I've asked this question before, but not sure if there's a better answer now.

It's simple in theory, but tough in practice: A Windows XP Pro system with the IDENTICAL drives.  One master, the other slave.  I want to do an image backup/copy from master to slave every night without user intervention.  I consider this the ideal backup for when/if the master dies, you simply set the slave as master, reboot and viola'.  


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So you basically want to set up the equivalent of a cron backup to run nightly on a windows XP box?  You could try the task scheduler that is built into XP if you already have backup software...  There is also a cron equivalent that you can download for windows, again you need the backup software installed so that you can schedule it as a task.

here is an auto backup software package I found that seems like it will do what you are looking for.  http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/Utilities/Backup_and_Copy_Utilities/Auto_Backup_software.html  I have no personal experience with it, so I can't vouch for it personally.
CraigSNYCAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the input, shannoncousins but I'm looking for real world, tried and tested methods.  
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As scaliouette said, Norton Ghost 2003, 9 or 10 is what you need. It has Schedule Incremental backup, so you setup backup in night time without user intervention. Also, Restore a drive from backup image (you can setup backup data into slaver drive) is what you will need to restore system when master drive down.
What you could do is this:

Partition the "slave" drive such that the partition has plenty of space to hold a GHOST or ACRONIS image of drive C: as well as the main partition of that slave drive.

Let's call those partitions on the slave drive "D", and "E", with "E" being the partition to hold the image from C.
Also, be certain to make D ACTIVE in Fdisk. Be certain to make it "bootable"
Now, install your Ghost of Arcronis on drive C and have it direct the image to E.

OK, with all that done, lets assume you have a failure of drive C.
Pull out the C drive, rejump the slave as master and place it where the C drive was before.

Here's the magic:
Put your Ghost or Acronis boot disk in the computer and boot. Choose to restore an image, but be aware that the image location is NO LONGER on E. It is now on D(because the hard drives were physically changed and thus the partition letters automatically shifted). Restore the image to your NEW C partition.

Follow the prompts and you should be good to go.

Or just buy a hardware RAID controller.  If the master dies, the slave takes over with no user intervention.
Just create a mirror. If you don't want to get a RAID controller, use OS mirroring. Not as good as a hardware mirror, but it works.
CraigSNYCAuthor Commented:
Again, thanks for the input, but I don't want to go the RAID route.  Two identical drives in the same system, imaging C: to D: at night, FULL copy, not incremental.  

Why do you want to do a full backup every night?  This is time consuming.  Incremental or differential is the way to go if you are performing your backups nightly.  In truth the way I would schedule my backups is:

1st and 3rd Sunday of the month - Full backup
Daily - Differential backup.

This way you get a backup of all modified files daily and every other Sunday you get a full backup.  Much quicker to restore and backup process doesn't take nearly as long.  In order to restore, you just need the last full backup and the last differential backup.  Unless storage space is a huge concern in which case you could do a full backup weekly and an incremental backup daily.  This will minimize the storage space requirements and will maximize the time it takes to perform the backups.  The problem here is that restoring takes longer.  If your PC crashes on Thursday you need Sundays Full Backup, and the incremental backups from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to restore...  

Just some ideas, and I am sure that you have thought of them already.  This is more for anyone else reading this that wondered what the differences were.
CraigSNYCAuthor Commented:
I understand about full vs. incremental backups.  I have a client who I want to make things impossibly simple for them.  It's a 9-5 shop, so they leave the image backup starts at 8 PM and is done when they get back in morning.  This way if they loose the master drive they unplug the master, change jumpers on the slave and they're back in business.  

The interesting thing about this option no one else really sees the value I do in it, so it makes me wonder if I'm not seeing something about the complexity, etc.
You hit the nail on the head.  With a RAID solution, the user doesn't have to do anything, and you don't have to worry about a copy job failing.  You are trying to make a sort of imitation RAID, and then add complexity to it that you then say don't want  to expose the user to.  Therefore, the value in your solution is less than the others--it takes more time and is more complex.  The simplest to most difficult to do so far would be:

1.  Hardware RAID - nothing has to be done upon failure of either drive - and your current day's data isn't lost if the master dies before you do the copy.
2.  Software RAID - on a drive failure, if it's the master, you have to just re-configure it to boot from the slave.  If it is the slave, just replace the drive, add to the RAID set, and re-build the mirror.
3.  Ghost on a nightly backup (first couple of suggestions above).  Requires re-configuration upon failure
4.  Scripted copy job - can't copy OS files, and so can only be used to save user data - can't make the slave drive bootable without doing a fresh windows install (or advanced tweaking of partitions and MBR.)
"I have a client who I want to make things impossibly simple for them."

Use durindil's #1 (preferred) or #2.  ;-)
What was wrong with my comment? It would achieve exactly everything you are after.

If you are not desirous of doing the extra step of recovering an image, then simply use the same scenario as I desrcribed but CLONE the C drive to the slave on a sheduled basis using Arconis TrueImage.

Be aware that fully CLONING a hard drive to the same "target" drive EVERY NIGHT can wear-out both the source and target drives without RAID complient hardware.
The problem with the "full image every night" approach will arise when a master fails during the copy process. In this case, the older image is already deleted and new image is not created yet. You thus need a backup disk twice the master's capacity, so you can create two images and alternate between them.

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If I were you, I'd buy a Raid controller and have drive setup as Mirror, RAID 1 !

Reliable, and still available, even with the loss of one disk ! Further more, the Backup is being written on-the-fly !

Best Regards !
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