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William George (Product Development)

Please, please, please - backup your data!

Written on November 13, 2015 by William George


Image copyright by Peter Steinfeld, 1996          Image copyright by Peter Steinfeld, 1996

One of the most painful things to hear about from a customer is lost data. Whether it is hours or days of lost work for a business, irreplaceable family photos, or important financial records - data loss hurts. And it can be caused by many things: viruses / malware, file system corruption, physical drive failure, theft, fire, flood… the list goes on. Unfortunately some people don’t think about this till it is too late, so I am here with a public safety announcement:

Please, please, please - backup your data!

There are lots of ways to backup files, and lots of options for where to store those backups. I will cover several of those in another blog post, in a couple of weeks, but here I wanted to talk more about the ‘why’ than the ‘how’. So why should you do regular backups?

- Because some things cannot be replaced. Digital photos you’ve taken only exist digitally, unless you also print them out. Even then, printed copies are not as good as the original digital files: you could scan them, but the resulting quality will never match the original. Likewise, any number of other file types could be hard or impossible to replace if you don’t have more than one copy: financial records, lengthy research papers or dissertations, home videos, and the list goes on.

- Because reloading your OS and software takes a lot of time. If you only backup your data / files, or simply don’t care about your data, a drive failure or other catastrophe could still require reloading the operating system and applications you use. The latest versions of Windows install pretty quickly, but then require many updates to bring them up to current status - plus most of us use dozens of different programs, each of which has to be installed. If you make a backup of your whole primary drive, though, all of those things are included - and simply restoring from your backup will get you back up and running quickly. This minimizes downtime and loss of use / profitability (in a business) as well.

- Because some data changes regularly. If you only backup every few weeks or months, then you could lose any new things you’ve downloaded, new programs or updates, files you have created or added to, etc. It is better to base the frequency of updates on how often your important files and programs change. For some people this really might only be monthly, but for most folks I would say weekly or even daily is best.

I’m sure there are more reasons than that, but hopefully at least one of those hits home and inspires you to adopt a regular backup plan (if you don’t have one already). If you aren’t sure of how to set up a backup, or what different options are available and most appropriate for your situation, stay tuned! I will be back in a couple weeks with another post going into more detail.

Tags: backup, data, files, operating system, loss, failure

Windows 8 and 8.1 have removed scheduled imaging in favor of user file backups (called "File History"). This will certainly protect your data, but it will take a very long time to restore your computer to it's former self if your Hard Drive or SSD completley fails (and they do eventually fail). You'll first need to reinstall Windows or use Puget's USB Tools & Recovery Drive provided with all systems. Then you'll need to reinstall all your applications, games, settings, personal customizations, program activations, Windows updates, application updates, updated drivers, etc. and finally restore your user data from Windwos File History. What a royal waste of time! Shame on Microsoft. Daily Image backups are far superior. After replacing your failed drive, your PC can be restored to exactly the same state it was in at the time of the image - in less than an hour. It will be like nothing happened. Thankfully, there are many third party imaging programs. I highly recommend Macrium.com Reflect. Don't forget to create your bootable rescue cd or flash drive!

You can still use Windows File History in addition to Macrium Reflect. File History makes it easy to restore files that have been permanently deleted, overwritten or lost. For example, if you permanently delete an important Word document, File History will have older versions for you to easily restore. By the way, Macrium Reflect also allows you to restore individual files, but File History takes more frequent backups (every hour by default). Imaging with Macrium refelect in combination with Windows File History provides the ideal backup solution.

Alternative backup options include cloud backup services. They are easier and less expensive to set up because they don't require the purchase of a backup hard drive and the backup software. They also offer the benefit of off-site backup, which will protect your data even if your computer is lost - in a fire for example. Cloud backup services work like File History - they only backup user files and don't image your entire computer. If you have a lot of data, the initial backup can take days or even weeks. After that, only changes are uploaded - which is much faster. A fail-safe backup solution should include off-site backups. PCMag.com has an nice review of the best cloud backup services.

There are many guides online explaining how to turn on and configure Windows File History. It is not on by default! You'll need a separate dedicated internal or external hard drive or a dedicated partition on it (you can also create a network share to a single folder on your backup drive to store file history, but this is an advanced trick). Macrium has it's own setup instructions provided with the software.

Please heed William's advice. Take the time to set up your backup! If you purchase an external hard drive from Puget Systems, they offer the option to set up File History for you at no charge.

Posted on 2015-11-14 15:14:32

Windows 10 actually brought back the old backup options from Windows 7, including disk image backup. I'm glad to see those options available again alongside the newer file backup features. I'll cover that stuff in more detail in my next blog.

Posted on 2015-11-15 06:30:18