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Best hassle free backup system

I’ve had a PC since the 80’s, and every time I’ve had a total hard drive failure, I’ve pledge to do a better job of backing up my system.
Of course, that only works for the first few weeks after I’ve reinstalled the OS.  After a few weeks, when the pain of loosing my data is a distant memory, I start forgetting about the backup.

Now that I have to reinstall my OS for the 20th + time, I want to make sure to setup a backup system that is completely automated, and easy to recover.
I also want a system that has layers, so that I can choose a specific week or month to recover from, just incase there are viruses in the latest backup.

What is the best backup system for a Windows 2003 machine that is free, or that cost less then $100?
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Axter
Asked:
Axter
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3 Solutions
 
CallandorCommented:
I would recommend Acronis True Image - it costs less than $100, and is truly a professional grade product that lets you do full or incremental backups.
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
http://www.acronis.com/enterprise/sales/online/
Rave reviews...lots of experts here like it...

but out of your ball park..

if you're backing up your server.. gotta use industrial stuff.

Aside from that, use the Backup already in W2k3
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>if you're backing up your server.. gotta use industrial stuff.

My server is used for testing, compiling, and local access in which I'm the only user.
I can't justify the expense for anything more than $100
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
So why not just use the native Backup?
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>So why not just use the native Backup?

I realy haven't investigated it.
Can you easily recover using native backup, and can you backup to a second harddrive or USB drive?
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
Recovery is tricky.. but can be done. generally if you don't have SQL or Exchange.

it can backup other drives including USB
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Recovery is tricky..

I'm not currently using SQL or Exchange.

How tricky is it?

Can I do incremental backups?
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garycaseCommented:
A few simple suggestions:

(1)  Separate your system (OS & programs) partition from your data (in a separate partition).

(2)  Make an occasional image of your system partition.  This will allow you to easily restore the system if it ever becomes corrupted; whether from something you did, a virus, spyware, etc.   You can keep as many of these images as you want (and have room for -- that's another good reason to keep the system partition separate => the image will be a reasonable size).

(3)  Set up an automated backup/synchronization of your data partition to another hard drive using a free utility like SyncBack.   Once you set up your backup profile, you can set it to automatically run every day/hour/week or whatever you want  (mine runs daily).

You can make images with the very-reasonably-priced Boot-It NG (www.bootitng.com) or the even less expensive Image for DOS from the same folks.   SyncBack is free (http://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/freeware-hub.html), or you may want to use the SE version, which has a few additional features (notably the ability to copy locked files).
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garycaseCommented:
... I forget to point out that a major advantage of separating your system and data is that if you need to restore your system partition it has NO impact on your data :-)
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pweegarCommented:
The good thing about NTbackup is it's FREE (comes with the OS). You have to work at it some, but you SHOULD be able to establish a regular incremental and full backup.

Restores can be a real pain in the butt, esp. if you have to search for the required file.  But i find any backup software to be not the easiest to use when it comes to restores.

Also, NTBackup will NOT backup open files, something to think about.
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Also, NTBackup will NOT backup open files, something to think about.

Wouldn't that mean that it would not backup the registry file?
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Make an occasional image of your system partition.  
Anything that would require me to do something manually will not work for me.

I'm looking for an automative method, that would not require me to do anything for the backup after it's setup.
Are there any imaging programs that can run from windows via the scheduler?
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Restores can be a real pain in the butt,

I'm looking for something that's is easy to use for the restore.  
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garycaseCommented:
Well ...

The data backups are trivial is you use SyncBack SE (which backs up locked files) => as I noted, you simply set a schedule and it simply happens.

As for images of your system partition, you could use Image for Windows and simply set the scheduler to run it at regular times; or you could use Boot-It with the BootNow! option and do the same (the latter's a bit more tricky to set up).

Restores are simple for the images; and even easier for the SyncBack backups (you just copy what you need).

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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>The data backups are trivial is you use SyncBack SE (which backs up locked files) => as I noted, you simply set a schedule and it simply happens.

Yes, I'm not too concern about the data, since I keep the data in a seperate HD which I can easily backup.

My main concern is with the system and program files, and the registry.

>>As for images of your system partition, you could use Image for Windows and simply set the scheduler to run it at regular times

Is Image for Windows a seperate program, and if so, how easy is it to restore?

>>Restores are simple for the images; and even easier for the SyncBack backups (you just copy what you need).

Are you referring to Image for Windows or Boot-It?


To be more specific as to what I'm looking for, I want something I can throw on the scheduler that will backup the system files (to include programs folder and registry), and that is easy to restore.

IMHO, anything that is to hard to use for restore is not worth using at all for backup.

I can easily backup my data files, so I'm not worried about them.
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>free utility like SyncBack

Can you use the scheduler with SyncBack for system's files?
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garycaseCommented:
SyncBack SE (not the free version) will backup locked files, which can be anything (including the registry files).  The problem is Windows won't let you replace those files -- so restoring wouldn't be quite as simple.

If you image the partition, then whichever imaging program you use will restore it the same way.   There's a bit of a learning curve, and a "geeky" interface, but Boot-It NG, once set up nicely, is very simple to either image or restore.   I have an "Image Now" button on my desktop I can just double-click; the system then reboots, images, and boots back to Windows.   This could be done by the scheduler (in fact I used to have it do it automatically once a week at 3:00 am, but decided I'd rather just do it on demand).   I have a companion "Restore Now" icon that I can double-click that will reboot, restore the system partition, and then boot back to (the restored) Windows.

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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>This could be done by the scheduler

What command would I have to put in the scheduler to do this?
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AxterAuthor Commented:
Does Boot-It NG support incremental backups?
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AxterAuthor Commented:
Can you use Boot-It NG with a RAID 0 system?
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garycaseCommented:
Boot-It is an imaging program -- NOT a backup program.   So no, it simply images the entire partition.   As for what command to schedule -- you would simply have a BootNow command that you set the scheduler to execute as desired.
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garycaseCommented:
... and yes, it works with RAID systems.
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>you would simply have a BootNow command that you set the scheduler to execute as desired.

What do you mean by BootNow command, and how would the Image program get called on boot up?
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garycaseCommented:
Boot-It installs on the hard drive -- it's an imager, partition manager, and boot manager, and does a superb job of all three (although, as I noted, the interface is a bit "geeky").

It supports a program called "Boot Now" that you can run in Windows that will allow a variety of things to happen ==>  you could, for example, if you had multiple OS's installed have an icon for each one and just double-click it to reboot to that OS  (e.g "Boot-Linux,"  "Boot-W98", "Boot-XP", etc.).

It will also let you automatically execute an "Image Set" -- you create one (or more) of these in the Boot-It Maintenance menu.   Once created, a single command can automatically execute the desired Image Set and then boot to whichever OS you want.

For example:  "BootNow 1/ims=ImageXP"   would reboot the system, run the image set called "ImageXP" (which you would have set to image your XP partition and store it at whatever place you choose), and then boot to item #1 (the "1" just before the /ims) on the boot menu (you'd probably only have one item).    If you created a shortcut on your desktop with that command line ("BootNow 1/ims-ImageXP") then just double-clicking it would image your system; or you could simply set Scheduler to execute it at whatever interval you wanted (as I noted above, I used to have this automatically happen once a week).
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>If you created a shortcut on your desktop with that command line ("BootNow 1/ims-ImageXP") then just double-
>>clicking it would image your system; or you could simply set Scheduler to execute it at whatever interval you wanted

So after it calls BootNow, and the machine reboots to ImageXP, what happens after the Image is created?
Does it automatically reboot the machine back to the default OS?
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garycaseCommented:
That's the idea :-)    I have one system with 14 different OS's installed (DOS, Win 3.1, Win95, Win98 original, Win98 SE, WinME, Win2k, Win-XP, a few alternate installs of 2K and XP, and a couple of Linux distros) ==> it's "normally" running XP.  I can double-click to reboot to any other OS; or I can double-click to Image XP and reboot to XP.   If I wanted to, I could have a whole page of icons that would let me image any particular OS and boot to any other OS (but I don't).   What I do have -- since my "base XP" is the "normal" OS -- is, on each different OS, a "Image Now and boot to XP" icon, as well as an "Image Now" icon (which reboots to the same OS).   So, for example, if I'm running Windows 98SE, I have two icons -- one that images '98SE and reboots to '98SE; and one that images '98SE and boots to XP  (which I'll use if I've been running '98SE just to do updates, add something, etc., and want to update my image but return to the "normal" system).

It DOES take a bit of thought to set up what you want -- but once it's set up, it's double-click trivial :-)
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garycaseCommented:
... the "1" in the 1/ims=ImageXP line tells Boot-It which system to boot to after doing the image (in this case #1).
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SunBowCommented:
I recommend using existing HD.
Getting a new one for all the new wares you want to run, most of which will be already on a CD or DVD you can reload.

The old HD then will have plenty of room and more than enough speed to be a good backup.

If budget is <100, you'll either be skipping backups or running out of money on price of media (ex: blank tape or cd) in short order. The HD is more available, quicker, compatible, and convenient. Keep it bootable and it is also good contingency plan.
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SunBowCommented:
> Best hassle free backup system

Cheap Hard drive

Use a strategy of placing what you want to back up under a single subdirectory tree. Then it is easier to find what to backup (and restore) as needed. [a copy *.* kind of a simple process can work, can be placed in a batch file, and scheduled, no problemo]
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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Getting a new one for all the new wares you want to run, most of which will be already on a CD or DVD you can
>>reload.

I do programming and testing for many different languages and environments.
Reloading all the software, and paticular configuration takes well over two weeks.

I already have more hard drives then my mother board can support (not including SATA support).

My primary concern is backing up the system files, so that I don't have to waist over 2 weeks setting it up again.
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garycaseCommented:
"... My primary concern is backing up the system files, so that I don't have to waist over 2 weeks setting it up again." ==>  Me too.  That's why I keep a separate system partition (20GB) and everything else on other disks.   I have over 1.3TB in my "main system" and over 5GB overall in my network.    With Boot-It, if my system gets messed up, it's a double-click and 6 minutes later I'm back to where I was :-)

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AxterAuthor Commented:
It sounds like Boot-it will accomplish my main goal.
I need to wait until next week, before I can order my new SATA drives, and after they come in, I'll test out you're solution.

If it works the way I want it, I'll award points and close the question.

Thanks
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garycaseCommented:
For $34.95 it's tough to beat -- a very focused little utility with no "bloat."   It does have a "geeky" interface, as I noted, but if you're a bit patient in getting it set up you'll have no problem.   If you buy it and install it, post back if you have any questions about how to use it.

The basic concept here is:

(1)  Install Boot-It

(2)  If you don't already have your system partition isolated from your data, that would be a good time to do that.   You can resize your partitions easily from within Boot-It's maintenance mode (with no data loss).

(3)  Create an Image Set (or sets)

(4)  Be sure the "Boot Now! Support" option is checked in Boot-It.

(5)  Boot to your XP system and install Boot Now!  (a free download)

(6)  Create a shortcut to run BootNow as I described earlier -- so it will automatically image your system and reboot.

(7)  Create a shortcut to run BootNow and automatically restore from the last image.

... by that time you'll feel comfortable enough to do about anything you want with Boot-It.   There are a few things I wish they'd improve (notably the 8-character DOS filename restriction), but it's a great little program, and for the price it's an amazing value.


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bconreyCommented:
Here's another suggestion, and it's a bit of a stretch from the $100 mark, but something to consider. You said you write code for many different languages and environments, so this option, while more expensive, sounds like a great fit and gives you significant flexibility.

Use a program like VMware.  VMware allows you to run multiple virtual computers on one PC....but that's not where the value comes into play for you.  Each virtual pc has it's own image, which has a very important benefit: since VMware emulates the HAL, you could easily install VMware on a totally different PC and move the virtual image over, and you're up in running in minutes instead of hours or weeks.  

In your case, you'd be saving the virtual PC images and they're infinitely portable, and you wouldn't have to spend any time imaging, since everything you'd be doing would be inside a vmware virtual pc and those changes would be saved real-time.

You'd want to backup those virtual pc image files to an external drive or something, and you'd need a system with the horsepower to handle the additional overhead, but you can download a trial from their website to see if this would be something that would work for you.

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AxterAuthor Commented:
>>Use a program like VMware.  

I've used VMware before, but I prefer to use MS Virtual PC instead.
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistCommented:
cool. thank yoU!
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