What’s an Incremental Backup?

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I have a mental ‘block’ on backing up which unnerves my approach to it. I have managed one full backup (32gb) on an external hard drive. I have just read your article on maintenance but do not understand what is meant by “incremental backup”. Does it simply ‘update’ or overwrite the existing backup or does it create something else that only contains whatever is new since the previous backup? I think the latter is what I would prefer.

What you prefer is, indeed, what it is.

There are actually typically three different types of backups: full, incremental, and differential. Understanding which is which, and how they should be used is pretty important to making sure you’re appropriately backed up, while not simultaneously eating up disk space at an exorbitant rate.

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Is it better to use incremental or differential backups?

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Hi Leo. In January, I made a full image backup of my computer using Macrium Standard and scheduled a nightly differential backup. I chose differential over incremental as it’s easier to restore using the full image plus the most recent differential rather than restoring the full image and every subsequent incremental. To make sure I retain enough disk space for backups on my external drive,  I delete all the differentials every 10 days except for the last two. Based on this scenario: 1) Would there be any advantage to making monthly full image backups as you suggest rather than just sticking with my January image? 2) Would there be any advantage in using incrementals instead of differentials? 3) It’s now June and I am a happy camper! Is there any reason I shouldn’t be?

Well, first let me start with the last question first. Nope, you’re in great shape!

I’m thrilled that you’re backing up. You’ve clearly put some thought into this, and I don’t have any serious issues with the approach that you’re taking. If you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, I probably wouldn’t have you change anything.

But if there were something that I’d recommend that you change, it’d be taking a new full backup probably once a month or so. Why? That gets a little harder for me to explain.

Read moreIs it better to use incremental or differential backups?