Partition strategies, backup plan.

Posted on 2005-05-07
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I have 4 160 GB SATA drives and a Raid controller that does Raid 1, 0, and soft 5.  I also have a 5 pack of DVD+RW's that I am dedicating to backups.  My original plan was to have one drive with a partition of 20GB where windows would sit, and the other 3 drives used for soft raid-5.  But then I would have 140GB of just blah space on my primary drive.  I never made it a habit of backing up so I have no idea what the best method is of doing it is.  I have Norton Ghost 9 and a boot disk that can boots up in dos that can burn the img on DVD's.  I guess the question is, what would you do?  Also is it bad to have a 400+GB partition?
Question by:Cheech151337
    LVL 32

    Assisted Solution

    You'll probably get different answers on this, and to be fair, there is no one best answer. It depends a lot on your usage pattern, and how critical it is to keep the system running at all times (can you afford to be down for a day?). Also, you did not mention the OS, so I will assume XP.

    Here is what I would suggest:

    Don't partition the boot disk. Use all disks so they have one partition each of 160 GB.
    Use the first disk for the system plus your own data, and use the second disk as data only.
    Use the third disk to backup the first, and use the fourth disk to backup the second.

    If downtime is very bad, then configure two of the disks as a mirror (RAID 1) of each other. A mirror is great for fault tolerance, but not the best option for backup, because as soon as you delete or corrupt a file on one, it gets deleted on the mirror as well. In that sense, backing up every so often (say, once a day) is a better option.

    The (daily) backups should be automated, either using built in XP features (XCOPY, NTBackup etc.) or some third-party program.

    Every so often (say once a month or two) I would suggest using Ghost to create an exact new copy of your system disk to the one that backs it up (i.e. disk 3 in this example).

    Also note the difference between backups for disaster recovery (which is what all the above are), and backups for archival purposes (which the above are not).

    For archival purposes, you should use write-once media such as CD-R or DVD-R or DVD+R. Avoid DVD-RW because that is not very stable. For data that are important do not rely on just one copy on DVD or CD. I always have a minimum of two copies, and often 3 copies.

    I see nothing wrong with having a 400 GB partition as long as it is on the same disk. Avoid RAID 0, because that doubles your chances of failure.

    Also note the danger of having all your eggs (disks) in one basket. What happens if the PC is stolen, or damaged in a fire etc. Optical media backup (with one copy at another location) for all essential files is vital in that case.

    LVL 91

    Expert Comment

    For the backup to be automated, you can use a script, or a program.
    One i like very much is BackupExpress, but it is not free. It gives the option to make the backup in zip format, which you can read on all systems (not like many other programs, which have their own format, that can be read only with the use of the original soft)
    another FREE backup program is : cobian backup from :

    Author Comment

    If I were to use ghost to make a copy of my primary drive to my 3 drive soft raid 5 array, is there any downside to doing it while windows is running?  (windows has to be to access the soft raid)  I don't care as much about my files as I do having a 100% image to fall back on when I do something stupid and the computer wont boot anymore.  Now that I think of it..  If my computer did stop booting, I wouldn't be able to access my raid-5 array!  I do have a 160GB IDE drive, that would bring my total drives to 5 and I am cramped on space allready...  I guess I can make it work, so back to the question, is there any disadvantage of backing up for MY purposes while windows is running, or should I just not take the chance and do it with a boot disk?
    LVL 13

    Accepted Solution

    Well, my first comment is that rewriteable media, either DVD+ or DVD- or CD, is not very stable and should never be used for backup, because there is a good chance that when you need it, you won't be able to read it.  You need to use one-time writeable media.  Yes, that means that you can't reuse it, but it's a lot cheaper, a lot faster, and far more reliable.  The fact that you will have "multiple backups" is not entirely bad:  you should have multiple backups, some perhaps years old.  I've seen many cases where a file or files (but not a whole drive or folder) became corrupted in some way (sometimes virus infected, but it wasn't known until months or years after it had occured).  And the backup was then found to be corrupt.  But a very old backup (sometimes years old) was ok.  So, both because backups sometimes can't be read, and because sometimes file corruption isn't known for a period of time, you should have multiple generations of backups.  And, also, some of them should be kept "off-site", in case the problem is a fire that destroys the building.

    I'd add another piece of hardware to your stragetgy, an external USB hard drive, as big as you are comfortable with (but at least 200 gigs or so).  Use this as a "short-term" backup, so that important work can be backed up the day that it's created.  Do weekly or monthly backups to optical (CD/DVD) or tape media.  You would use this by just a straight "copy", not necessarily actually using any backup software.

    I would not advise a single 400 gig partition; in fact, I usually like to keep most of my partitions down to 32 gigs or so, but I do have one very large partition (over 100 gigs) for working with very large files (uncompressed video AVI stuff, which takes 13 gigs per hour).

    I'd keep a partition to use for holding your image files made with an Imaging program (Ghost, Drive Image, Acronis, etc.).  The image files must go on a device or drive (that means partitions) other than the one being backed up, so if you are backing up the C: drive, the image has to go somewhere else.  Since these can be big (tens of gigabytes), you do want a good size partition to hold them.  Note that when you go to create them, you have the option of telling the problem to "split" the image into files for later burning to CD or DVD, and you can specify the size of the "pieces".
    LVL 32

    Expert Comment

    Re. you question about Ghost:

    I assume you will need to boot into a special "DOS mode" for Ghost to be able to create an exact image. I don't think this can be done while Windows is running. It may be possible to start Ghost in WIndows, but then it should prompt you to boot again to start the image copy process.

    Also see the following link for what Ghost can and cannot do in some cases:

    If you do use Ghost be sure to test the backup volume you create. It's a bad feeling when you try it the first time when you really need it and turns out something went wrong :(

    Also agree with Watzman that DVDRW should not be used for any long-term backup of anything remotely important.
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    Expert Comment


    Previously, these programs had to reboot to DOS (DR DOS, in most cases) to do the backup, or at least the backup of the running windows partition, because the registry and temp files and running programs are constantly writing to the disk and changing things.  Then PowerQuest developed technology for Drive Image enabling it to backup the running Windows partition, registry, temp files and all, without shutting it down and while it was still in use (I have no idea what they are doing or how).  This was a sufficient incentive for Symantec to buy out Powerquest, so Symantec now owns (and, for the moment is still marketing) both Drive Image and Ghost.  They took the Drive Image technology and incorporated it into Ghost version 9, so now the latest versions of both Ghost and Drive Image can make the backup without going into a DOS mode.

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