Back up and restore plan for OS-mirror or clone?

Posted on 2011-09-09
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
Doing a new build today, installing Win7Pro 64 bit on a 120GB SSD i7 2600k machine with a second "regular" HD.  I haven't ever made a mirror or restored from a mirror, so I may want to make one and do a restore, just for grins.  Maybe I'll do that today with this new SSD box build.  Install, make a mirror and then restore it?  I've heard EASUS has a good solution for mirroring or cloning. Is that the same thing?
Question by:rodynetwork
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Accepted Solution

Callandor earned 167 total points
ID: 36510075
A mirror is not the same as a backup - a mirror decreases downtime, but if a virus or malware gets loose on your machine, a mirror will not help - you'll just get a copy of the malware.  A backup is an image or copy of the disk or partition that is a snapshot in time and can be stored elsewhere for safekeeping.  When you know you have a setup working the way you want, a backup will keep that state somewhere that you can restore in the future if disaster strikes.  I use Acronis True Image to create periodic images and store the images elsewhere.
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Assisted Solution

rindi earned 167 total points
ID: 36510226
Mirror is RAID 1, two disks inside the same system. If one of the disks break, the system will still work. Clone is when you make a 1:1 copy of your partitions to another HD (usually connected externally), and then remove that disk from the system. When the Internal disk breaks, you replace the original disk with the one you cloned to, and then you have that state you had at the time you did the clone. The difference is that a mirror is continuous, both disks are always in the same state, unless one breaks, while cloning is that the clone only had the same state at the time you cloned.

In your case mirroring would mean that you would need another SSD of the same size you currently have, which would probably be a bit expensive (mirroring an SSD to a conventional disk would probably cause serious issues because of the speed difference of the two disks).

A further option would be Imaging. Imaging is similar to cloning, but the difference is you make a 1:1 copy of a partition into an image file, and in order to use that file you'd have to either Restore that image back to an HD in your PC, or you can also use the tools provided by the imaging software you have used to mount the image file, and then you can copy files from that image to some destination of your choosing. The advantage here is that the image files are compressed and therefore use up less space on the destination. It is also more meant for a backup, as you can make images every now and then.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

garycase earned 166 total points
ID: 36510427
You do not want EITHER a mirror or a clone :-)
... you want an Image.

The difference:

(a)  A mirror is (as noted above) a real-time mirror of your drive, created by a RAID controller using RAID mode 1.     The purpose of a RAID-1 mirror is fault-tolerance ... if one of the drives fail, then the system just keeps on running => you can replace the failed drive, the RAID system automatically rebuilds the mirror ... and you never have any downtime.

(b)  A clone is simply a non-real-time mirror ... i.e. a snapshot in time that you can create using any good partition manager to copy your drive.    Depending on how you have things set up, this may be a drive you connect/clone/disconnect;  or it may be a drive that's always connected, but is "hidden" (so Windows doesn't see the duplicate volumes).

(c) An Image is a snapshot of time of your OS partition (or drive), stored in an image file that you can keep on any volume in your system (except the one being imaged).

Personally, I use Image for Windows to make my system images these days;  and Image for DOS to restore them.    These companion programs work VERY well ... but like most good 3rd party utilities are not free.     In fact, Windows 7 has an excellent built-in imaging utility as part of its own Backup and Restore utility [Start - All Programs - Maintenance - Backukp and Restore].    If you create a system repair disc;  and then setup automated backups (to a disk different than your SSD), this will work very nicely for maintaining backups.

Caveat:   I know several folks who use 7's Backup and Restore ... and have started using it on a couple of secondary systems -- but I do NOT use it regularly myself.   The more I use it, however, the more convinced I am that Microsoft has (finally) "got it right" with 7's Backup and Restore (unlike previous versions of it).    I simply have a long-established routine using my 3rd party tools ... and have not seen any need to switch.    A good 3rd party utility DOES provide more control over the backups ... but the reality is the most important thing is that you DO them ==> not which utility you use to create them.

As for good 3rd party tools ==>  I like Image for Windows (which comes with Image for DOS for recovering system partitions);  many folks like Acronis;  EASUS is also good.    As I just noted, the important thing isn't which tool you use -- just that you USE one :-)

Finally, to follow up on the discussion in your previous question r.e. how you structure your partitions ==>  I definitely prefer an OS partition with the OS & programs; and a separate data partition where I relocate all the data libraries.    I see no reason to have a 3rd partition for program installs -- although as Callandor noted you don't necessarily have to reinstall the programs if you restore the OS partitioon -- IF the program installs were in sync at the time of the latest images.    Just a matter of choice -- but restores are VERY quick in either case (ESPECIALLY when you're restoring to an SSD).

The key thing is keeping the data partition separate.    But even that's not absolutely necessary.   The advantage is as follows:

(1)  With a separate data partition, a restore operation works as follows:
    (a)  Restore the OS partition  (and, if it was separate and out-of-sync, the programs partititon)
    (b)  Done ... since the data was separate, it wasn't modified by the restore.

(2)  If you simply made the SSD one single large partition and kept your data there:
    (a)  Restore from your backup image.
    (b)  Copy your latest data backup to the newly restored system.    Since your data wasn't separate, restoring the image just reverted all your data to what was there at the time you made the image.

Note that as long as you do daily backups of all your data (which you should do regardless of how the drive is structured), either way works.    Keeping the data in a separate partition simply makes an OS restore a simpler process.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 36510714
Excellent input. Thank you.
LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 36510723
With SSD disk backup and recovery you should bear in mind that restore from the image should leave intact the alignment of the partitions. Properly aligned partition is a MUST HAVE for SSD drives.
As for the tool for backup. I personally prefer Paragon Hard Disk Manager:
All you need in one pack. Although use Ghost in past but found it slow.

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