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Can I make incremental backups on external hard drives FROM external hard drives?

I want to back up 3 external hard drives to 3 other external hard drives.

So let's say I have copied all the data from each one (call them the working drives) to the others (call them the backup drives). And I mean just a straight copy, one to the other.

Next week, when it comes time to perform the backups, how can I do just an incremental backup, which of course will take much less time than another complete backup?

I have a felling this is relatively simple, but I just can't quite seem to confirm that this is indeed possible.

3 Solutions
Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
Copy <> Backup

An incremental backup will do you no good unless you have a full backup against which to restore it.  Also bear in mind you'll need all the incremental backups plus the full backup to restore to your last incremental backup point.

If you're using a software product to handle backups, you've not indicated so, or what it is.
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
With a third party backup tool - easily. Acronis, Paragon, Ghost etc are your tools.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Depends on how you're copying.  You can script it using Robocopy to "mirror" one drive to the other.   You can use third party tools like rSync to synchronize the data.  You can use a backup program that will give you a clear "differential" or "incremental" backup... Really depends on what you want to do and how you want to do it.
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RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Paul, I hope I'm not sounding totally dumb about this, but your answer confuses me somewhat.

First, let me say that I am not using a software product yet. I wanted to get some opinions here before making a selection.

Now, what confuses me is your saying "An incremental backup will do you no good unless you have a full backup against which to restore it.  Also bear in mind you'll need all the incremental backups plus the full backup to restore to your last incremental backup point."

Here is the situation I am envisioning to make it clear:

I have an external hard drive that contains files and folders that I use 4-5 days a week on a regular basis.  Let's call it Drive A. I will download several files every week to this drive. Let's say I make a backup of  external drive A onto another external drive, Drive B, today, by simply copying everything from A to B like you would copy data off a USB drive.

Next, let's assume that 5 days go by, during which I have added files to Drive  A.  I want to add those files to Drive B. Is there a way (or a backup program) I can use that I can easily configure to more or less say "OK, copy only the files that were added in the last 5 days to Drive B?" This is why and how I use the term "incremental."

Or is there some other way to do this that is not super complicated that I just don't know about?
Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
Yes, but to be clear, what you're talking about is COPYING, not BACKUP.  The term "incremental backup" doesn't really apply when you're talking about copying files.  I understand the manner in which you're using the term, and I'm not trying to be pedantic, but what you mean is important to the sort of answer you're going to receive.

Lee mentioned Robocopy, and I think that will work fine for what you say you want.  You can set up your initial copy, and then tell Robocopy to copy files that have changed since you did that last full copy.  What you'll end up with is a duplicate of your hard drive up to the moment in time Robocopy was last run.
Wells AndersonCEOCommented:
It sounds as though you want to protect any current and future files on Drive A from being lost forever if Drive A dies. Copying all files to Drive B initially and then regularly copying just new and changed files to Drive B gives you that very basic protection. If Drive A dies, you have Drive B. For this purpose, you could use FreeFileSync. It is freeware and is simple to use. You can create one job and run it manually on a regular basis. Be careful when installing to uncheck any extra programs it may offer to install.

Unfortunately, all your files are at great risk to accidental deletion, accidental overwriting, malware, ransomware, theft, fire, storms and other not uncommon disasters. The above solution is not a backup system, it is a synchronization system.  To be safe, pay for a cloud backup service. For advice on that, let us know the total size of the files you want to protect and your upload speed.

Another alternative is to use Veeam Agent for Windows and rotating USB drives offsite. It is free software that lets you back up (in the true sense of the term) one disk to another. It does incremental backups and can be scheduled. It does disk image backups that protect everything on the source disk. The destination disk needs to be larger than the source to make room for incrementals. Unfortunately Veeam Agent for Windows freeware can only schedule one automatic job. You may need other backup software that supports multiple jobs and rotating drives (taking them offsite for safety). Macrium Reflect may be a good one.
RadioGeorgeOwner/ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all for your help. I am a little leery of using ANY tool from Microsoft due to some very bad experiences with some. Recently I used "Microsoft Easy Transfer" in Windows 7 and wound up with files missing left and right and scant little useful, simple documentation from Microsoft. However, I will look at it and the other options that were presented before choosing the one(s) that sound like the winning way.

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