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if I have performed backups of critical data, as are any advantage to doing a full disc backup?

My PC is an HP e9150t quad core desktop using an Intel i7 CPU (920@2.67 GHz). I have 8 GB of RAM and am running Windows 7 Home Premium-64-Bit. It was purchased new from HP, in July 2009. The Microsoft products I am running include the 2007 versions of Outlook, Word, and Excel.

For years I've been doing backups and I have a double redundancy of data on more than 3 backup drives. Is there any advantage to performing a full image backup of a complete drive, or is the method I'm using sufficient to insure against data loss due to hard drive failure or other catastrophic events? Thank you.

6 Solutions
An image backup has the advantage that if your HD fails it is very quick to restore the OS and data onto a new HD. With a normal data backup you would first have to use your OS recovery DVD's which you made when you got the PC to restore the system back to the state when you bought the PC, then you would have to install all the programs you need and run all updates, remove anything you don't need that was pre-installed, and after that restore your data from the backup. That takes much more time.

If the image backup tool doesn't support incremental backups (many do, but I don't think the builtin tool of Windows 7 does), the best strategy would be to make the occasional image backup, particularly after you have installed new software or made some bigger changes, and alongside that do your normal data backups. This way you don't need too much time and external space for the backups. If your image backup tool supports incremental backups, then that should be enough.
photoman11Author Commented:
So it sounds like what you are saying (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that if I were to do an incremental backup on an incremental basis, that would be far superior then running bull type of backups. is this is an accurate interpretation of what you've said?

Assuming that is true, would you have any recommendations for packages that do image backups which are relatively inexpensive or free?


It's not superior, but faster and needs less storage space on the backup media. The disadvantage of incremental backups is that when you restore you'll have to go through all the incremental backups, while with a full backup you just restore the last full backup before the crash.

I'd recommend shadowprotect from storagecraft, it has some very good options others don't have. An advantage of it is that it can consolidate incremental backups so they get easier to manage and make restores easier without having to go through all yourself. But it isn't free:

Also good, but not with as many features would be Paragon's backup tools. There is a very basic free version, but I'd recommend the non free versions so get incremental backups etc:
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Full image backup has one significant advntage: it includes all the data. With full image backup, it is not possible to forget to include something important into the data set for the backup. In practice, it is very hard to identify all he items that need backing up.
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
one Disadvantage of image-level backups is that the exact same hardware needs to be available to restore to.

For instance, if your mobo dies, it may be hard to find the same model to restore to.  Windows is better now at coping with HAL changes, but it may be an obstacle that you can do without.   Other catastrophic events (theft, flood) would have the same effect, but on a bigger scale.  It's feasible that an image may not even boot on radically different hardware.

However, one Advantage of imaging is that you don't need to source all your original media for all your apps, which is also a benefit for all the stuff that installs online.  For instance, if you use Steam a lot for games, waiting for them all to download again would be tedious....

Personally, for home use, I'd suggest an image every few months, a full backup once a month, and incrementals on a weekly basis.

You could accellerate these timescales if the PC is more critical to you (used for work), or if you have a lot of data that changes all the time.  It's just the trade-off between the hassle of taking backups against how much time you can be without a working PC....
the above is not true, since you can use paragon' adaptive restore to restore the image to different hardware :

differences between full backup and image backup : in case of a new install - say another disk drive
full backup : you need to install OS + updates +applications + settings + DATA
   --> time needed between a couple of hours and some days
image backup : you run the image and you're running like the it was when the image was made
   --> time needed between 15 minutes (on my SSD disk) and 1-2 Hrs at most
You wouldn't be able to restore an OEM version of windows anyway if you change the hardware, and you can still extract specific files from an image backup, there is no need to restore the complete image if you don't have to recover the OS
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Short answers:

(1)  "..  Is there any advantage to performing a full image backup of a complete drive ..."    Yes.

(2)  "... , or is the method I'm using sufficient to insure against data loss due to hard drive failure or other catastrophic events?  "  ==>    Yes.

Longer answers:

(1)   Yes, as already outlined.    A full image backup lets you fully restore your operating system;  all programs; all updates; any customizations you've installed; the desktop configuration; etc.    And it not only lets you do this for your current hard drive (in the case of bad corruption from malware and/or an update gone bad);  but also lets you quickly and easily restore the system if the hard drive fails [i.e. replace hard drive; restore image; done :-) ].

(2)  Yes, what you're already doing is sufficient to "... insure against data loss."     But the fact your data is already fully backed up doesn't protect the operating system & programs (as outlined in #1).

A full image backup done a couple times a year is plenty;  your data should be backed up every day.
Gerald ConnollyCommented:
You can extend the Full/image backup and incrementals, by going to "Incrementals forever" and sythetic fulls.
photoman11Author Commented:
thanks. This was quite an education and now I know what to do.
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