I thought I had the perfect backup strategy for Windows, but it failed. XP crashed 4 days ago, and it has taken me this long to recover. I need a backup strategy "guaranteed" to restore my hard disk in less than two hours.
Here is what I have: Windows XP, fully updated, running on an eMachines T2698 desktop with backup on an external hard drive via a USB interface. I'm running Acronis True Image 7.0 for an automatic nightly backup of the entire C partition to the external drive. I supplement this with hourly updates of "My Documents" using Second Copy, and a nightly offsite backup of this and some other critical folders using Data-Insure Online. I'm happy with all but the reliability of the C-partition backup.
Here is the problem. What should have been a quick "load a rescue disk and restore the C image" to the new drive, failed for reasons unknown. Trying to boot from the restored image got as far as the Windows logo, but no user icons, no error message, and no response to anything but a power-off reset, which would only come back to the same hung state. What finally worked is using a friend's CD to install a fresh copy of XP, then using the Acronis Restore Image command to delete that copy and restore my backup image from the external disk. The XP CD was in the drive during the entire procedure, so maybe it "blessed" the restored image, and avoided whatever made it hang before. Note: The Acronis Restore Image command reboots the machine and runs independent of Windows, so that it supposedly can restore everything, including Microsoft's secret copy protection gimmicks. ( I've been told that some of this obfuscation is actually outside of the partition, but that seems impossible.)
I worry that this "bootleg" recovery procedure won't work on the next incident, assuming Microsoft is making continuing efforts to defeat this kind of copying. I appreciate their worry about piracy, but I resent that it impacts my ability to keep a legitimate backup of my entire system. I see in their article 314070 that they want us to use NTbackup to avoid "problems" with registry keys, HAL files, etc. etc. Presumably, they will keep NTbackup "in sync" with these copy protection schemes, but I just don't trust a program from a company that has conflicts over providing a simple, reliable backup program. On the other hand, my recent experience with True Image has made me worry that all non-Microsoft programs risk being defeated as the copy protection gets ever more sophisticated. And I won't know that there is a problem until I need to do a restore! True Image restore worked perfectly in a test I did when I first installed it.
I'm going to try running both NTbackup and True Image. If each has 90% reliability, that will get me to an acceptable 99. I give each program only 90%, because the complexity of NTbackup means I might not get it set up properly, and the simplicity of True Image won't help if Microsoft slips in some trick that Acronis can't keep up with.
Suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Reliability of the restore is my over-riding concern.