honest opinion???

    • On the surface it all seems quite complex. It sounds relatively solid, but the complexity of it all worries me. With complexity comes a greater propensity for error. And, honestly, I’m not sure that a simpler, traditional, full+incremental solution wouldn’t be sufficient.

  102. I backup my home computer regularly to a removable external hard drive, and I’m planning to start backing up the most critical files also to somewhere off-site, either the cloud or extra space on my web site host. I’m in the same situation with respect to a small community-owned business that I advise: we’re backing up to a hard disk stored between backups in the office safe but not yet to anywhere off-site. In both locations, I’m able to write AHK scripts to automate most of the Macrium Reflect process, so executing the backup is not a technical problem for whoever needs to do it.

    In the small business context, however, I’m anticipating a problem not with backing up but with writing and testing appropriate instructions for recovery. Users don’t need to make any important choices during the backup process, but there are many more potential choices during a recovery process, depending on just what went wrong. I can document the fact that we’re using standard tools such as Macrium Reflect, we can make sure that the document describing the backup process and files exists in multiple places, and I can simply hope that if I’m not around in an emergency someone will be able to find a local expert familiar with using the software. I’m hoping that this approach is at worst inefficient and not disastrous, and I wish I had the time for a more rigorous approach.

    Given that context, I hope that your new book deals with the issues involved in recovery, especially the issues in helping non-technical people to recover critical files if not whole operating systems, as well as the issues involved in backup.

    • I agree totally with your comments on the complexities of recovery. So much so that this book will probably not focus on that – as you said there are simply too many variations of what to do based on exactly what went wrong. My existing books (the “Saved!” series) details the standard “recover from a backup image” approach that is the basis for I’ll say 50% of recovery, “recover files from within a backup image” which is probably another 40%. In this book I want to focus on getting people backed up in the first place, so that WHEN the time comes that something goes wrong they have options instead of lost data. They may need to seek out help for those options and recovering that data, but they’ll be able to. And they’ll have the specific scenario to work with and not pages and pages of “if it’s this type of failure then do that kind of thing, maybe”.

  103. Hi Leo,

    I don’t backup. I’ve three mail accounts, bank accounts, and do Online transactions. Yet, I don’t feel the need to backup so far. Sometime back the hard disk of the Home laptop conked. I had stored my own files in it, and my wife had stored many photos too(I don’t take photographs) . Yes, she clicks a lot. Naturally, she was affected but not me. Even, when I consider the possibility of my contact lists in mail accounts being wiped out clean, I feel so what?

    Am I missing something?

    • If you’re absolutely certain that if your computer AND your online accounts all disappeared in a puff of smoke suddenly you would not care – then no, you’re not missing a thing. I’m just skeptical that there wouldn’t be something you care deeply about. :-)

  104. Same old same old, Leo, IT is just too alien for the likes of me at age 71+. My PC tech of choice just repaired a crash via SYMFORM, got it back with all docs saved and a 16GB flash backup copy, then Cloud began duplicating Everything in multiple, taking over my computer in essence. So I managed to get rid of Symform and Cloud and all is well – for now. The problem really is technology, as in we’re still in the early days of television here with computing; nothing is resolved yet for the average user. I would need a step-by-step tutorial on even how to save to a flash drive. CDs are said to deteriorate the moment they’re recorded and my Dell won’t burn any more anyway; I wouldn’t know how to connect an external hard drive or utilize it on a regular basis; floppy disks are history though I used them formerly; I’m going to make hard copies of all documents (ink on paper) ASAP, the only true guarantee of saving intellectual properties; I had forwarded important docs to my wife’s computer via email but her computer died a lonesome death; I tried online backups otherwise but they too seem in extraordinary rendition exile somewhere in the Middle East or maybe Mars; this is how it is out here in the real world. We need a Simple way of backup, some version of Ctrl S to a bank vault safety deposit box in a bomb-proof bunker in Switzerland easily accessible by email or Have Gun Will Travel contract, Mission Impossible or Akashic Records. Most of us have no training whatsoever in these tech arts. Cheerio, MJM

    • You mentioned that you used to email a copy of your files to your wife’s computer. That’s actually an easy way to back up your most important data files ,as long as you don’t have much data to backup. Create a Gmail account that you only use for backups and email yourself copies of your data and even photos if you don’t have too many. Check this account regularly by logging on as email accounts are usually closed down if you don’t check your emails after a certain period of time, usually between 3 and 9 months.

  105. I am a user of multi devices, tablets, laptops, IPads, and PC’s running Google chrome , Linux , android, apple & windows operating systems. I do this to teach a weekly group of older people how to use a device safely. I think I back up on my PC relatively comprehensively. It is not the same for other devices where if I back up I use the cloud such as dropbox etc.

    The people in my class generally do not backup unless I specifically sit by them while they do it. Most of my twenty plus class use tablets or ipads. Windows computers are not popular.

    I would like a strategy to be able to ensure that tablets are included in a backup routine.

    The most important single thing I teach is how to send emails most using Gmail and the backup of those on tablets is not very clear but it is the most important to my “tableteers” that they can do this.

    Really enjoy your newsletter as relevant here in the UK as in USA.



  106. Hi Leo
    I do backup (to my mind) regular enough. My approach is this:
    1) Twice monthly I image both hard drives to external drives. First to one, and the second time to another one. At all times one of these drives is stored at my daughter’s home (so off-site).
    2) Every time my PC starts up (which is at least once a day, as I switch it off at night), backups of my mailboxes (all 5 of them), all Program sources, and some essential data are backed from the primary drive to the secondary hard disk. These backups are essentially 7-Zip files. Three generations of each of these files are used (see also 4 below).
    3) All documents (Word and Excel), that have changed since the previous copy was made, is copied to a Dropbox folder, from where it is synced to the cloud.
    4) At the start of the day, one of the zip-files (in 2), is copied to a Dropbox folder (the latest one). At the same time, the oldest one is deleted, while the others are shifted down the generations, with the latest one becoming generation (-1). This means that just after all this has happened, a new generation (0), will be assembled from scratch. This action happens every day (during first time boot), with each of the zip-file clusters, so that in a week’s time, all of them has undergo the process. It means that I can get my data back and I will not loose more than 1 week’s data.

    I know that you will have concerns about other data I have, but I am not that active in changing a lot of stuff, and I feel that my bi-weekly backup will suffice in the case of a total lost of data.

    I do know of lots of people that do nothing. And when I question them about it, I usually get the same type of arguments that you stated im your video. I can assure you that I do try to influence people to do more, and usually get the “… Yes, I think I should do something about it..” type of response. All I say to them is that I sincerely hope that disaster will miss them, next time we get a rush of new malware running amok on the web.

    And just a last remark… You will find that in most cases where people do not make regular backups, they also do not use any (up to date) Anti-malware and/or Anti-virus protection either!

    Thanks for you very insightful news letter and also that you care such a lot!


  107. I have a computer degree going back to the IBM 360/XT days, wrote technical manuals for over 45 years, and back up every 30 days. However, between Macrim Reflect and you, the instructions provided to a busy computer user are just too complex and therefore not used. Why not take a page out of a printer Easy-Start flyer included with every piece of equipment. Then go into the minute details in later sections in the form of a troubleshooting chart? But first, explain the difference between a “backup” and an “image”! This is where most people get confused and loose interest.

    1. Since the vast majority you are addressing are desktop Windows users. Only address them. GOTO page X for Apple, Linux, Atari, etc.
    2. Get one external HD for a “backup” and one external HD for an “image”. Size of external HD 20% larger than computer?
    3. Download Macrim Reflect.
    4. List of your recommended boxes to check and file names to use. Don’t go into all the options to the point where the user’s eyes glaze over.
    Once you’ve got them to this point, you’ve won the game.

  108. In the past for me the biggest cause of data loss was a dead HDD. I therefore see no real point in backing up to the same drive my data is already stored on, and in the past I could not afford to buy another just for backups. I now have an external drive that is plugged into my machine at all times, so backing up is much easier, and in fact automated.

  109. I have two different scenarios concerning backup. First, on a personal basis, I try to back up all of my personal systems (about 8 right now) on a weekly timeframe. The problem I seem to have is the access to the NAS I use for backup is random at best. I can always access the destination media, which is mapped on each of the systems. But the backup software can’t always find it, so the backup fails. I’ve tried Acronis, Macrim Reflect, Dell backup, and windows backup. The problem seems to occur on all the different brands, and no matter where the system I’m backing up on the network. So it must be a network issue, you say. Me too! So I set up a “mini” network of a Switch, and two devices – the NAS, and the system I’m trying to back up. Same issue. NAS problem? Maybe. I don’t have a 2nd NAS, but I never have problems writing to it from any other application. I’m stumped.
    My second scenario is at work, where I’m the IT director. We are a medium sized medical practice. 50+ users, about 90 different systems to back up. Servers, workstations, laptops. Right now, I back up the servers to tape and a NAS, and the most current backup tape goes off site every night. Work stations and laptops? Simple, I don’t back them up at all. All of the applications the users run are clients, and everyone has been instructed to save all documents, spreadsheets, etc. to a share they have on the NAS. If a workstation dies, I replace it, and restore an image from a collection of Images I’ve built up. Seems to work very well. My weak point? The NAS. 20+ Tb of data on a RAID 10 array. I’d like to move to a SAS, but it’s not in my budget. So I’m looking at incremental off-site backup, but haven’t found anything I really like. Anything I do use must be HIPAA compliant, so that adds another level of complexity to the scenario.

    • Yes and no. :-) It depends on your own ability to generalize and extrapolate. In general it’s the same, but they’ve rearranged a few things on their configuration screens. I would say yes, 5x instructions will work. But I also know that there are people for whom if things aren’t exactly the same they’ll get confused and not be able to follow along.

      • So conceptually we are there but the window dressing has changed to ‘protect the innocent(sic). I managed to make it from a TRS-80 through mainframes, DOS, Windows 3.1 and up to & WIN7 along with some MAC and DEC thrown in for good measure to I’ll give it a shot. . . what the heck, it it breaks I’ll try something else!! I need some excitement in my life of taking care of 12 or so completely different systems!!

  110. My Windows 8.1 computer locked up when doing a check disc at 10% and would go no further. It would not allow me to go anywhere else but stayed on what I called the black screen of death. I finally got the screen in safe mode so I could put the recovery disks in and that’s were I ran into problems. The disk would not open with anything automatic to start the repairs and I had no idea what to do when I went and open the disk and looked at the files. So my thought was, what good is this backup if I can’t use it. Apparently more information would be welcome. Looking forward to your book, I can follow instructions if someone draws me a picture!

  111. Leo – I am another moldy oldie who knows a few DOS commands to make the old single-floppy PC come to life. Backup? That’s the second 5 ¼ floppy disk, right? After I finished your book a few months ago, I paid for Macrium Reflect and set it to make an image backup every month, with weekly incremental. Well, in no time the 4TB Seagate was full, and I haven’t tried the disk management tool yet. It’s made me think about what I need backups for. First, I need that reliable current image, just in case I need to restore after a disk disaster. And I need a duplicate in the safe, just in case the house burns down. (But how do I keep them synchronized?) Second, I need a place to keep all those thousands of Word and Excel and WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 files, until I get around to purging them someday. (I would rather pull weeds in the lawn.) Third, I really need a two-part backup system for my ten thousand photos. One part to hold all the originals (except for the 50% I throw away), and a second part for the edited photos, many of which are so bad, I have to hunt for the originals and start over. Fourth, I need something better to backup my 400 music folders (mostly from 1935-1950), but if I know what’s in there, I can usually replace them (unlike photos). And then I need a backup for my wife’s teaching materials that we keep on network storage accessible to her computer. It all seems so complicated, but I know I have to begin by thinking about what I need backups for. It doesn’t make sense to start the process by thinking about the software features and how to use them. Hope this gets you thinking, too.

  112. Hi Leo,
    Thanks for your interest & expertise on this subject and also making me think about why I avoid backing up. I do save some files with dropbox though.
    I am not at all tech savvy and find your website to be like a foreign and intriguing country.

    Reasons for not backing up:
    1)Disheartened by the two external hard drives a ever purchased failing; one immediately (never worked) second within 12 months.
    2)Disheartened and verging on paranoid about clouds and information on my mac not being safe or private anyway

    This my sound silly but the above reasons have made me give up trying – (Your advice about one particular cloud being fairly trustworthy have somewhat restored me confidence and motivation) I guess learnt from reading other comments just to ‘suck it up’ and grab another external hard drive :))
    Thanks mate , Elle

    • When you think about it, the fact that your external drives died, should put the fear of god or the spaghetti monster in you to back up. The odds of your system drive failing are pretty close to the odds of an external drive failing. Regular backups can exponentially decrease your odds of data loss. May the odds be with you.

  113. Dear Leo,
    I am a retired man using PC at home. My PC is with OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. All my data and documents are stored on Drive D:\ ,I use Drive C:\ for System and Program Files. So I do a Manual Image Back-up for Drive C:\ by means of Windows 7 software 5-6 times per year.

  114. I backup irregularly to an external USB hard drive. The biggest issue is this: I do not keep the external drive on or even attached to the PC. Therefore, I more often than not, forget to hook it up when my weekly back up is scheduled. My latest work arround is irregular full disk image backups with Macrium Reflect.

    • That’s a confirmation of something that Leo often says, that the risk of forgetting to back up is greater than the risk of malware corrupting your backup.

  115. My problem is if I only have a running system, Windows 8.1 and a USD Disc with a Clone of the Hard Drive and I get a complete breakdown where I can only Boot the USB Disc. How do I access the UEFI to change the Boot Sequence.

  116. I believe I have a comprehensive backup protocol, performing both backup and “syncing” to various locations. I use two removable hard disks, plus a Memeo On-Line service (used only for a limited amount of key files that I absolutely don’t want to lose). I also utilize the Windows Back-up, but know that it has its limitations.
    To me, the biggest issue with backing up is that no one EVER talks about HOW to restore. I am concerned that when (not if) the time comes, I will be left with a slug of files that are useless. I know my Good-Sync files will be available, but the system backups…not so much. I think you need to devote a lot of your book on the AFTER as well as the BEFORE. Even the Memeo Backup program doesn’t have detailed instructions. I hope I am savvy enough to figure it out.

  117. I believe I represent a large sector of the population so I will keep it simple. I’m not a guru but know the essentials of computer work and software. I just Purchased a book on this topic from Bob Rankin Called “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BACK UPS”. Number one the software available are complicated (for us) and not user friendly. I use Acronis and nowhere in their site or videos is there just a simple step by step of how to do a simple BU! Just one will suffice, I don’t need a Dr’s treatise on BU’s. This way at least I will have protection by being able to follow the clear steps( please make sure you don’t create additional questions but answer all the required input by the software). You would think they provide this. No, they use strange words (Chinese) and in MHO the wrong words. Ex: instead of calling the disks SOURCE AND TARGET they call it disk 1 & 2 w/o explaining what they mean by this.
    Number 2 everyone omits the next MOST IMPORTANT part which is a simple STEP BY STEP of how to RESTORE the new disk drive once your old one has crashed. WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT OF BU’S!!!! I don’t know if they are too lazy or incompetent because this information is not available from the software manufacturer. To top it all off they do not even give you a printed manual,, (its in your crashed drive), which BTW has a lot of technical info but no simple STEP BY STEP of how to do what the software is supposed to accomplish and a zillion pages..
    I give W7 Kudus here because although their BU software its limited it can be done with just a few click of buttons labeled with words that mean what they say not chinese technobabble.

    Base on my experience with Acronis I think you have a great opportunity to write a book that includes a simple STEP BY STEP process of how to do a simple BU and then a RESTORE. This way you have served 80 % of the population out there by providing them with a workable and simple solution. You may have to base it on a specific software so you can indicate in your steps EXACTLY what to click on and not leave the person with more questions than answers when the different windows open up. Which I believe is the reason most people quit in the middle of this confusion and don’t BU. And I can’t say I blame them. HERE IS WHERE YOU COME IN TO RESCUE ALL THESE PEOPLE. And if you back up this part of the book with a simple video, as you do so well, then they can actually see the screens they will get and what to click.
    Please make sure that your screen shots or videos show the actual screen they will see in the software otherwise if the pictures do not match the text frustration starts.
    Then you can continue and write about all the other technical items you want to cover for the advanced and computer savvy users.
    One other thing; In Bob’s book he recommends a cloud storage company and gives a discount but as I tried to use it (my first time for cloud storage) I was totally frustrated and asked for the return of my money. I have 370 GB of Data in my PC and this cloud took 48 hours and still had uploaded only 15% by the time I quit. I have cable with a speed of 30 Mb down and 15 up. They then told me that they send you a drive and you mail it back to them once you have loaded it with an image of your drive. Then they update any changes. Wished they had told me before I wasted all those hours trying to BU. I can BU all that to an external HD with W7 in 45 minutes. I WILL CONTINUE TO USE EXTERNAL HD until the technique of cloud storage gets better.
    Hope I have helped you to gather some of the problems we face that make us not even think about BU’s. Let me know if I can be of additional help.
    JUST GIVE US ONE SIMPLE METHOD THAT WILL ACCOMPLISH THE BU AND RESTORE OPERATIONS IN A SIMPLE STEP BY STEP PROCESS. WE DON’T NEED ALL THE WHY’S AND HOW’S JUST THE SOLUTION. Then we can read the rest if we want to become more involved in the technical aspects and how things work but first we need our PROTECTION!!!! You can call this chapter” a quick easy solution for beginners”. NO ONE HAS DONE THIS!!! I searched all over the net and googled every possible word combination but what I got was sketchy with wrong screens and some actual incorrect data. Bob’s book is very good and complete but again does not provide this need 80% of us have. So the results are we will continue to not BU until we can get pass this confusion and get a simple cookbook instructions on how to do just a BASIC BU.

  118. One additional comment I did not mention is that I’m presently in the middle of a HD crash. I have replaced my bad drive and do have a BU but have been messing around for a week trying to get all the steps I need to follow before I try to RESTORE with Acronis to ensure I don’t mess up. One thing I found out is that you have to access the Bios to change the booting order and even though I have a BU which has been validated at time of BU Acrinis needs to re- validate in the restore ambient to make sure is valid . So again you need to include all steps not only the software but important details like the Bios access otherwise we would mess up at restore time and even corrupt the BU files then losing it all!!!!

  119. For the last 3 years, I’ve been backing up (full disk images) 2x per week, though due to the various ‘Crypto’ threats, had to change my backup plan. I used to perform these on an extra HDD in my computers, now I only do so on externals & then immediately remove after the backup is finished. That keeps me up to date with backups, and they don’t get encrypted by malware.

    Backup is not just a rescue deal from hardware failures, it’s also a easy way to recover from nasty infections, though if using smart computing practices, this shouldn’t be an issue to begin with.


  120. I missed your survey on Backup posted earlier but I hope my comments will contribute some help towards your new book you are going to write on this important topic.

    My first computer was an IBM PC/XT with a hard drive of 20 Meg’s!! There was nothing for me to backup as malicious software wasn’t that popular yet. If I need to save a file, I just do a copy and paste it to a diskette and store it in a cabinet away from the computer.

    Not until I began working on an XP and then Windows AND then starting to delete files accidentally – then I started to trust the Recycle bin as a place for recovery for lost files!

    Now I am using Windows 7 on a Toshiba laptop, an IPad Mini (IOS 7), a Samsung smartphone.
    I am only relying on the Backup utility that comes with the Windows and the backup utility from Western Digital since I purchased the WD Ultra 1T 3 months ago.

    I did get some free backup apps on my smartphone for my contacts, calendar and appointments and I can see the backed up XML file but when I try to open it, I always get the nasty error that says : Unable to find an application for this file type. Why is this? I ended deleting that file since I can’t read it what good it is for me? Am I doing the right thing OR should I keep them?

    By the way – is the term Archive – which Microsoft uses as archiving email files etc – the same as backup? But where is the file archived to?

    From the comments I have read on this topic I have come across viewers with negative comments on using the WD backup software – may I get an explanation as why it is not good for doing backup using the WD software? And how about the Microsoft one?

    I too like to get opinion from the readers other than from Leo regarding my concerns.

    Thanks for everybody pitching in to help me and thanks to Leo for posting this and other fine articles

    • I wouldn’t get rid of the back up files. They aren’t designed to be read by your computer. If there is a problem, you should be able to restore the backup to your phone. As for the difference between a backup and an archive, a backup is a copy of what is on you computer, phone, tablet etc. An archive usually refers to a file or files which are moved to another location to save space on the original device. That being said, many people use the terms archive to refer to a backup.
      As for the WD backup software, I have no experience. It came free on a couple of WD drives I bought, but as I use Macrium Reflect, with great results, I have no reason to experiment. I use the paid version on my main computer and th free version on my portable.

      • Thank you Mark for your advice of NOT to delete the XML files. Also I appreciate your clarification on the difference between ‘Archived’ file versus ‘Back’ . As you can imagine, these wordings are very confusing to a casual user like me.

        As for the WD software, the WD has a forum on using their software for backing up files, but I don’t want to accept their answers as everybody using their WD software for doing backups has certain bias on their product, and this is why I like to get different opinions from users who had good or bad experience using such software.

  121. I believe that most people don’t back up because they don’t understand the restore process. And they don’t understand the difference between image and file back up’s. And/or how to access their data in the backup. I know that is my weakest link.

  122. I must have missed your survey Leo. I do backup, usually monthly, just my documents and pictures which I do with a simple drag and drop to my external hard drive. I did buy the Acronis software at one time but either it didn’t work or i was unable to make it work. The acronis site was worthless as for after sales support. I would be interested in an application that actually worked, that would image my drive, apps and all. Something within the capabilities of someone at less than ‘geek’ level.

  123. Since you asked :-)
    I have started with Basic on a Times/Sinclaire ZX81, on to CoCo, and now I have at least six computers, from DOS 3.0 through W95 W98 W2K, XP W7 and a few Android machines. My main computers are two, XP machines and I like it that way.
    For backup, I use a couple of USB connected hard drives. I am considering backing up only the XP machines and the W7 Netbook. Since I am retired, non of them are essential. Anything I do, pictures, letters etc. are in duplicate – somewhere, or they are not “that” important
    My problems are twofold:
    1. Why spend good money on backup software, (I know you have to earn a living) when XP and the W7 has backup features. So I use that. I back up the whole C drive to a USB hard drive.
    2. Fortunately I never had to use the backup hard drive, but my wondering is this: If my working hard drive fails, how do I restore my backup. I see no other way than to reinstall a virgin XP on a new hard drive and then try to “restore” from the backup hard drive. Now, this backup hard drive contains the whole original XP installation. My query is, is this backup now smart enough to overwrite the virgin XP installation? If not, then I have to reinstall everything. Sure the data section is there, but oh the programs.
    Another words, is there a “restore” disk in other backup software that wakes up the computer so it can now accept the whole backup, including the operating system? If not, the whole backup idea is just a frustrating exercise.
    Obviously I miss something.
    BTW thank you for your weekly E-mail, I read them all.

    • Most all backup solutions involve boot from a CD which then knows how to restore the backup image. In Windows it’s often the original installation media that ALSO includes this restore ability. It’s not until Windows 7 that Windows own included backup has become reliable enough to consider using. I still prefer other solutions as more robust and reliable – even other free solutions.

    • Even if one owns the XP original Microsoft operating system media – he/she might be unable to use it recreate a new image that includes service packs. The final SP for XP was SP3 [date I can’t recall]. I do recall downloading a SP3 file [ a big .EXE ] from Perhaps the SP3 update remains available.

  124. I’m not sure how to explain this reason succinctly, so I’ll share a personal example:
    I’ve been using EaseUS Todo Backup Free. Why? Because it’s free (I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend) and it will do incremental backups (which Macrium free will not do). Things were going good. Then one day (I don’t know where it came from), the idea of could I recover in case of a total system failure. After doing some hunting to find the answer, the answer was no. There is no Windows PE for the free version of the software. So all it’s good for is the “Oops, I accidentally deleted a file.” So I guess that’s part of the problem. For the novice, not understanding what the different options are and software manufacturers offering free (partially disabled) versions but not making it clear and obvious to the beginner what the pros and cons and limitations are in using their free version.

    I then went and installed Macrium free and did a whole system image. I created the recovery media on a USB stick that I never use (so it should wear out). I remember testing it out to ensure that I could boot from the USB stick. That worked. And I could swear that I also was able to read my external hard drive. I continued to use EaseUS for the incrementals, but I felt confident that in case of total system failure I would be able to recover my system. At which point I could install EaseUS and run the restore to bring the system back. A longer, more cumbersome way, but total protection no matter what happens.

    Or so I thought. I recently had my USB devices attached to the computer crash. After running SFC, it found a number of problems, but couldn’t fix them. I thought I’d try my Macrium backup since nothing else was working. I plugged in the USB stick, rebooted the computer, and it worked. I was in Windows PE. Unfortunately, it still wouldn’t read my external hard drive, so the Macrium backup was out of the question.

    So I think the lesson from this is: for some people, if it just doesn’t work, they’ll throw up their hands and say forget it. I’m not in that category, but even making my incrementals I can no longer do because I can’t access the external drive (note, I did try it in a different computer and it reads the drive just fine, so it’s not the drive).

    And then there’s the first lesson about manufacturers playing games with their free versions to get you to use their product and hopefully one day buy their product and not clearly explaining the pros and cons of each decision. If you are a beginner, like I was, it can certainly mess you up.

    I think both lessons can be summed up in that old saying, how does it go? Once bitten, twice shy.

  125. Great responses from people. It appears that I am very late to the thread but here goes.
    I do back up regularly using Macrium Reflect, as well as an on-line cloud service. However, I am having continual issues getting Macrium to back up to a network drive. It either can’t see the drive or when it does, it keeps requesting a password which doesn’t exist. I think is is some kind of rights issue that has evolved over time. That would certainly be nice to solve.

    The significant issue for me though is having a level of confidence that things really are backed up, and really can be recovered should the worst happen. I think it would be a great help to people if your new book addressed that issue. How do I know my stuff really is backed up and really can be recovered and how can I confirm that on an ongoing basis?

    Thanks for all the great content and books.


  126. Leo:

    My apologies if this question/comment of mine is in the wrong forum.

    Is the topic of the new book you are about to publish also on ‘Backup’ areas?

    How different is it from the Usual books that you have out there available now?

    I also like to get hold of it once it is available (PDF format). Can you let me or the audience know when it is available? And of course, the price too…

    Have a nice day

  127. My backup schedule – is twice a month I do an image backup using Windows 7 backup. The program comes with Windows 7, it’s free, simple, and works great. Once a week I do a backup of my data files by just right clicking on “Library” in the left column and copying it to either a Seagate external drive or a USB flash dirve, I keep a backup on a USB flash drive at another location in case of disaster at home. During the week if I do something I want to be sure to save, I copy it to a USB flash drive. I keep several copies of both the image backup file and the Library files by renaming them with date appended. Just in case there was a problem with the last backup. I also rotate the backups between two Seagate external drives, just in case one of the drives should die just when I need it.
    Just today I had a problem with Internet Explorer not loading, error message “file would not load”, dead in the water. I just backed up the Library files to my Seagate external dive, restored the last image backup, reloaded my data, (delete the folders then copy them back from the backup) and in less than 90 minutes I was back up and running. Simple, fast, and because I do regular backups, no panic.

  128. Personally I backed up only data files in CDs and DVDs manually, but nowadays I don’t backup my files regularly, because all the data won’t fit into a DVD disc. I would need hundreds of them to cover all my needs of information.
    I am planning to purchase a USB hard disk of 1 Tb, the same size as my PC hard disk and save all my personal documents and videos I usually download from the web. By now, I have never used any backup software.

    • Jaun, you sound like a disaster waiting to happen. For your data files you do not need as much space as your hard drive. Today you can get USB flash drives of 32GB or higher for $0.50/GB, which should hold all of your data files. Most of the space on the hard drive is taken up by the operating system and other programs. These should be backed up on a regular schedule using an image backup program such as is in the maintenance section on the start menu, or one of the programs Leo suggests.

  129. many people around me don’t know that hard drives have a limited life span, that they can fail. They don’t know what can happen. That would be nice to include in the very basics. They just think backing up protects against their own mistakes and they’re going to be careful. Same with viruses. Maybe these things happen too rarely to be on people’s radar. I’ve never had a hard drive fail ever, my oldest drive is 13 years old, so I somehow understand how that can get disregarded.

    Also how impossible data rescue is was not really clear to me. I recently formatted the wrong drive in error because two of the same brand were attached, and I was a bit lazy on the backups for that one. Reading about data rescue, I did not know it was so impossible. Minimum 3 minutes per GB for just scanning the drive once translates into days of 24/7 running time for a 2TB drive, and then some files may be there but all file names and folder structures are lost, so no idea what a thing is. The important ones were on the backup so I just left it.

    this is great, to start really low. It is difficult to explain. Sometimes I don’t get things across either. For my loved ones I eventually got a drive and sneak up on their computer when they’re not using it : )

  130. Wow, I was away so coming in late on this. These responses are overwhelming. A good backup routine should be a full image followed by incrementals where backed up files can be accessed in Windows file explorer. I use Acronis True Image to accomplish this and I have set it up for many of my clients. I also advise them to use drop box or similar in addition to Acronis if they want an extra off-site backup of their critical files. Acronis allows the user to fetch earlier versions of files or retrieve files that have been inadvertently overwritten. It also allows the user to restore their computer to the last know good full backup in the event of system corruption caused by malware or user error. I realize that this may be a daunting task for some individuals which is why they hire me to set it up and train them how to use it. Acronis is not the only backup software that works well, it just happens to be my choice. Perhaps more users should consider hiring a professional to get them into a good backup routine?

  131. Hello Leo and subscribers. Until mid-December last, I was running Windows XP Home Edition. My backups consisted of regular, manual copies of my “data” files, one on DVD+RW and one on USB stick. I would keep a few months worth of the DVDs and reuse the USB each time. If any major software updates had been applied since the last “system” backup, I would create a system image, again on DVD+RW, right after my “data” backup. Before doing this though, I would remove all my “data” files and then restore them from the USB after the system image backup. This system image backup was done using a specialized utility provided by the computer manufacturer, Acer. In mid-December, this laptop was dying, power supply and hard disk issues. These were ongoing for almost three months before I decided I couldn’t risk it any more. I was doing my “data” backup daily at that time. I picked up a refurbished HP laptop, three years old, with Windows 7 x64 pre-installed and no system media. I did all the basic backup stuff: create two “system repair disks”, create an initial “system image” backup, install basic software such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Internet connection via a tethered HTC Smart Phone, created user accounts for myself and my wife, etc. I then did another “system image” backup on DVD+RW. These two “system images” I will keep as long as I own the machine. After this, I loaded up my “data” files, including importing e-mail (from Outlook Express to Windows Live e-mail) and Favorites, which I also include as part of my “data” backup, from my old system. Once I had all this set up, I created a so-called “Users’ files” backup on DVD+RW using the Windows Backup and Restore facility. Perusing the backup via Windows Explorer shows that backup contains much more than just my “data” files. It is nice that it includes my favorites and e-mail automatically. Those had to be done separately on my old system. It however includes much more which seems to have absolutely nothing to do with my “data.” About mid-January, I was analyzing some issues with the system and decided I would restore from the previous system image. Having never done a restore of “data” files using the Backup and Restore facility, I decided, in addition to the “Users’ files” backup, I would backup all my “data” files manually to USB just to be safe. This included my data files, Live Mail e-mail (export), favorites, Live Mail Contacts, and e-mail account information. I noted that Windows Live does not use the “My Contacts” folder within my user account folder at this time. I performed the system image restore, followed by a “Users’ files” restore. Most of my “data” was restored! Conspicuously, Windows Live Mail “Storage” folders were not restored. I had to retrieve and restore them manually. Furthermore, all the category information I had set up for my contacts disappeared. There doesn’t seem to be anything else missing as far as I can tell a month later, but who knows for sure? These issues led me to thinking what would happen if, on a schedule of daily incremental “Users’ Files” backups and monthly “system image” backups, I had to do a restore that required reloading “Users’ files” from multiple daily backups. Would it be smart enough to know about file renames or folder restructuring and actually restore to the “current” state? I already know I have to be careful about Windows Live issues, but what else is there? These are the sorts of things I believe many users fear. I believe Microsoft made a major improvement with the Windows 7 data structure and backup tools as compared to XP, but there are still issues! It is getting to be that one needs at least two fully functioning computers at two geographically dispersed sites with all user data replicated between them on the fly! Backup to the cloud, you say. Well that’s another facility to be managed, and not all “user data” should be placed in the cloud, even if it is encrypted. I have worked on sensitive government contracts, and “not using the cloud” is a no-brainer! The situation with backing up is simple: it is “My Data” that is most important and I should not need to do a daily “system image” to ensure I have it ALL backed up. After all, I can go buy a Windows 8 machine when this one dies, so long as I have all “My data!” Cheers

  132. All my documents are on google drive, so they’re on the cloud. If the cloud breaks down or my account is hacked and blocked, I’ve lost them. Can I find the files on my computer to back them up? No, not easily.
    For such an important issue, it’s amazing there isn’t an auto back up in every computer os. Every 24 hours, or on shut down or even hibernation. A ram disk in the machine for storing last state of play.
    Don’t be depressed Leo, it’s just too complicated. It needs to be automatic.

    • By default, Google Drive is simply a backup of the Google Drive folder on your computer. If they get lost on the cloud, then you should still have a copy on your computer and vice versa. If you only have a copy on the cloud, you’re not using Google Drive correctly.

      • Actually that’s not 100% accurate. Many files I create online as Google Docs appear on my machine’s Google Drive only as links to the online copies. This is actually one aspect I tend to prefer OneDrive over Google Drive, as OneDrive files are actual files no matter where/how you create them. I have to take extra, manual steps to periodically download my Google Drive Docs.

  133. I capture a copy of all my self-created files at least once a month. Sometimes I do it more often. Part of the infrequency is the need to pull out an external drive to connect to my laptop. This keeps me from setting up automatic backup. I keep a rolling set of my historical files – typically three sets. Make a new one – delete the oldest one. I started this many years ago and have never changed my ways to utilize a backup program. Maybe your initiative will convert me as I read it and fill some of the gaps in my knowledge.

    One concern I have is with, if using a backup program, capturing a volume I created with Truecrypt. I keep my critical and financial documents encrypted on my hard drive. Since its creation date never changes I have suspected it would not be included in a “latest” backup whether it be full or incremental.

    I have created a couple images – at different stages (as acquired, as set up afterwards). One question I have had is whether I need to make a rescue CD at the end of each image. It always asks but I have wondered if the one created initially would work with subsequent images.

    Thanks much, professor.

  134. I have been obsessive about backups for years, and only now having problems. Windows 8.1 automatically creates this bizarre “onedrive” folder. Fine, except there seems to be real copy of files/folders inside OneDrive, and another phantom copy. Can’t think of another word for it. My backups now fail because it cannot find those phantom files. They don’t really exist—just file names with 0 size. But my backup does not understand that and stops.

    I now have to delete the Onedrive folder to get the backup to work. Very annoying.

  135. I back up (or try to, see comment later) pretty faithfully, always by cloning the C: drives on my computers to hard drives on location, as I don’t trust cloud apps like dropbox, etc. (and don’t want to be forced into having an internet connection at the location where I want to access backups). I have been using Acronis True Image trouble-free on various machines, with one exception: on my Dell laptop, it gets down to the last step before starting the cloning operation, and then aborts with the ridiculous claim that my laptop SSD is not formatted. Since I haven’t sprung for a second backup program yet, so far I can’t clone the laptop drive. This seems to be a serious bug in Acronis that I’ve never been able to resolve; if the drive weren’t formatted, it hardly could run either Windows or Acronis itself! Other than that, backups proceed rather uneventfully, and have saved my bacon on more than one hard drive failure. I certainly agree about the necessity of regular backing up, out of long experience in about 55 total years of using computers, starting with the vacuum-tube machines of 1960! I’m totally sold on its importance, as are you.

  136. Because of the explosion of ransomware I have taken a precaution that is probably not done commonly. I have an external USB 3 hard drive that is backed up on its’ internal schedule. However ransomware would also encrypt that since it is connected to my computer. So I have a second external USB 3 hard drive to which I back up every two weeks and then remove it from the connection. So if some ransomware does sneak into my computer and encrypt everything including the attached external drive, I lose at most two weeks of work. The second hard drive isn’t connected to anything so I’m golden.

    • To be clear MOST ransomeware does not reach out to external drives, and of those that do MOST do not take the time to encrypt large backup image files. They only encrypt documents and the like. Yes, I know, there are variants that do the worst – but right now while the thought of it scares a lot of people, the plain old “encrypt only data files on C:” variants are by far the most common I hear about.

  137. For decades, I earned my living, in part, by backing up and recovering mainframe computer database systems.

    The important part is recovering from a backup.

    Yes, it can be complex; even on a stand-alone PC. But once procedures are developed and documented and practiced, it becomes second nature.

    Think about driving a car; that is pretty complex – you’ve got to coordinate gas, brake, clutch, and gear shift while staying in your lane and avoiding other cars and still keep the kids in the back from killing each other. Yet most of us manage to do it with varying degrees of success and skill.

    The same applies to disaster recovery.

    Testing and practicing backup and recovery is like household fire insurance; we don’t like paying for it, we hope we never use it, but we all have it.

  138. My relationship with backing up my computer files was a complicated one until I had learned a couple of lessons. I do not own a business and do not keep any financial information on my computer. I am an eternal student, it seems, and right now the core of my backups are my computer programming projects which I back up incrementally once a week on two kinds of removable media and plan to move them to an external hard drive due to the volume.
    I have a degree in computer science but that did not mean much since right after graduating and getting my first job as a programmer, I had no idea about the existence of USBs (that was around 2005) and that a floppy diskette’s writing feature could be turned on and off to protect it from viruses. I only used CDs, DVDs and floppies for backups back then. I had lost a couple of my own copies of work and student projects due to the viruses and computer failures which is a pity because those copies are impossible to recover for geographical reasons. The school that I graduated from did not care to teach proper backup procedures, I guess.
    However, I have been recently able to recover from backups files damaged by the antivirus that I use which left white spots and contours on images after cleaning them of a virus.
    I have worked out my own backup system which consists of backing up on USBs and DVDs, scanning the computer with an antivirus and an anti-malware, scanning the removable media before copying the files onto them, and incrementally copying files there. Not all USB brands are reliable, however, and neither are some brands of CDs. It all comes with experience and trial and error.
    I practically do not keep any files on the machine itself and copy them from backups as needed.

  139. Hello
    When I run this/your video it hesitates/stops and then continues, can you explain why?
    I am running W7.

    • As long as your computer isn’t doing something else that’s using a lot of resources, and you have a reasonable internet connection (also that other programs aren’t trying to use at the same time) it *should* play smoothly.

  140. Leo,
    You might like to warn people about problems with backup that arise from indirect causes.
    Right now, my Macrium backups are thwarted by failure of the Volume Shadow mechanism in Windows 7.
    For most computer users, the abstruse messages and bizarre behavior of such failures are sure to be discouraging. And most people won’t dissociate OS and file system failures from the backup tool.
    (Restarting Windows allows my Macrium to work … so far.)

  141. While researching backup strategies for my mixed Windows/UNIX stable, I stumbled across a sort-of-DIY network NAS system that looks very promising as a backup target. “FreeNAS” seems to offer everything I’ve been looking for, can be built at reasonable cost using OTS hardware and their free software, or purchased ready-made as an appliance also at reasonable cost. Worth a look. I’m not associated with the vendor.

    • FreeNAS is a fine solution – I used it myself some years ago. It’s somewhat geeky, but quite servicable. What I decided is that if I had a PC that could run Linux (which is, effectively, what FreeNAS is based on), then I might as well install Linux and get both NAS functionality as well as whatever else I might choose to do on that box.

  142. I’ve been backing up for many years. I started using Acronis about 8 years ago and really liked it’s GUI. Then with their 2014 release there are problems that Acronis won’t let your computer shutdown and their tech support wouldn’t respond. I’ve also tried Novastor but had a difficult time creating a boot disk. Their tech support did help me create the boot disk. They don’t have a home user friendly GUI but I still use it on an older computer.
    I did switch to Macrium after hearing so much about it in the Ask Leo newsletter. I did upgrade to the paid version of V5 last year now they want an outrageous fee to upgrade to V6. So am I at risk of not getting a proper backup if I don’t upgrade ? Another concern is I alternate my backup locations from a second internal hard drive to an external hard drive. I’ve read in other comments that backups should never be done to a second internal hard drive. Then my last concern with Macrium is the XML file really necessary ?

    • V5 should continue to work without problem.

      Backups to an internal hard drive are better than no backup at all, but take on additional risk of failing at the same time as the primary drive due to other hardware failures – like power supplies – that are shared between the two.

      The XML file is needed only if you want to schedule backups to happen automatically.

  143. I find that there are essentially two differences between people who don’t back up and those who do:
    · Some don’t have a need to back up. . . or at least think they don’t. They use their computer almost entirely for e-mail and Web surfing. The most important part of a back up is the files you create; the OS, programs, drivers, etc. can be restored either from the system restore partition or the backup DVDs created when you got the computer (which I make all of the families I support do). Yes, it’s a pain in the *** to have to download all the Windows updates that occurred since you purchased the computer, and re-install all the programs you use, but they’re all available over the Web. And if you tell them that the best way to avoid having to do this is to buy an external drive for backing up, they don’t want to spend the $$.
    · Others don’t back up because they are not tech-savvy. I’m certain that most of the commenters here support computer users, and I’m in that category. Most of their users can turn the computer on, get into their e-mail, and do Web searches. . . but that’s it. Despite installing SpywareBlaster, Malwarebytes, CCleaner, FileHippo App Manager, Macrium Reflect, etc., they don’t run them no matter what you tell them or the printed instructions you give them. And for reasons that escape me, they are learning-disabled. No matter how many times you show them how to do something, 2 minutes later, they haven’t a clue.

  144. I have always been intimidated by the backup process. I am a visual tactile learner, and I have always had difficulty with learning or doing from reading. Add to that a poor short-term memory, and backup becomes a very scary enterprise. My son has set up my computer to run a scheduled image backup using the tools that come with Windows 7, but I dread the idea of having to restore my data if the worst should happen. I think the thing I dread the most is actually having to go through the process of restoring lost data, since it appears to be something that would be extremely confusing, laborious and time consuming. A more automatic process, or a simpler explanation of what should be backed up and exactly how to do that, would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for this forum, and thank you for the years of information you have provided us. I can’t say that much of it sticks with me, but the fact that it is there for reference (I save all the emails) is a comfort.

    Thanks again,

    Ken Hall

    • Id encourage you to sign up for the the video sequence if you haven’t already. In addition, many of my books on backing up include videos that demonstrate the process.

  145. I left a previous comment here, but have another. Since you use (and by inference) recommend Macrium for backups, I installed it. It works fine for backing up, and I do full image backups weekly, one of the inexplicable flaws in that program is the name it gives to the backup, and “recommends” you use that name. The name is incomprehensible; it provides no clue as to the date or type of backup. For example, I just did a backup today (3/15). The name Macrium assigned to the file is 4813F96F1C3EDE80-00-00.mrimg. There is absolutely NOTHING in that file name that tells me what type it is or when it was created, so I have to go to the external drive on which I put it and change the “00.00” to “03.15” so I know when I did it.

    What the he** is the matter with the people who write this software that they don’t program it to identify the type and date of the backup???????

    • Unfortunately, that’s one area where Macrium could do better. That’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to find a best product. there’s always some feature one has and another lacks. There’s always a tradeoff, and you just have to go with the one which best suits your particular needs. I just identify the backups by the file attributes: size (to determine which is the image backup) and the date created. I never even paid any attention to the name. As for the why, that often surprises me how designers can miss some very obvious things.

  146. I have found your books and website a few weeks ago as I have become convinced I need to learn how to maintain our family computer better. No data loss, but a slowing-down computer, the feeling of incompetency managing our computer, the fear of getting rapidly to the same point with the new laptop we decided to order, and this nagging thought that I really really should backup as we have more and more data that is important for our family.

    Why I have not backed up before (only stored important data on an external USB memory stick to prevent data loss due to laptop hard disk failure, which I had experienced once):

    – I didn’t know how to start with a minimum of confidence – so many possibilities – until I became really convinced I should research self-learning books, and found yours.

    – It takes a long time to get it to work, even following your direct approach I found in your book “backing up with macrium”. I needed 2 weeks on working 2-3 hours everyday on it, and I have grown up with computers, am an engineer for electrotechnics and don’t get up easily. I think most people would have given up by that time.

    – why it took so long: basically 2 things. 1) I didn’t know I could do some backup testing with the normal windows boot (I thought I had to boot from the rescue media to test them, which proved to make troubleshooting for my second mistake more time-consuming), and 2) that I had to connect my USB external drive directly to my computer and not to my USB hub. It resulted in more time for backup creation time (the writing speed was quite slow), then more time lost when trying to test my image from CD rescue media -as I understood it from the chapter at the end of your book. The computer froze repeteadly when I tried to mount the image but I waited because I didn’t know if it was just taking a long time or frozen. Then looking for help on Reflect’s website, reading there that active antivirus programs can cause problems with the installation of reflect (and un- then re-installing reflect and my antivirus I somehow couldn’t deactivate, and recreating rescue media), looking up mounting problems on Reflect’s website knowledgebase, then through it realizing that I should test things with normal booting first (not rescue media), that the first step was to check if my image passed the “verify” test (it didn’t), then look up “veryfying problems”. and coming at last to the advice (number 4 or 5 in the list of possible causes) that I should try to connect my external drive differently, and especially not through a USB hub.

    Just to give you a very recent real-life example of why lots of people don’t backup…

  147. I use xcopy and cloudbacko to backup them in daily & weekly basis at night. The strategy between xcopy and cloudbacko is different. xcopy sync all files from my laptop to my portable drive once a week while cloudbacko does it in daily basis. Coz xcopy will copy everything to another disk and so once a week should be enough while cloudbacko is only copying changes, so will be faster and once a day will be good enough

  148. I’ve just found your site, and before I get into the subject and answering your questions regarding computer backup, I wanted to say thank you for making understanding the computer easier than anyone I’ve seen on the internet, so I subscribed to your newsletter hoping that some of your knowledge will rub off on me, “The UNTECHNICAL.”

    The main problem computer companies like Microsoft and computer help sites in general make is not recognizing that most computer users (their customers) are “UNTECHNICALs” who don’t have the time or inclination (or money to hire someone who does) to figure out the complexities of fixing annoying computer problems, especially because most of the fixes served up online are in technical language that quickly puts a damper on any attempt of understanding what is being said unless massive doses of computer courses are taken first. Unfortunately, I appear to be in that swarmy boat, though not without trying my best to comprehend what comes across to me as mostly uncomprehensible. I really do want to learn, but most of the resources available online instantly puts me at a disadvantage, because it’s like a “domino effect” not being able to do A until you find out what A is, then find out you can’t even figure that out. Microsoft serves up: “Ask a Friend” Gee thanks; that’s usually worse than nothing. Besides, trying to describe what’s wrong by an Untechnical quite often confuses the listener (computer expert), because the wrong words for what is happening are being used. Let me just say, I’ve driven around that track for hours, circling and circling, but never getting anywhere. It’s a maddening way of learning and it’s no wonder many people throw out their computer onto the street and buy a new one (if they can afford it); because attending a computer class meant for adults already assumes you know what they are talking about, so you have to ask questions that will make the rest of the class gasp in disbelief. (Yeah, been there)….

    So on to the Subject at hand: The biggest issue I have with backing up: It takes too long and there are no solid directions to tell me why or if what I’m doing is going to help me in the event of a computer crash.

    Today, I am in the process of trying to do a computer back up again (my first attempt was cancelled) using Windows 7 on an Acer Aspire 5733Z-4851 model laptop computer built in 2010 with 500GB storage (only 1/3 used), 4GB Memory, and a Pentium P6100 microprocessor. I closed Skype, then clicked Start> Control Panel> System and Security> Backup Now” > Using my cd/dvd drive > inserted a formatted disk (cd or dvd) into the computer, then clicked OK to begin the backup process. I don’t know what those menu items on the left are for or if they have to be done first (“create a system image? create a system repair disk? create a new, full backup?) and I haven’t been inclined to find out after my last backup attempt to back up my computer in 2012 (yeah that long) ended up in frustration. I understand if you have a old system/processor that backup can be slow and painful, so I didn’t think my computer was incapable. But it’s slow and painful just like in 2012 when I attempted it for the first time and gave up after hours and hours of “processing” and running out of disks to feed the machine.

    Therefore, my biggest frustration with this “process” is that my 2nd attempt at doing backup (yeah I got brave again) has been running now for over 19 hours with me having to load more disks as each is filled up and it’s only 42 % done! Not exactly an incentive to doing backup. Also, from the Forum comments I’ve seen online about this Windows 7 situation, I see that I’m not alone. How can anyone spend this kind of time and money backing up on a regular basis? I’m getting to the point of stopping the backup (like I’ve done before) in total disgust, and forgetting about it. Besides, now that I have over 18 disks filled with data, I don’t see how they will help me if my computer crashes and it has the “black screen of death” thing going on. What good will these disks do then with no machine that will boot up? It’s like I’m spending all this time, effort and MONEY (for the disks) for nothing.

    It’s unfortunate that a person has to be a technical wizard in order to sort this out. I’ve gone on searches for hours without finding out how to use these disks I’m making if such an event should occur or my computer “dies” from old age. I’ve seen plenty of comments that someone tried to install these saved files to another computer and it failed. So what’s the point of saving all these files/data if they don’t transfer to another computer, because the old one blew up and you can’t restore them on a broken machine and taking them to an “extractor” (person/company who can do this) is cost prohibitive?

    It all seems like a task of wasted effort and an unpleasant one at that. It’s no wonder 50% of people don’t to backup. Yet I hear all the time how it’s necessary to back up your computer. So why is it so difficult? Takes so Long? Costs so much money? I’m about to stop the backup (again), because this is beyond ridiculous that I have nothing after 19 hours and 18 disks. So now I’m only going to save Word Processing files that I can’t afford to lose. Since pictures and video files are so large, I guess I’ll have to invest in more entertainment type dvds or those special USB drives to save those? or is something else required? How can I resolve this distasteful situation? I look forward to your book.

  149. When can a full image backup of windows 10 be made? I use Edge and IE 11.
    How many DVD’s and which type to use are Necessary? Thanks Esley

  150. Hi Leo, I’ve used Acronis True Image for years, but I’m probably going to ditch it. It’s now focussed on The Cloud, which I don’t trust, and I don’t like Microsoft’s approach either, where they (MS) try to put the data where they want. I want to know which physical pieces of hardware my backups are on, and to know because I chose to put them there. I have downloaded the free version of Macrium, and can’t ask my question on their forum because, as a user of an unpaid version, I can’t register. MY QUESTION IS: How do I validate my image backup – especially the one of my C drive – WITHOUT getting sucked into doing a RESTORE? I just can’t find what to click where and when. Many thanks, John


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