What are the differences in backups?

I'm sure this may sound simple, but over the last few days in my efforts to save data, files, etc. , (using Windows Easy Transfer between two computers running Windows 7) before doing a system recovery, it seems that I either simply did not fully understand the expression "back up" or, it's never been precisely defined for me.

 My backup saved a LOT of data and folders, but it seems that many (if not all) .exe files, along with their configurations, were not included in the Windows Easy Transfer. I somehow thought that if you transferred program files (in various folders) AND the settings/data/created info associated with the programs, all you had to do was copy them all to another computer (in this case, the one I did the system restore on), and you were good to go--open Excel, for example, and just pick up where you left off with any given associated file. I did not expect to have to totally reinstall Excel.

This also raises a question in my mind about "image backups." Nothing I encountered in searching for info answered the question the term raises, specifically, does "image backup" mean that once you install it on to a computer, you can then simply open any program and have it run, with all the settings and data, saved in whatever file name/folders as before the backup?

And finally, it seems to me that maybe the smartest thing I could do would be to have two computers, both of which have the same operating system, and in setting them up, make them identical twins (yeah, I know, lots of work duplication and a little extra work every day. ) Why? If and when the "main" one craps out, all I need to do is to pick up its twin and keep on truckin' while the main one undergoes whatever repair may be needed. I'm guessing a cloud backup of some kind would be in order, as well.

Your take, experts?
RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAsked:
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
it seems that many (if not all) .exe files, along with their configurations, were not included in the Windows Easy Transfer.

Correct.  In my experience "Easy Transfer" is a poor name for this product as it is neither.  It cannot replicate the correct installation of a software product; there are too many things that can be done and in any case that's shooting at a moving target as manufacturers change their install procedures with every new release.  There is so much done under the radar during software installations that it's not even remotely reasonable to expect such a product to work.

Under most current Microsoft software product licensing it is no longer legal to move a product from one machine to another without deinstallation, and for some products not even then - you get one install, and that's it.

does "image backup" mean that once you install it on to a computer, you can then simply open any program and have it run, with all the settings and data, saved in whatever file name/folders as before the backup?

With limits, yes.  It will work exactly as it did before the backup - only if the backup is restored to the same machine it came from.  If not, Windows will detect that it is running on different hardware, invalidate itself, and then it will be necessary to authenticate Windows with a valid activation key.  When Office detects that it is running on different hardware, it will also invalidate itself.  So will many other licensed programs.

I'm guessing a cloud backup of some kind would be in order, as well.

If you don't mind exposing everything on your machine to the government and the cloud operator, this might be an option.  However, cloud backup has been oversold and is borderline deceitful about its usefulness.  imo, cloud storage of backups is a poor option for that evil time when a full backup is required.  Usually when a full backup is required a machine is quite dead.  As such, how does one restore over the network from the internet "cloud" when Windows isn't there?

A better solution is an external hard drive of at least 1 TB.  This will allow at least one full image backup of the system and it will also protect from ransomware, so long as backups are done frequently and the backup drive is kept unplugged when not in use.
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nobusCommented:
a backup is one of the most difficult things to do correctly.
You have to consider a lot of things
1-what backup - and how often
2-which kind of backup - file or image backup
3-how many backups you need to keep safe
4-all the rest
1-you need a full data backup + a full image backup at least; if you keep this separate, and renew them at scheduled intervals, all ok
but think about pictures: if you have pictures classified by the year taken - once you have a backup - this data will not change any more, so no need to backup dayly. Same goes for downloaded films etc..this will save a lot of time and storage space
then you can use sequential backups - which only add changed data - this also will save lots of time and space
2- is a single decision - but think about how much you need : 1 on an external drive?  ok - but what if the drive fails?
and do you keep them on the same PC ?  can be ruined by encryption hacks - so keep them separate
3-see 2- but do you want to keep them at house - at work  - in 1 place or 2 ?you can have 1 or several external drives rotating in the backup plan
4- how much space and cost will you invest in it ? you can also backup on tape, or internal drives - in removable bays
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RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Thank you to both experts! I am still in the process of "rebuilding" my desk (HP) computer, the one that lost its mind to begin with, because of the lamebrained construction of Windows Easy Transfer. I am, with a badly-needed dose of forced patience, re-installing current versions of ALL programs and stuff, having made a screenshot before I started the system restore AND also having most of those programs in perfect working order  my "travel" computer, an ASUS tablet/keyboard, which has turned out to be a super backup it was never intended to be!

The master plan will call for a few external hard drives for various categories of files with weekly incremental backups and one EHD dedicated to the master programs which I can use in case of some other Microsoft casualty.
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nobusCommented:
tx for feedback, George
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