How Do I Test Backups?

I do backups of my data using Windows but it’s not maybe as retrievable as I would like it to be. I don’t know exactly how to test backups to know whether they’re really there. It says they are but are they? I’ve had to use the system image to restore function once when my computer became infected with something. I basically just transferred the system image back to my C drive and it solved all my problems. I must say I’m thankful to you for strongly encouraging everyone to do backups. I can’t tell you how many friends and family have lost stuff – everything – because of not backing up. Pictures, important data. Loss of pictures seems to be the most heartbreaking.

Yeah, I hear those heartbreaking stories all the time, and yes, it is indeed one of the reasons that I talk so much about backing up.

Your concern about not knowing whether the backups are there or not is actually very common, as is the desire to test backups. It’s so common that I include a chapter about it in each of my books about backing up with specific tools.

Let’s review how you can get a little bit of confidence that what you have will be there when you need it.

Read moreHow Do I Test Backups?

How to create a backup image using Macrium Reflect Free

Download the video: free-quick-640x360_512kbps.mp4.

Download or watch in HD:

One of the common questions I get after talking about image backups is “Great – how do I make one?”

There are many ways and tools with which to make image backups. Detailed instructions will vary, of course, depending on exactly which tool you want to use.

In the brief video linked above, I’m going to show you the steps to create an image backup using Macrium Reflect’s free edition (there’s a link to the transcript of the video at the end of this post). This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive how-to, but rather a very quick demonstration of just how easy it can be to create an image backup.  As brief and simple as it is, it’s possible that this may be all you need to create your own backup image.

Read moreHow to create a backup image using Macrium Reflect Free

What do I do if my system asks for a installation disk and I don’t have one?

I have a desktop computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. It won’t startup. It’s asking me for the installation disk which I don’t have. Can I buy that somewhere? Do I have to buy Windows 7 and install that or can I just buy Windows 8.1 and install that?

There are a few things you can try. I’ll list those, as well as one technique that will let you avoid this problem completely in the future.

Read moreWhat do I do if my system asks for a installation disk and I don’t have one?

How I Deal With Inexplicable Change

Something I’ve said for a long time is that your approach to change – particularly change that’s out of your control – is one of the biggest factors that will determine just how successful you are at using technology. The better you can handle change, the happier you’ll be. I’m absolutely convinced of it.

Note that I’m not saying you need to like all change. Not all change is good.

I’m currently working on my next book, Saved! Backing Up with Windows 8 Backup, and I’m running into some changes that are so incomprehensible it’s making me think “WTH Microsoft?!”

Let me explain how I avoid ulcers in this ever-changing world of technology.

Read moreHow I Deal With Inexplicable Change

Will Backing Up My Computer Back Up My Email?


I’m currently preparing to back up my computer for the first time and I’m unsure of the answer to the following question. If I do either a system image or a regular backup of my Windows 7 computer, will my Outlook emails also be included in the backup or do I have to first back up the emails to a PST file; do the backup and then import the emails back if I ever need to restore the system? In checking the Microsoft site and two other searches, the only answers I find are “…..will backup all files, programs, etc….” and no mention about emails. I hate to assume that the emails will be backed up only to find that they aren’t after spending the time to do it.

This is an awesome question and the answer’s actually somewhat frustrating.

Your email may or may not be backed up! It really depends on exactly where your email lives. Once we know that, then we can make some more helpful statements.

Read moreWill Backing Up My Computer Back Up My Email?

Why would scanning a disk be quick, but just a file on it be slow?


Leo, I’ve got a portable hard drive that contains various PC disk image files. All of which take up about 500 GB in total. When I right-click on the root directory to scan the portable drive with my Norton Internet Security software, the scan is completed in about 5 seconds. However, when I scan just one of the disk image files contained therein, it would take over 30 minutes which is roughly the time it takes to directly perform a full scan on the PC. The same behavior is exhibited when I scan with Malwarebytes. Why is it that scanning the entire 500 GB portable hard drive at one time is so incredibly faster than scanning just one of the files in that portable hard drive?

Your question brings up some very important distinctions about the different types of scans possible, and the different ways anti-malware tools perform them.

Read moreWhy would scanning a disk be quick, but just a file on it be slow?

Can my image backup of Windows XP be used on my Windows 8 computer?

Leo, I followed your advice and have been doing system backups with Macrium Reflect in Windows XP. My current 8-year-old Dell Desktop computer is showing signs of failing and I will probably have to replace it soon. Maybe concurrently with the April loss of support of Windows XP. Can the XP backup be used on the Windows 8 computer?

First of all, good on you for backing up. Like I’ve told many people, that puts you ahead of something like 90% of the people out there, so that’s fantastic. I love to see people using backup tools and backing up regularly.

Now to the question of whether you can use your Windows XP backup on Windows 8.

Kind of. Maybe. It depends on how you expect to use it.

Read moreCan my image backup of Windows XP be used on my Windows 8 computer?

Will Malware Infect the Backups on My Connected Backup Drives as Well?

You stated elsewhere that typically backup images are not compromised by malware. Is this because the malware works by searching for specific file types and the backup file types aren’t in the list? As I understand it from your articles on encryption, a complete disk could be encrypted rather than only some of the content. Could an external drive being used for backup storage be so encrypted by malware?

Typically, backup images and drives are not affected by malware. I have to say “typically” because things can happen, but it’s just not very common.

Read moreWill Malware Infect the Backups on My Connected Backup Drives as Well?

Can I put everything but the operating system on an external drive?

I’ve had so many problems with Windows 7 not responding that I’m now wondering if I wouldn’t be better off to reinstall and put the stuff that is normally backed up – programs, documents, and pictures – on a USB flash drive. That way, it would be easier to reinstall Windows 7 in the future and just plug in the USB drive to use the programs or documents. My laptop acts like it has a virus, but I have Avast AV real-time installed and I’ve done scans with several other online AV scanners. They’ve all found nothing. If I leave it idle for a little while, then it will not respond. I thought it was a Firefox problem, but IE also crashes. If I have everything but Windows on a USB stick, then I could reinstall Windows 7 anytime easily. Do you think this is feasible?

This scenario both will and will not work. Ultimately, it seems impractical and it’s not going to help your fundamental issue, which sounds like a hardware problem. I’ll talk about that first.

Read moreCan I put everything but the operating system on an external drive?

Will Existing Updates Still Be Available after Windows XP Support Ends?

Does the 2014 end of support of Windows XP include removing the current downloads? For example, security updates, hot fixes, SP3? I’ve a retail CD, XP with SP2, but I still need these current downloads to fully utilize XP, don’t I? I read several answers to the XP end, but I didn’t find the answer to this particular scenario. Perhaps to rephrase, when I reinstall XP after support ends, will the updates, hot fixes and service pack 3 that I need today still be available online?

When support for Windows XP finally ends, the single most important thing to realize is that there will be no new fixes.

Even if a security vulnerability is discovered that impacts people running Windows XP, that vulnerability won’t be fixed. That’s the bottom-line implication of Windows XP support ending next year.

What does that mean for everything that’s already been produced?

Read moreWill Existing Updates Still Be Available after Windows XP Support Ends?

How do I backup multiple partitions?

I’m backing up a multi-partitioned hard drive. When making the image backup, can I make one of all of the partitions in one image or do I need to make multiple images? To restore the backup on a new drive, do I use the image disk to boot up my computer and copy everything to a new blank unpartitioned hard drive? Is it that simple? Or do I need to install other significant things like Windows or drivers and so forth? I really don’t know. I’ve been told that if I clone my hard drive with Windows XP and if I need to replace my machine, the cloned drive will not work. If I clone with Windows 7 and on a cloned hard drive, it will work on a new machine. Is this true?

We’ve got several really good fundamental and common questions about backup.

Let’s look at each.

Read moreHow do I backup multiple partitions?

Should I update my hard drive?

Could you please tell me if I should update my hard drive? My Dell computer is eight years old. I’ve seen where you should update your hard drive, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to change any settings. Would it do that? Should I do this?

I’m not sure where you’re seeing this information that says “you should” update your hard drive.

In my opinion (and I’ve said this many times in different scenarios), if your machine’s working and you’re happy with it, I wouldn’t go looking for trouble. You don’t need to upgrade a hard drive unless you actually have a reason.

What reasons could those be? Let’s look at some.

Read moreShould I update my hard drive?

How do I automatically clean out my accumulation of backups?

Is there a way to automate the process of taking full backups and then incremental backups using Macrium Reflect and automatically thinning the backups out over time? I’m seeking something that works like Time Machine does on OSX (but with incrementals less frequently than hours.) If there’s a way to set this up with Reflect, it certainly isn’t evident looking at the software.

I agree, disk management settings are not evident when  looking at the software. But it absolutely is possible to manage the number of backups kept to disk – and to manage it automatically. That’s the way I have it set up on my machine.

Macrium Reflect can be scheduled to do full backups, followed by incremental backups every night. Combine that with what I would call “auto clean,” and you have your setting.

To sort it all out we need to first think about how incremental backups work, and then find the settings.

Read moreHow do I automatically clean out my accumulation of backups?

What’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?

Hi, Leo. In the past, manufacturers, particularly laptop manufacturers, such as Acer, used to provide a number of CDs that would allow the new user to at least do two things, for example: repair his operating system but retain all of his private data or secondly restore his computer back to what it was when he first started it up. In later years, those discs weren’t provided but the manufacturer would advise the user (in a manual that may have been overlooked) to create his own discs by using the software that was included in the installed package. Not only would the OS be included on those discs but all the other software and drivers that had originally been installed. Is there a simple program one can get ahold of that folks could use to create discs that can be used in this way?

The short answer is absolutely yes. Not directly in the way you describe, but to the same effect.

And anyone who knows me already knows what I’m about to say.

Read moreWhat’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?

Can I Simply Copy Everything on My Drive in Case Something Bad Happens?

Leo, I’m running Windows 7 with two 80 GB hard drives: one is for backing up information. Now I consider that to be too small for me, but for every 4.5 GB of information, I burn all of my documents, favorites, and downloads to a DVD so that if anything happens, my only loss will be my Windows 7. My question is can I clone, copy, or image my C drive to this second hard drive that I have installed and then remove the copied drive in case something else happens to my operating system which I cannot fix? And then can I use that copied drive as if nothing had happened? I ask because I have three 80 GB hard drives: two installed and one in waiting. If the answer is yes, what should I do? Clone, copy, or image?

There are utilities that can do exactly what you’re requesting. It’s called cloning and what it does is a sector-by-sector copy of one hard drive to another. The two hard drives need to be identical or very close to it for a clone to work.

You then have a fully cloned copy of the original hard drive that you can swap into the internal hard drive’s place if something happens.

What you’re asking about is cloning software. Many backup programs (like Macrium Reflect) have the option to clone a drive. But I don’t really like the idea of cloning drives. Here’s why.

Read moreCan I Simply Copy Everything on My Drive in Case Something Bad Happens?