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What is the best and most complete backup solution for one PC?

Posted on 2007-10-04
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Last Modified: 2013-11-14
I am looking for the best way to backup everything on my PC including files, programs, user settings/preferences, etc... I've had a PC crash in the past and I'll I had was some backup data CD's with the files I needed. I then had to take quite some time with the new PC installing all my programs and configuring all the settings the way my old PC was.

So, what is the best way to backup as much of your current system as possible for quick re-install later if needed? Is there a way to back up everything including all your programs, settings, file/data folders and locations, etc...? If so, can I also set this up to initiate automatically at scheduled times?

I currenlty have Norton's Save and Restore and an external Maxtor One Touch III 300 GB Hard Drive, but would be open to purchasing something else if needed to accomplish the complete backup I'm looking to perform.

Thanks in advance for any tips.
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Question by:ffrllc
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 20015484
I would suggest Acronis True Image 11 Home -
http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/
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Expert Comment

by:Expert4XP
ID: 20015495
You're on the right track there.

Probably the two most popular consumer image backup programs are Acronis True Image 11 (www.acronis.com) and Symantec Ghost 12 (www.symantec.com).

Norton Save & Restore is very similar to Ghost 12 in that it includes two capabilities:  folder style backups, and full image backups.

In my opinion, if you are creating full IMAGE backups with Save & Restore (even though you may also use the folder backup options) you are doing fine.  

If you want to go the "next step" then you could consider copying the backup image files from your Maxtor to DVD's every month or quarter and placing the DVD's in some other location (such as safety deposit box).  To do this you would have to change the advanced options to split the backups into 4400 kb max sizes, and use some program like Nero to burn to DVD's.

Other than that, everything you are doing looks great.
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20015746
I was under the assumption that with Save and Restore I was only backing up all the data. If my system crashed I could then use that backup to get back all the data, but I would then need to re-install all my programs, re-configure my persoanl settings, and organize all my data back to the way it was.

Was I under the wrong impression of Save and Restore? Can it actually automitacally back up everything to my external Maxtor Hard Drive including:

My software programs (so I don't have to re-install them on the new machine)
MS Office programs (with all the data such as email accounts, inbox, contacts, calendars, etc...)
Personal settings and preferences
All data with folder locations

So if my system crashes I can simply use the back up on a new machine and be up and running almost exactly where I was without having to re-install programs and re-configure things?

If Save and restore can't do this, can Acronis True Image?


Thanks again.

 
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 20015865
You may be only backing up all the data.  Look for the topics regarding image based "Backup My Computer" options in N S&R.

ftp://ftp.symantec.com/public/english_us_canada/products/norton_save_restore/1.0/manuals/user_guide.pdf

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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20018006
Yes, it seems I am only currently backing up the data as I assumed I was.

So what is the best way to back up everything I've mentioned above? Is the software Acronis True Image capable of doing what I'm looking for? Is Norton Save and Restore and I just haven't been using it in that way?

Sorry guys, but I'm a little new to all this and need clear direction :)

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by:Expert4XP
ID: 20018068
>> Is Norton Save and Restore and I just haven't been using it in that way?

Yes.  Look in the manual (ref link above) starting on page 56.
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 20018415
You can't restore to a new machine - when it becomes time for a new computer, you have to reinstall everything.  This is in part due to licensing.  While I can't be certain (because you haven't said), if your computer came with XP, then it's an OEM license that is PERMANENTLY licensed for use ONLY on the computer it came with.  If you restored an Acronis image to a new system, you would be violating that license because now that XP install would be running on the new system illegally.  As a second reason, XP gets very finicky when you put it on different hardware.  Among other things, you'd need to activate it again - IF it even booted.   This is true for most any backup/restore application - ESPECIALLY the license issue.  But for as long as you keep the same system, Acronis can FULLY backup and FULLY restore it if something happened (like the hard drive failed).
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20024818
Leew,

What about Acronis 9.1 Worstation (and Universal Restore to actuall re-install on a new machine). The live chat rep at Acronis said with these two products I could simply use the back up file from Workstation 9.1 and re-install everything from my old system on the new machine using Acronis Unversal Restore. By doing this I would not need to re-install all my programs, MS Office data (emails, contacts, calender, etc...), and all my user settings/preferences.

Was this representative correct? It seems from what you have said, there really isn't a way these products can work the way this representative said and perfom the tasks I'm looking to perfom if my system crashes. (wouldn't be the first time a rep has given false info).

Thanks.

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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 20025336
Did you get Windows with the computer?  What brand of computer?
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 20025479
>> So if my system crashes I can simply use the back up on a new machine and be up and running almost exactly where I was without having to re-install programs and re-configure things?

ffrlic, I think you are confusing recovering from a HARD DRIVE failure (or software virus failure), which can and does happen, with a total computer failure, which is very uncommon.

Norton Save & Restore, Norton Ghost, and Acronis True Image (and lots of other IMAGE backup programs) can all restore your image onto a new hard drive after a hard drive failure on the SAME pc.  All without reinstalling your applications, software etc.

As Leew pointed out, restoring a hard drive image onto a completely different pc is a whole nother issue.  Think of this simple example:  Would you expect that you could take a hard drive out of a Dell laptop, and install it into a new HP laptop and expect it to work?  The answer is no.  There are obvious hardware differences as well as licensing differences.

Your license from Dell (in this example) will NOT allow you to transfer it to a different pc.  If you have a full-priced retail boxed version of Windows, then Microsoft will allow a transfer, but it that case you probably don't have a proprietary brand laptop.
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20036133
If it helps at all:

Both PC's will be Dell's. The older PC I want to safeguard is a Dell and I will likely replace it with another Dell if needed.

My current Dell is running XP (XP came with the computer) and I assume the Dell I replace it with if needed will be running Vista.

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Expert Comment

by:Expert4XP
ID: 20036250
Since you have already purchased Norton Save & Restore, this would be my recommendation to enhance your current protection and prepare for future:

1. Define a Norton Save & Restore full image backup job.  Run that job regularly (weekly) to create full image backups.  This will protect you in case you have a hard drive failure on your current (older) PC.

2. After you get a new Dell pc with Vista, use the free Vista Easy Transfer software to transfer your user data from your older PC to your new PC.
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/details/easytransfer.mspx

3. You will have to install and update other software to get Vista certified versions on the new PC.  (for example, Norton Save & Restore 2.0 is needed for Vista)
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20036523
So it seems there is no way at all for me to get some form of back up that will allow me to simply re-install all my programs and user data within those programs (Outlook inbox, calander, contacts, etc...) without having to re-install the programs themselves one by one?

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by:Expert4XP
ID: 20036576
Windows Vista has a new program called Windows Mail which replaces Outlook Express.  Office 2007 (including Outlook) replaces Office 2003 (although I believe that Outlook 2003 will still run on Vista).  If you order Office 2007 with your new Dell pc, it will already be installed on the new pc, so you don't have to install it yourself.

Office 2007 also has migration wizards (similar to Easy Transfer) to facilitate the transfer of contacts, calendar, etc. from XP.
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 20037078
Outlook (and yes, it's Outlook, not Outlook Express) was just one example. I have several programs with data and/or settings within the programs that I really want to avoid having to re-install and configure if my system crashes.


Is there really no way to avoid the need to re-install all my programs and settings one by one for each program if my system crashes?


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Accepted Solution

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Expert4XP earned 500 total points
ID: 20037384
>> Is there really no way to avoid the need to re-install all my programs and settings one by one for each program if my system crashes?

On the same computer, yes.  You would replace the hard drive (if that is what crashed) and restore your last image-backup.  Other computer components (memory failure, cd rom drive, etc.) can also be replaced.  But as leew stated earlier, and I agree, your Dell license does not allow you to transfer or restore your image to a new pc.

You can search using Google for other opinions and stories on this.  Here's just one:
http://www.edbott.com/weblog/?p=992

Sorry this is not the answer you want, but it is an honest one.
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Expert Comment

by:Expert4XP
ID: 20037408
There are some programs which you can purchase that attempt to help automate the process.  My experience however is that they are sometimes partially successful, but often not.  So I don't recommend them, especially if going from XP to Vista.

Here's one.  Try at your own risk.
http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&sku=A0654668

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