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Backup - what's the best way?

What is a good Backup strategy (Win XP Pro)?

I have a 60g hard drive with the operating system and all programs that I copied onto a 160g drive and now that's the main drive. On that 160g, I transfered a lot of files (about 80g) from CD's on to it.

If my hard drive failed, I wouldn't want to install everything over and have to copy 80g of data from CD's back to the hard drive.

I still have the 60g hard drive that has the OS and programs and could use that for a (partial) backup.

What is a good way to keep a backup and also backup new files that are added?

Should I keep another hard drive insync with the main one, like an external or internal one?  thanks
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For something like that it sounds like the best path is to get 500gb external disk for a backup copy.
Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Keep in mind that another hard drive "in sync" (Mirroring aka RAID 1 which under XP would require a new disk controller that supported RAID for your system) with the main one doesn't protect you against file corruption.  And it doesn't protect you against accidental (or intentional) deletion.  What you would be best doing is backing up to an external drive periodically.  If you don't want to have to reinstall, then you should look into imaging software, such as Acronis True Image.  This can periodically take a "snapshot" of your existing hard drive and back it up to another location.

You might want to review my comment on backups - it's targeted more towards businesses, but it's still largely true for individuals.
Top Expert 2010
a bit of this depends on how you want to recover in the event of a hdd failure.

you could image your drive, and store the image file as a backup.  in the event of the main drive failing, you would need to image the new drive using the backup image.  in order to image the new drive, you would need access to a working computer with your imaging software installed.  imaging will save all programs and data and OS.  it takes a snapshot of your computer.  but, the downside is that failing drives tend to have bad sectors... and often these bad sectors exist before you are aware of them.  a bad sector can cause an image to corrupt.  also, you generally can not retrieve data from a bad sector.

the other option is data backup.  data backup does not retain your programs or OS.  there are free tools, like robocopy, that would do the job.  robocopy can be configured to only backup files that have changed since the last backup.  you would need to have robocopy.exe on your computer, and then write a batch file that executes it.  then schedule the batch file with Windows Scheduled Tasks.
robocopy download: http://www.devhood.com/tools/tool_details.aspx?tool_id=321
robocopy usage: http://www.ss64.com/nt/robocopy.html

what you need to be aware of is that a 60g drive doesn't sound like your best option for backing up to...especially if you already have 80g of data.  to be safe, the drive you backup to should be at least as big as your main drive.
Buy an external USBII drive say 250Gb (Western Digital My Book) and a copy of Norton Ghost.

Then just schedule it to do weekly or daily ghosts of your entire system to the USB drive and job done.

If you are installing new software, run a ghost first, it only takes about 20 minutes. That way, if the new software causes 'issues' you can just slap the ghost image back on and you are up and running again.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

I find Symantec butchers products and I would suggest avoiding ghost... Acronis products have a very good reputation - I'd stick with them.
"Should I keep another hard drive insync with the main one, like an external or internal one? "

That is the ONLY way to insure that you have an immediately bootable second copy.  CLone the entire OS drive once a week.  You dont't want or need daily backups, just in case a "hotfix" from M$ or an errant program install blasts your XP setup to where you cannot recover it.

Everyone suggest "IMAGES" -- like ghost or Acronis -- but an image is useless in a failure scenario, since you would have the software running to restore the image.  This is why I always suggest a file by file update copy, along with a registry copy.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013


An image is a clone.  Images can be restored with appropriate boot disks.  As usual, I'm not quite sure what scrathcyboy is talking about.

Agree with Leew.

A Ghost Image is a complete clone of your PC.

Eg last week, I ghosted a users PC, and then put that image over another users PC (after having ghosted that). Tested it fine (apart from the usual domain SID issues) and then put the original users image back on, so by the time she came in at 10.30am  for work, her machine was exactly like it was before and she was non the wiser.

If you want a complete clone of your OS, programs, desktop, icons, email etc etc etc, then an image/clone is what you need.

And yes, Symantec have been known to butcher products. Not keen on what they are doing to Back Up Exec. But I think Ghost is ok.


Thanks everyone. I got some good ideas to go on.