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Hi, everyone! I’m Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo!
That’s [the title] actually, I’ll call it a polite version of comments that I get sometimes when I make recommendations for various pieces of software. It’s one of those situations where an individual will take a piece of software that I have recommended, perhaps even written books about and have a horrible experience with it.
They really question how this piece of software can be recommended by anybody, much less a site like Ask Leo! Let’s talk about backups specifically, because that’s where I make perhaps my strongest recommendations, and that is in fact where I get this kind of feedback on a more regular basis.
I want to be clear: I actually don’t care what software you use to back up. What I care about, of course, is that you back up. That somehow you’re protected from all of the various and sundry things that can happen to your computer: be it accidentally deleting a file, be it malware, be it ransomware, be it your hard disk just suddenly not working one day.
All of which can happen; all of which I hear from people basically all the time. As long as you are happy with the solution that you have in place, then I really have no strong reason to suggest that you change what you are doing. I do want to be clear; I think it’s important that a backup solution have a certain minimum set of requirements, and I want your solution, again, whatever that solution might be to meet those minimum requirements.
That would include the ability to back up everything. What I tend to refer to as an image backup of your entire hard disk. I want you to be able to restore that to an empty hard disk. Normally, that’s referred to as a bare metal restore. That usually means that the restore software, that the software that you are using to do your backups includes the ability to create a boot disk of some sort that allows you to then boot from that CD or USB to perform the restore if, for example, your hard disk failed and you have to replace it with a new empty one.
If you’ve got an empty hard disk, your machine won’t boot. You need to boot from something else, and that something else needs to be your recovery software. Your backup software that then can allow you to restore the backup image that you took of your entire machine. If you’ve got a solution in place like that, that’s fantastic. I love it. I’m glad you’re doing it. You’re way ahead of a lot of people.
I also believe that it’s important that solution you are using allows you to extract individual files from an image, so what that means is you don’t necessarily have to restore the entire thing. We want to back up your entire hard disk, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily want to be able to or have to restore the entire thing in order to be able to access just one or two files.
Sometimes you’ll want to be able to extract or get at just one or two files from a backup image. Your backup software should allow you to do that. Finally, you’ll get bonus points if your backup solution actually allows you to back up an unbootable machine.
Now what happens is (the reason I point this out is) that sometimes a machine will become unbootable for whatever reason: software configuration is usually what I’m thinking of, but for whatever reason you can’t get into Windows. That means you can’t run your backup software to create a backup image of whatever there is on that hard drive.
What I want you to be able to do, what I really want backup solutions to be able to do is to once again use that bootable media, often the rescue media that is generated by your backup software to also allow you to boot from that and create a backup.
So normally, you would use your rescue media to restore a backup image. Many rescue media from many different backup packages actually allow you to also create a backup image, so you may not be able to boot from your C drive, but before you wipe out by replacing the operating system or fixing whatever it is that needs to get fixed, you have a way to take a complete backup image, so that you know you’re not going to lose anything.
Like I said, bonus points. If your solution meets those kinds of criteria: you can backup your entire hard disk; you can restore to bare metal; you can restore individual files from your image, I’m a happy guy. I don’t care what you’re using.
Now, I make recommendations because not everybody has a solution. These are recommendations that I try out, I test, I document, I put through my criteria that they meet those kinds of criteria, and I believe perform well for the majority of users. And that’s actually one of the reasons that I have more than one recommendation. Currently, I have two different backup software packages that I recommend.
Sometimes, software doesn’t work for one person, but it will for another, or sometimes the backup package that I recommend will not work for you, but the other one will for a variety of reasons.
And that’s actually the real subject of this video today is that there’s this, I’ll just call it an unspoken, not-so-secret secret about technology.
The bottom line here is that computers and technology have become so incredibly complex and so incredibly, I don’t want to say fragile, but nuanced, that there are no two machines on the planet that are, in fact, identical. They just aren’t. Everything from the software that’s been installed on them to the changes that have happened over time, from simply using the machine to the hardware that they are composed of, everything is different. Every little thing is different in some way or another. What that means is that software itself cannot be defined to run on absolutely every possible piece of hardware, every possible piece of software.
There’s no way to test all of the possible combinations that are out there. Software vendors, all the way from Microsoft itself with Windows, all the way down to the smallest application, they do the best that they can. They do the 99.99 percent job of testing, but the bottom line is that the no matter how well you test, how well you try to anticipate, how well you try and design your software to be resilient and robust and be able to handle the variations, something’s going to come along that they didn’t anticipate that’s going to cause the software to misbehave.
That’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of the complexity of the world that we live in right now. What that means is that what is perfectly good, solid backup software for most people, the majority of people, and that’s why I choose the tools that I choose, it’s still going to fail for somebody. It’s going to fail and it’s going to fail in some, I’ll even say catastrophic ways at times.
When it comes to backups, this is one of the reasons that we talk about testing your backups, because you don’t want to find out that your backup solution isn’t going to work at the last minute when you need it the most. You’re going to want to find out as much as you can before it’s actually a disaster scenario.
Make sure that you’ve got some level of confidence that this particular backup solution you’re using is going to work and work well for you. Just because it works on 99% of the machines out there, honestly, it stacks the deck in your favor, absolutely, but it’s not a guarantee. There simply are no guarantees when it comes to, especially, system level software that interacts so closely with your system like backup software.
So like I said, ultimately, I make recommendations to stack the deck. I want to choose backup software solutions that have a good reputation, are likely to work well for the vast majority of people. That’s why I have recommendations. In fact, that’s why I have two, but the real issue is that there’s simply no guarantee. There is no guarantee with anybody’s recommendation. I don’t care whose recommendation it is.
You can go out and you can take a look at any backup software; take a look at any of the reviews for any backup software, and you will find that there are people that have really bad things to say about it. Their experience was negative. It happens. I don’t want that to be your experience. I want you to be able to recover from those kinds of experiences before they actually become an issue for you.
Ultimately, what I really want is for you not to be frustrated but for you to walk into the world of software and technology with the understanding that there simply are no guarantees. Everything is really about risk management. What we really try to do is stack the deck in your favor, so that problems are not likely to happen.
So that if problems happen, you are likely to recover from them, but there, again, simply are no guarantees. This is an interesting topic. This is a tough one for a lot of people to get their head around. I would love to hear your thoughts. As always, as you know, if you’re watching this anywhere but on askleo.com, here’s the link to this particular video on askleo.com where you’ll find moderated comments and I’m presuming an interesting discussion about exactly how much we can predict and guarantee about the software that like I said, anybody recommends or anybody uses.
Again, I’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got a backup solution you’re happy with that meets the criteria that you care about – fantastic. If you’ve got issues with software, let’s hear about them. Let’s hear about this recommendation process and what it is you are really looking for short of getting a guarantee.
Until next week, I’m Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo! Take care.
47 comments on “Why Did You Recommend Software that Doesn’t Work?”
Oh, yes, I have had failed installs of every kind. All the way from Operating Systems to whatever. When one computer quit going on line, and I couldn’t fix it within the first hour, I grabbed my Reflect CD, and replaced the whole thing. No more problem.
I always have a spare HDD on hand, and that is the best way to test an image. Change HDD in the machine and test the image you just made. Works like a charm.
Yes, there are always some people (like me) who are not happy with the results. I used Macrium Reflect–I even bought Leo’s book. I created a program to make a full backup of the entire HD which I ran every night to an external HD. Every 14 days, I cleared away the oldest ones to make room for the newest ones. I “thought” I had thoroughly tested the backups. Apparently, there was something wrong with my ‘testing’.
One day the inevitable happened. My 7 year old HD failed. I thought I was ok because I had a full backup from the night before. I also decided that this was a good time to upgrade from Win XP to Win 10. I knew the installation would be tricky, so I turned it over to the shop that sold me the new HD. (2nd mistake). There were huge problems in even understanding the new OS. (a tale for another day) The technician didn’t really understand Macrium and somehow managed to either foul up the restore or else I made some error in using it. I lost EVERYTHING. I had expected to lose the programs so I was able to reinstall most of them, but the data was gone. (I just learned that I had backups for my Quicken files on a thumb drive that had survived, so I am able to restore all my financial files. Whew) The moral for me is that a “full” backup is not reliable–I must backup critical individual files to an alternate location (Thumb drives are so cheap now that’s where I’m going.)
Question: Would it be helpful to use BOTH the suggested backup systems (Macrium and the Easy***) or is that just another way of possibly becoming confused?
I now feel that mastering the US Tax code is a piece of cake compared to computers!
Thank you Leo for trying to demystify technology. Never underestimate the ability of us to misunderstand what you are saying.
Running different backup programs wouldn’t cause any conflicts as all they do is create a copy of your system on an external drive. Each is independent of the other. What I would recommend is that you add online backup to the mix. I have all of my user files in a Dropbox folder (paid version). You can use that or OneDive or GoogleDrive. You could use something like BoxCryptor to encrypt your sensitive files.
“Would it be helpful to use BOTH the suggested backup systems (Macrium and the Easy***) or is that just another way of possibly becoming confused?” – I think that’d be somewhat pointless as well as being a waste of disk space. A better solution would probably be to use Windows File History to back up your data, an imaging program – either the one built into Windows or something else – to back up your OS and, as Mark suggests, also adding online backup into the mix as this would protect your data from fires, floods, etc., etc.
I use to use Ease ToDo and switched to Macrium Reflect. I have a lot of computers and before upgrading to 10, I always do a specific backup just in case the upgrade goes south. I have the Rescue Media and tested that it works right after making it. I have a few old systems that a USB Rescue Media will not work on even though it works on other newer systems, so I also have a CD Rescue Media to cover those cases.
Now one thing I learned long ago is to not believe is the message that the backup was successful. It should read something like the backup action was completed. Long ago you had to at minimum restore a few small files (this requires the paid for version of MR) which would prove the image was readable to like be successful in restoring the whole image.
In Macrium Reflect, before hitting the Finish button to start the backup or scheduled one, click the Advanced Options and in the middle of the left column you have an Auto Verify option. ‘Click on it and put a check mark in the right pane, then OK and then click the Finish button. This feature has not failed me yet on two to three dozen machines so far. I don’t remember well enough if Ease ToDo had this feature.
Also, you don’t mention the version you were using and whether or not you kept it up to date. Thing have gotten better with the version 5 and beyond. I also offer that those that seem to have lots of these kinds of problems, you might be suffering from corruption to some degree and you may experience problems caused by this. Not all corruption brings you system to a dead stop, blue screens of death or what might be deemed misbehavior. MS’s SFC utility can catch and correct some, but not all corruption. Best of luck.
You know Leo, After watching that video, sometimes I think you are a pc user babysitter. For any of us living on planet earth, which is all of us, we should all know that as you said there are no guaranties. Weather it is a recommended software, or a ……….. fill in the blank.
I watch your videos, read your articles, and appreciate you option. If something doesn’t work, I move on.
Happy Easter ~ He has risen,
One thing that goes hand-in-hand with this that I have experienced a number of times: “My (family member) has the exact same computer as me, and the software works just fine on theirs; they are sitting right next to me!”
As you said, no two computers are alike, at least once people get them home and start messing with them. Send two people to the same store, have them buy the same machine, then check with them in a couple of days. They will have installed different software. One of them might have installed five or more anti-spyware/malware/virus programs, for instance, apparently because if one is good, lots must be better. This rarely works out well, in my experience, and is, in fact, often the cause of the problem they are experiencing.
But most often, people just look at the machines, and say “They’re exactly the same,” though in reality they are not at all.
Once working with a customer, that had purchased 30 ‘identical’ systems, they found that seven of their systems would not run a key program they needed.
Supposedly the systems were identical: Same manufacturer, motherboard, video, hard drive, memory. All 30 computers passed all systems tests.
Yet this one key software program would fail.
It turns out that those seven happened to be from an earlier factory run batch with an earlier BIOS version, which when upgraded resolved the problem.
I’m sometimes amazed that Microsoft works as well as it does with: Different computer processors, different motherboard manufacturers, different video card makers, different sound card makers, different network component makers, different hard drive companies, different memory chips, different power supplies, – that’s eight variables. – Yet somehow they largely work.
Apple has it easy. – They control the hardware AND the software.
“One of them might have installed five or more anti-spyware/malware/virus programs, for instance, apparently because if one is good, lots must be better. This rarely works out well.” – Indeed, and it’s not only security apps that can be problematic: each and every program that you install has the potential to break your PC – and the more programs you install, the more likely it is that this will happen. And this is especially true when it comes to utility-type apps. Things like registry cleaners, system tweaking apps, duplicate file finders, etc., etc. are more likely to break your PC than improve its performance.
You mentioned that it’s important that that solution allows you to restore individual files. That’s probably the most common use for a backup. I’ve restored from a complete backup exactly twice in my life. I can’t remember how many times I’ve restored individual files. Any program which wouldn’t so that would be a deal breaker.
“I’ve restored from a complete backup exactly twice in my life.” – That’s exactly once more than I have (at home, anyway) and, because I was attempting to restore to dissimilar hardware, it didn’t work out too well.
I actually don’t bother imaging on a regular basis these days – maybe once every 6 months or so. All my data resides on a NAS which is replicated to the cloud and – because my PC really doesn’t change very much – it’d be trivial to update after restoring from an older image.
About backup applications: Way too much is made of backup software, as if they have some magical algorithms that are vital to computer ownership. Let’s state what a backup is: it’s saving copies of your important data files on alternate drives, or DVDs, or USB drives. For a moment let’s forget about your OS and installed applications and talk about your own personal data on your computer. All you need to back up these is the understanding of your computer’s Copy-And-Paste feature, or Drag-And-Drop feature. Just copy your important files to one or more alternate drives. If you don’t have the know-how or discipline to do that much, then you’ll never be able to use a backup application successfully. I’ve worked in the software industry for decades and for some very big name companies, with armies of IT personnel. It has always been amusing that such companies fumbled using their sophisticated backup software when the need arose. They forgot passwords, encoding keys, lost backup repositories, discovered corrupted backups, could not reassemble incremental backups, lost track of latest versions, or some configuration changed on their systems which made they backup/recovery software useless, etc. If these pitfalls can happen to professionals, then you better believe that it’ll happen to you, so don’t blame Leo. If you really want to “automate” your backup, then create a batch file (script) to copy files, which can also be configured to only copy files that have changed. All you do is double click the batch file icon and your backup occurs. Now, as far as backing up your OS and applications, that’s a whole other topic. One of the problems that people end up having with backup software is mixing up apples and oranges and try to backup the image of their entire computer, and then try to extract their personal data files from that. This is a very bad idea! Another typical mistake which renders backups not useful is to put your personal data files all over your computer, in scores of different folders, including OS-specific folders and application-specific folders. When you do that, you really have no idea where your data files are and expect some magic backup software to figure it out and not miss anything. The solution to this problem is to create a partition on your drive (different from the OS partition) and place ALL your data on that partition. This facilitates backing up and allows you to know where all your personal information is, organized in a folder structure that makes sense to you. There is also a measure of malware safety in this approach of using a separate data partition: imagine that you use some tax preparation application and allow that software to store your tax return into its own folder structure. Any self-respecting malware will know where the tax return files are located, so it would be an easy task to mine your SS number.
When I started out using PCs, it was easy to locate my user files using DOS and earlier versions of Windows. I made backups using the copy command. Then things got more complicated with Windows and other programs started putting some user files in hidden locations known only to those programs. Later, Microsoft moved Music, Videos, Downloads and Pictures outside of My Documents further confusing the issue of knowing where all your user files reside. That’s where “magic backup programs” come in. A system image backup back up absolutely everything. It might be a little difficult locating some of the hidden email files etc, but at least they are all there on your backup, and when you need them, you can research where those files are located.
Most of the problems with back ups is not the backup process itself. It’s the retrieval of information that’s often the problem. You may know that your data file is someplace in the image you created, but if you cannot retrieve it conveniently and quickly, or can’t get at it at all, or can’t find it because it’s in a “hidden” location, then your “backup” is of little use. You may have lost or corrupted a single file, so why should you install the image of your whole system or try to decipher how to recover a single file from an image. Also, why feel constrained by Windows or any application to store your data files in the “prescribed” locations. Every application allows you to save to a location of your choice and there is nothing sacred about the Windows “Video” or other similar folders. My approach for a dedicated data drive is the same idea described by Imre (see below) as a “Drop Box”. You can point your backup software to this “drop box” and know exactly where things are.
I use both: a system image backup with daily incrementals and all of my personal files are in a Dropbox folder. I generally restore damaged or erased files from my image backup as it a tad faster than logging in to Dropbox with my browser. All 3 of my computers have all of the same files as they are synced through Dropbox.
When you mount your backup using the backup program, the result is a virtual drive which looks exactly like your system drive (c: drive plus any other partitions on that physical drive) at the time of the backup. For example: any files which were in My Documents on your system drive will be in My Documents on the mounted virtual drive.
i agree with Aa1234aa and mark about most of what theysaid, especially KISS – keep is simple, stupid. I use a direct file copy utility for all my backups – even my server. Microsoft’s Robocopy is actually really good, copies metadata as well, and all I have to do to find an individual file is go into the backup folder – which has the same structure of the original – and copy the file back to the original location. FileMirror and some others do the same thing, with more or less details. Either can be scheduled with Windows Task Scheduler to happen daily or more often. I can even set up multiple backups so, for example, I can keep the last seven days of server backups and more if I feel the need.
I supplement that with image backups, done quarterly or whenever a substantial change is made to a system. Between both, I can recover quickly from a complete disaster or a single lost file.
“KISS.” – Yup, this is absolutely key. The simpler and more automated your backup processes are, the less chance there is of something going wrong. I’ve seen some insanely complex strategies over the years – data shuffled to a secondary internal hard drive that’s then synced with an external hard drive that’s then manually switched out with a second external hard drive that’s used to hold images of the main internal hard drive – and they rarely work out well.
Something simple – Robocopy/Windows File History + CrashPlan – is easy to set up, entirely automated and almost completely eliminates the possibility of data loss.
“Then things got more complicated with Windows and other programs started putting some user files in hidden locations known only to those programs.” – Indeed. And not all apps give you complete control over the directories that they use – they’ll dump stuff in AppData and various other locations.
Aa1234aa, we’ve been drinking from the same punchbowl. For years I’ve been doing pretty much what you described.
In particular, I created a partition I called K: (first letter of my last name), and in it is ONLY data with about 30 folders. The C: drive, of course, is for programs. My desktop has no data, only shortcuts, in trying to keep data only on the K: drive.
Any few video or audio files I want to keep are also stored on the K: drive. As you know, it’s possible to set the K: drive for Music, Pictures, Video, etc, to the K: drive as well, but I don’t bother.
Every other month or so, I do a complete copy of the K: (data) drive to a newly created folder on my 2TB drive. The copy goes into a folder with a name the date of the backup. I delete the oldest backup after it’s over a year old. The Terrabyte drive stays in the gun safe.
I also use a batch file with a shortcut on the desktop to make incremental backups to another smaller 1TB drive. I should do this daily, but don’t keep the drive constantly connected for fear of a ransom attack, so it’s done only about once a week.
And finally, I’ve got a Macrium Reflect image of the computer in the gun safe on another smaller, older hard drive. Not for the data of course, but to restore the computer if the HDD in it goes bad. Which, being about 8 years old, should be any time now.
— Steve, who lost all his data January 1, 2000 (apparently from a virus) and swore it would never happen again
“One of the problems that people end up having with backup software is mixing up apples and oranges and try to backup the image of their entire computer, and then try to extract their personal data files from that. This is a very bad idea!” Needless to say I strongly disagree. :-)
I kind of agree with AA in the sense that taking an image and making a file backup are two different things for two different purposes, and have contradictory requirements. Taking an image is exactly that: an integral copy of the state of your disk(s), so that you can put it back in exactly that state. The less the image “knows” about the file structure on the disk, the more faithful the image will be. This is why the best image is a bit-wise copy of the disk sectors, without any notion of file system. But then it is impossible to extract single files from that.
This image is for “general disaster recovery”. Your machine is totally corrupt, broken or stolen and you need to restore the state of the system on the same or another machine, on the same, or another, disk.
The other backup is backing up *files*. Here, you need to know of course the file structure, and you need to be able to recover individual files, but there is “file-less” information which gets lost this way. (the master boot record for instance).
As such, you actually need two distinct backup policies which have not much to do with one another: file backup (of only your interesting files) in order to restore individual files, and image backup (in order to recover from disaster).
Depending on how much time you can permit yourself to be down, you don’t need image backups to be very recent. After all, they only serve to get you back to a working system, more or less in the state you have it now. The installs and system modifications since the last image backup are usually not that important, and normally, you can always re-do these. The thing that needs to be backed up regularly are your user files (pictures, music you made yourself, documents, e-mail…).
“Depending on how much time you can permit yourself to be down, you don’t need image backups to be very recent.” – Indeed. I image maybe once every 6 months(ish). Pretty much all my data is on a NAS/in the cloud, and so my PC really doesn’t change very much.
All good image backup programs allow you to mount the backup as a virtual drive and extract individual files. An additional file backup on an internet server such as Dropbox or OneDrive is a fantastic second layer of protection. It protects against loss or physical damage of your computer.
It’s true everything is getting too complicated for me. I’ve looked at your backup recommendations. I see items there that I don’t understand. I would like to see simpler programs. Also I think you should address the issue of bootable media. Doesn’t a computer have to be set up to check for bootable media on a CD or USB? Lots of people don’t know about bios and I sure don’t like messing with it. Thank you.
I agree that backup software is more complex that it should be. That’s why I write books on the topic. I’ve not yet encountered a solution that is complete, reliable, and simple.
As for booting from CD or USB – there are several articles that discuss the topic here on Ask Leo! (search for “boot from CD”). The problem here is the lack of consistency: instructions for your computer will almost certainly not work on mine, and vice versa.
“It’s true everything is getting too complicated for me.” – It’s actually really easy to implement a very solid backup strategy:
1. Connect an external hard drive;
2. Turn on Windows File History;
3. Install CrashPlan (or similar) and back your stuff up online.
The process is extremely easy and will reduce your chances of ever experiencing a data loss to near zero.
Until a couple of years ago I was still experimenting with backup software. I was impressed by their capabilities, and was trying the many options. At some point I came to an epiphany. One of the situations that drove the factors to this religious event was that I decided to put all of my data into one hierarchy of folders under DropBox. This was necessary for their on-line backup to work the way I needed, and also, to allow synchronization across my computers.
At that point I could back up all of my essential data onto an external drive manually or using my preferred software, Macrium Reflect by simply using the DropBox folder as a source. After that it did not take me long to figure out that doing separate “system image” and “data” backups was entirely unnecessary. Even though I was doing data backups, it was still necessary to do image backups for a number of reasons: my OS changes with each update, various software (“apps”) create their own data area beyond my control or care, none of which are in my DropBox folder, and the way Microsoft insists on storing certain data under any user ID.
At least in my mode of computer usage I realized that I can stop doing data backups, and just stay with the system image backup. From such an image I can recreate the entire system if needed, or recover a single file or folder as I need. Macrium is especially good about this by “mounting” an image as a drive, and for all purposes this mounted drive looks and feels like the original using any software to access its contents.
I now have daily incremental backups of my system using Macrium’s scheduled software: it does its own thing to back up my system onto my secondary drive. I also do a manual incremental backup weekly, and a separate one monthly to some external drives. The backups are like a moving window: daily that covers up to a couple of months, weekly that covers up to a few months, and the monthly that covers up to two years. The oldest sets are then deleted to make room for new ones. Although a full system backup takes on the order of 250 Gbytes of storage, the incrementals are small, so storage is not an issue. The external drives stay turned off unless I need to access them.
I learned much of this from Leo, but it did take a while for me to figure out the details.
“At least in my mode of computer usage I realized that I can stop doing data backups, and just stay with the system image backup.” – Which is all well and good until you find that, for one reason or another, you can’t restore from the image – as happened to John (see comment above). If an image fails to restore, you can easily clean install/rebuild your OS, but your data will be lost. Best practice is to have an image backup as well as a data backup – and the latter is far more important.
I have no issue with backing up both system and data, as I said, I did that for years. The important issue here is “… If an image fails to restore, you can easily clean install/rebuild your OS, but your data will be lost. …” is not true. The image may fail to restore, but it is still there when later you re-install your system, and then go back to extract only your data if you prefer. The image remains intact on some external drive, since it is just some data file in the format of your backup software. Your data is still there intact, so don’t give up on it just because the entire image restoration failed.
“If an image fails to restore, you can easily clean install/rebuild your OS, but your data will be lost.” As an absolute statement this is incorrect. There are many ways an image restore can fail, and not all of them prevent you from still extracting your data files from that image via a couple of different methods.
“As an absolute statement this is incorrect.” – You’re right: I should have said “may” rather than “will.” However, the fact remains that there are times when it is not possible to recover/restore files from an image backup, and so best practice is to do both image and file backups.
I want to add another issue to my comment. Malware can damage not only the system drive, but any drive connected to the computer. My on-board secondary drive with the automatic daily backup is thus vulnerable. This is why I am using external drives that are turned off most of the time as longer term backup. So, even if my on-board secondary drive gets fried, I still have a backup that is no older than seven days, and goes back up to two years.
A friend of mine likes to say the line: “No good deed goes unpunished.” I hope there aren’t many people out there who a griping about the useful info that this site has, if it didn’t work for them. That’s life. there really are no guarantees. For example, I have a backup hard drive that has it’s own backup software. I use this because it’s simple. But at Leo’s advice, and because I have had REALLY long gaps between backing up, I tried (and now use) Macrium Reflect as well. Once my Backup hard drive starts getting full, and I buy another, larger one, I’ll likely just use MR.
But even with Macrium Reflect, I find I can’t make a bootable DVD. I’ve tried several ways, and I just can’t get it to work with my setup. I certainly don’t blame Leo for that failure of the software he recommends. In fact it might just be something I’m doing wrong. I am assuming that as long as I have a full image backup, there will still be other ways to get my laptop to boot up, long enough to recover onto a new hard drive. If I’m wrong about this, and someone has ideas on another way to create a bootable DVD, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, color me “Thankful” for all that Leo has done for so many people.
My suggestion is to burn it on another computer.
Does your BIOS allow you to boot from a USB? If it does, you could make a USB memory stick bootable with the system recovery files on the USB stick.
“I am assuming that as long as I have a full image backup, there will still be other ways to get my laptop to boot up, long enough to recover onto a new hard drive.” – That’s a somewhat risky assumption. Whatever your backup strategy is, you really need to take the time to understand the process and test that it works. A backup is of no use whatsoever if it can’t be restored…..
I worked in software development for a number of years. starting in the days before automated testing tools (which were one of the holy grails of the industry), and while each component was thoroughly tested, the overall suite wasn’t tested to anything like 99.9% – it would have been too expensive. You had to hope that critical software (running airplanes, nuclear power plants, and the moon landings) was tested to that level, but we now know that there were still bugs in it. Even if you only support one specific patch level of one version and service pack of Windows (and you can’t), just open up the Windows registry and think how many combinations there are of settings that are likely to affect the software, and potentially many others that are less likely but still might.
Similarly, just think of how many web pages that you have a problem with in one browser, but then work perfectly in another – or even work in the incognito version of the same browser without all of your plug-ins.
And (almost) every patch from Microsoft and all other software vendors is because someone has found out a fault in the software being patched. It doesn’t mean that Windows is terrible; at the same time it will crash occasionally (and when it does it may or may not be Microsoft’s fault).
There is a limit to how much testing is performed on any software. and for the most part this results in software that is of acceptable quality and works for most people, but is certainly not bug-free under all circumstances.
I’m just grateful for Leo (and others) pointing me in the right direction so that I’m more likely to have a successful outcome that if I picked up software from the ads on the web pages that I visit!!
I have never had a problem backing up, it has always been the restoration that has been the stumbling block. None of the backup programs including the latest Macrium Reflect has been able to restore from a Synology Network Drive ‘out of the box’.
I have been using a Synology NAS for weekly backup purposes among other things. So far, Macrium Reflect has had no problem using it as a target for backup. Just consider the files on the NAS as an ordinary data file. If Macrium Reflect has a problem using it as a source for restoration or backup, copy the image set (full backup plus all incrementals) onto another external drive, then use it as a source. Macrium will not care, and will do the right thing.
That seems to sum up my system in a nutshell –
to place everything on external HDs (twice);
then if this machine dies, I’ve all my files still and can either re-install the programs I have or start with newer versions.
“I also believe that it’s important that solution you are using allows you to extract individual files from an image.” – I somewhat disagree. People should be doing both image and data backups – as restores from images do not always work – and, if that’s being done, it really doesn’t matter too much whether you can pull individual files and folders from images. It’s maybe a nice-to-have feature, but it’s not particularly important.
I do not understand what you mean by “… restores from images do not always work”. I can see that when a drive fails and you try to restore the image it might fail again. But that has nothing to do with the content of the image which has all of the OS, Microsoft data, and all application files and your data. At the worst, you can still extract your original data even if the image restoration fails. So, you win. I have nothing against backing up data all by itself: I did that for some years until I figured out that I can simplify by just backing up the whole system. To each his own.
‘I do not understand what you mean by “… restores from images do not always work”. ‘ – Just that. It doesn’t always work. Image files can contain errors or be corrupt. And if that happens, you may not be able to restore the image or access the files that it contains. And while the majority of backup programs include a method that enables that integrity of a backup to be checked/confirmed, that process isn’t 100% reliable either – meaning that you will not know that there’s a problem with your backup until you need to restore it. To be clear, this is quite rare and the majority of restores do work – but having file backups means that you’ll get a second bite of the cherry if it doesn’t. Also, if you’re pushing your file backups to the cloud, this will provide protection from electrical spikes, fires, floods and other disasters that could wipe out all your local backups.
I disagree. I think having the ability to extract files is a VERY IMPORTANT feature. Only once have I ever had to wipe my hard drive and start over. On the other hand, there have been several occasions to have to extract a couple of files from a backup when, for example, I have accidentally deleted something and it can’t be found in the recycle bin. I use Ease Us Todo Backup and it will mount the backup as if it’s another drive (folder). No restore software to run. You can simply copy and paste any file from the backup to the correct destination folder.
If you have a file backup – and everybody should – you can extract files from that rather than your image backup. And if you’re using an online service – like CrashPlan – for the file backup, so much the better as your data is then protected from fires, floods, etc. too.
Very well! Thanks!
But I have a question:
I did “succesfull ” backupwith Macrium Reflect free, in spite of the fact I’d failed with Windows backup
How can I be sure my backup wille get succeed when I need it?
I don’t have the link in front of me, but if you search the site for “test backup” you’ll find I already have an article or two on that topic.