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ThomasW

Windows Backup Solution

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Hello,

I'm looking for a new backup solution. I've been using the "ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery" program supplied with my IBM ThinkPad (my main computer at the moment. It is supposed to basically create disk images, but it is very flaky, poorly supported, and has completely stopped working as of late, i.e., it will not be able to complete a new backup even after leaving it overnight. I've looked at a few other disk imaging programs, but I wonder about peoples' experience with "NTBackup" (shipped standard with Windows NT until Vista). Does this really create a disk image? Does it matter? The "Automated System Recovery Wizard" sounds pretty swell. Is it all it's cracked up to be?  Does anyone have actual experience with this?
Alternatively, I was thinking of something like DriveImage XML.


Let me know what you think! :)

Thanks,
        Thomas

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The NTBACKUP is different on XP when compared to Vista and later, if you are looking for a "recovery" or "bare metal" solution it is IMHO not the "right" approach.

 

About DriveImageXML, it is OK :), but you will need to separately backup the MBR (even better the whole first track) see:

http://www.911cd.net/forums//index.php?showtopic=22984

(and of course have a way, PE or otherwise) to restore both the MBR and the drive image.

 

If you are after a bare metal, probably the partimage is the most "flexible" solution among the Freewares:

http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/157634-hard-disk-cloningimaging-from-inside-windows/

 

Check also the "historical" thread:

http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/100299-disk-imaging-software/

 

jaclaz

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Jaclaz — thanks for your response!  Congratulations for being the only person of the three forums at which I posted this question to actually answer my question instead of just telling me whatever program they use personally!

It does seems the most technically knowledgeable people lurk here at MSFN (at least in regards to software issues!)

 

I have read through the links you offered — some interesting stuff!  Especially nice to see a list of available solutions on that one thread.  I searched before from a Wikipedia list but of course it wasn't as relevant to my situation.

 

The reason I picked those two is that I liked their user interfaces, NTBackup in particular, since it has a nice wizard, seems relatively simple to use, and includes the option of incremental or differential backups, which I would want.  The other thing I liked is that it allows you to back up your system while Windows is running, which is very convenient! This is why something like partimage or the famous Clonezilla seems less attractive to me even though the interface is nice enough.  I would ideally like something just like IBM's Rescue and Recovery — except that actually works.  It includes a preboot/recovery environment and is great when it works.  I am almost tempted to just upgrade to a newer version (I'm using version 3 at the moment) but I'm still wary of reliability and think it might be wise to set aside my reverence for fine user interfaces when dealing with such a critical task. Just to show the fine polish of this program, this is the dialog box asking whether or not I want to run a scheduled backup (which consumes 100% of the CPU while running)

post-393071-0-64847100-1439590693_thumb.

 

Also, I just plugged my external backup drive and it's making scary noises — it's working, but sounds much louder than usual.  Perhaps I should re-backup the backup disk as well.

 

With that said, I still wonder what it is in particular that NTBackup lacks.  Is it reliability or robustness?  Is it the ability to backup from "bare metal" as you say, or to an absolutely clean disk without operating system?

Is it possible or feasible to combine or use NTBackup with some kind of Windows-based recovery environment for the purpose of recovery in case of total disaster, or does it require a full version of Windows to be installed?

The "Automatic System Recovery Wizard" sounds pretty magical and comprehensive to me — I read through the help file for the program, and it claims to save your "system settings", including "boot files".  Does this include the master boot record?  If it doesn't, then wouldn't the master boot record only have to be backed up once and then I'd no longer have to worry about it?

The "Automatic System Recovery Wizard" backs up the "system files" onto a standard 1.44 MB floppy diskette.  My laptop has no internal floppy drive so all I have is an external USB floppy drive.  My desktop computer's motherboard doesn't even have a standard floppy connector so I only have a PATA-SATA-connected SuperDisk drive (though it's compatible with standard floppies as well)

Do you think either of these nonstandard setups would pose a problem for the recovery?

 

In reference to your signature, I wholeheartedly agree.  I always hate when Websites redesign, usually removing previous features and just making everything slower for anyone not using a quad-core computer with 32 GB of RAM running the latest browser.  MSFN at least is one of the better sites for this, and they have at least ONE theme for mobile devices that doesn't require the latest "HTML5" engine to display a page of text with maybe a few images, that really needn't any more complicated formating than a few HTML 2.0 tags!

 

Thanks,

      Thomas

Edited by ThomasW

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Ntbackup in itself is OK (and DriveImageXML - to some extents - is very similar/uses the same VSS technology underneath).

The problem is usually not in making the backup (exclusion made for some issues that may happen to the Volume Shadow Service), it is in restoring it in case of need.

The concept of "bare metal recovery" is one of the aspects that need to be understood.
Your hard disk fails :ph34r: and you have to replace it with a new (or however working) unit.
How (from what environment/live CD/USB stick, etc.) can you run NTBACKUP to restore the new unit in such a way that it it is EXACTLY (or at least "largely") the same as it was before the failure?

Basically you have only one option, that is a BartPE with a suitable Ntbackup plugin (which is of course possible but not the easiest thing to create). Most probably for the restore only also a PE 2.0/3/0 (Vista/7 based) might do, as the original NTbackup from XP is said to run on Vista/7 if a few needed .dll's are "transplanted" to the nTbackup folder.

An "external" dedicated program that uses a "common", "plain" format has three advantages (IMHO).

  1. it has been tested extensively in these cases when running in a temporary environment
  2. more often than not in case of issues other tools can be used to proceed with the restore as the data is accessible having been saved in a "plain" format
  3. Partial data (for a non-bare-metal-recovery) is usually easier to retrieve

But essentially it boils down to personal preferences, as explained here:

http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/157634-hard-disk-cloningimaging-from-inside-windows/

there are all shades of gray.

 

In a perfect world (which obviously is not Windows and the way it is organized by default) there would be three volumes in every install:

  1. a (smallish) one containing ONLY the OS install and the "base" configuration files
  2. a (medium sized) one containing ONLY the programs/tools
  3. a (largish) one containing ONLY the data

So you would make a RAW image of the first one and you could use *anything* to backup or copy the other two, as once quickly restored with *anything* (even a grub4dos dd would do, given enough time) the first one, you could use the restored OS to restore programs and data.

Since configurations of anything but the "core OS" are not in the first volume, that RAW image would remain substantially unchanged.

In the case of XP, which needs for a bare install around 1.5 Gb, that would be at the most a 5 Gb image (including all the spare space you can imagine, resulting in something that could be transferred (backed up and restored) in a few minutes, the computer would be back to running conditions "natively" and from it you could easily restore "the rest".

 

jaclaz

 

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I really never knew there was this much to backups.
I have read many of the links to threads which link to other threads which link to other threads that you've given, and it's very overwhelming.
 
From what I can see, NTBackup still makes the most sense to me.  I like its interface the best of all the other programs I've looked at, and it seems like it would meet my basic needs, some features of which are not found in many of the other options, namely

  • Backup from within Windows while it is running
  • Incremental backups
  • File explorer for restoring individual files within backup
  • Built-in scheduler (I know not really a big deal but it's nice)

Other more popular options like Macrium lack some of these things in the free version, and I don't like the interface as much.
 
That said, if this really is the best solution for me, if I understand correctly, I still need to back up the Master Boot Record as well as find some environment that can run NTBackup in case of broken disk.
 
There really are an incredible number of tools to do all of these things but I tried "HD Hacker" for the MBR just because it has a nice, relatively simple GUI.  I'm hoping these are the right settings to have before saving the MBR into a file, since it doesn't have much of a help file; i.e., you have to actually know what you want to do.
post-393071-0-60506600-1439661050_thumb.
 
Would MBRFix be possibly simpler and more foolproof?
I tried downloading and using it but when you click on the executable it just opens a command window for a fraction of a second and then closes.  It doesn't have much of a help file either.  I finally just plunked the executable into "C:\Windows" so it could work like an environmental variable without me having to bother restarting.  I don't know how you're supposed to do it, but then I was able to see something at least!  I never know what to do with programs when the developer says "To reduce the size of the download, I didn't bother to include an installer!" Am I supposed to put the files in the Windows folder? Program Files? System 32? Then manually create a link to them in the Start menu? Or put the program files themselves in the Start menu folder?!? :blink:  That always feels so wrong!  I still couldn't figure out the program either, and I tried "MBRFix /drive 0 listpartitions" since that was an example command but I couldn't really make sense of the result.
 
You say I have one option for the NTBackup emergency environment; BartPE with a suitable NTBackup plugin, which is not the easiest thing to do.  I don't think I would mind doing it since it would be just a one-time setup, but I am wondering how this can be done!
 
I see what you mean that having the data saved in some other "plain" or "common" format would be possibly better in case of very bad things happening, but what programs use a common format?  I would think that NTBackup would be pretty well tested by now since it's so old and on [just about] every Windows NT PC up to (but not including) NT 6, unlike my "ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery" which is only found on ThinkPads.  As you say, partial data recovery (for a non-bare-metal-recovery) is a nice feature, which seems to be included in NTBackup.
 
Let me know if you think this sounds at all sensible.  I read the page about European currency systems, and I earnestly hope my proposed methods don't seem banana like!
 
Thanks,
       Thomas

Edited by ThomasW

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  •  
  • Backup from within Windows while it is running
  • Incremental backups
  • File explorer for restoring individual files within backup
  • Built-in scheduler (I know not really a big deal but it's nice)

Other more popular options like Macrium lack some of these things in the free version, and I don't like the interface as much.

 

 

You may want to check the Macrium Reflect Free v6 with the ability of making differential (not yet incremental but it is something too) backups and all the other features mentioned.

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You may want to check the Macrium Reflect Free v6 with the ability of making differential (not yet incremental but it is something too) backups and all the other features mentioned.

 

 

Hi Harry,

 

It looks like one of the better programs, but I really do want incremental backups, and they're only available with the paid version.

 

Thanks though!

Edited by ThomasW

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Hi all,
So after a bit more research, it does seem like the NTBackup method would be too complicated and dicey, especially since as you say, if the backup is corrupted then it would seem I am screwed, and it does sound difficult to plug in to BartPE. DriveXML on the other hand is made by a company that is separate and it sounds more robust and updated more recently.
They also offer a BartPE plugin which would likely actually work and I wouldn't have to worry about non-standard floppy disk configurations or corrupted floppies, though I still need to know if I'm backing up the MBR properly.

Thanks,
Thomas

Edited by ThomasW

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I they also offer a BartPE plugin which would likely actually work and I wouldn't have to worry about non-standard floppy disk configurations or corrupted floppies, though I still need to know if I'm backing up the MBR properly.

Sure there is a working BartPE plugin for DriveIMageXML, I don't understand the issue about floppies :unsure:, the Hdhacker is fine to backup and restore a MBR, more suitable tools listed here:

http://www.911cd.net/forums//index.php?showtopic=21768&st=6

 

MBRfix is a command line tool, you do not double click on it, you open a command prompt and run it there, If you want to try my good ol' pseudo-GUI for MBRFix, it is here now:

http://jaclaz.altervista.org/

 

 

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz

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Hi again,

 

So I have backed up my regular external HDD onto another one because of the frightening noises it was making, using DriveImage XML.  It took longer than I expected (~20 hours), so I had to put my laptop downstairs for the night. I forgot to plug it in, so it tried to go into sleep mode, but couldn't because of the backup. The backup worked I think, but am not sure because even in the morning the "Preparing for sleep mode" screen was still up, so I had no choice but to force shutdown.

I liked the interface and the program's relative simplicity, but I'm not sure it worked, or if there's any way to check for errors, and the bigger issue I realized is that it doesn't do incremental backups!

I don't know how I didn't realize this until now, but in any case, I will need something with this capability as I asked earlier.

 

I suppose I could try Macrium as a last resort, but differential backups seem like such a waste of time and pretty much useless unless you are using tape backup from what I've heard.

 

NTBackup is still so appealing but I can't afford being unprepared for total failure, because it's happened before, and the floppy disk issue I was referring to which is that the wizard at least requires the system files on a diskette but with my nonstandard configurations I would worry about them appearing in an abnormal boot situation since none of them are controlled by actual floppy controllers!  One is USB and the other is PATA -> SATA.

 

Also, after doing more reading, I think I better understand the advantage of your multiple-partition setup, because the centre of the disk is faster than the edges, and easier for restoring, if for no other reason.  I don't know how the "core OS" would be separated, but I do tweak a lot of things, so I would want all my programs and system files to be saved, but I guess it just depends on the person perhaps.  I'm just so used to everything being together on drive C.

 

I might just end up with Macrium, but am hoping someone suggests something better fitting my criteria, once again:

 

 

  • Backup from within Windows while it is running
  • Incremental backups
  • File explorer for restoring individual files within backup

 

In mostly unrelated news, my desktop computer is no longer booting up at all — the LEDs on the power supply don't even light up.  Hoping it's just a dead power supply that didn't take out everything else on its way out.

 

Thanks,

      Thomas

Edited by ThomasW

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Hi everyone,

I see I never replied to this topic, but just for anyone who is wondering, I did end up purchasing the full version (actually a four-license deal) of Macrium Reflect, and am very happy with it.  It is quite user-friendlly, gets regular updates, pretty good support, and is extremely configurable.

I usually go with the nicest-looking programs, but in the case of backups, I can't sacrifice the robustness of the system in any way!  It does have a good UI however.

It was about $170 IIRC but is totally worth it IMO.

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170 dollars for four licenses may look a lot to some people but it is, I think, the best backup program at the moment (and now Macrium Reflect 7 will probably be even better).:cool: Personally I use the free edition (very satisfied with it) and of course I have no relation to the program's producers in case someone thinks so.

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I'll add my two cents, as well. I'm sticking with SystemRescueCD, Partimage and BackupPC.

Advantages of Partimage:

- free

- can do bare bone recovery

- does copy only used parts of partition, so the resulting image is small. The built in commpression makes it yet smaller.

- does make a copy of the MBR, and is able to restore it.

- copies can be made through network connection and stored on another computer

Disadvantages of Partimage

- it is not as simple to use as other tools

With a bit of tweaking I made a PXE botable image of SystemRescueCD with network support. Now I can remotely power on a computer, boot a SystemRescueCD on it through PXE then make a copy, or restore a partition. So, I can make backups of workstations, while being at home. I know the FOG can do all that, and do it in a simpler and more automated way, but the FOG is not particulary convenient when dealing with FAT32 or multiple partitions.

So, my solution is to manualy make copies of system partitions once a few months or less often, while the data are kept safe by BackupPC servers in a complete automated manner.

Edited by Sfor
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