How can I make Windows 7 backup more reliable?

Tim T July 22, 2013

I’ve felt safe for years thinking I had a full back up using windows image back up utility. I recently made the attempt to locate a file I lost and discovered that Windows doesn’t even recognize it’s own back up. I searched, and there seems to be a lot of conversation and hair pulling about this issue. Do you know anything about the problem? Has Microsoft released a fix yet? What back up program should I now have to buy?

  1. Bruce E
    July 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    It seems that people are discovering that truth of the matter. The process is not backup, but backup and recovery. And the most important part is not the former, but the latter. When one does backups, they must also at least test the recovery portion on a regular basis. I have never had an issue with backups created with the Windows backup programs on any version of Windows since NT4.0.

    Exactly what are the issues experienced by OP and others? Any error messages? Were the backups moved to a different location? Were they created by a previous version of the backup software? As the Win7 (and Vista, I believe) versions require 2 elements as part of its recovery set, are they both located in the same place? I know of some people who decide to manually move the folder of data to a different storage device in order to make room for something else, not realizing they are moving one portion of their backup while leaving the other file in place.

    Also, a backup plan that is simply using an imaging utility is generally not the best solution to the issue of backup and recovery. An OS disk or partition should be imaged after software installations and upgrades, which tend to be done less frequently that changes to datafiles. I would also suggest keeping the last 2 images at all times instead of just keeping the latest one. Also, in most cases, no data files should be part of the image (there are exceptions to this, but they tend to be fairly rare).

    For most home users, backing up only datafiles should be done on a more regular basis as a file-based backup, not an image. This allows for more recovery options. Say a home user adds or modifies a couple of dozen files a day. Doing a full backup of the datafiles every day will grab all files, changed or not, and can consume a great deal of space, especially if you want to keep copies of the last several versions of any given file. Doing a full backup on the first of the month and incrementals through the rest of the month will give you the means to recover any version of a changed file throughout the month. This means that if you messed up a file on the 5th and didn't realize it until the 22nd, you can still grab the version of the file you had on the backup prior to the 5th where it appears whether from the full backup or from the incremental on the 3rd. If you were doing differential backups and the file had changed between the last full backup on the first and the 5th when it was corrupted, you could simply pull the version of the file from the differential that was taken on the 4th.

    All in all, the way you plan and perform backups needs to be based on how you want or expect to be able to do the recovery. For the average home user, this will be the biggest factor in how backups are to be perfomed. For businesses of any size, there are other major factors involved (recovery time, point-in-time recoveries, synchronization between various systems, backup windows, risk mitigation, cost factors, service levels, and many more), and all of it needs to be part of a disaster recovery plan centered around the needs of the business.

  2. Oron J
    July 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Good suggestion from Hovsep. For the future, consider alternatives such as the disc imaging solutions suggestions by Switchblade (I can vouch for both the Macrium and Acronis products, as well those from Paragon Software and Drive XML).

    For file backup (which may be more convenient for backing up data files), I highly recommend Cobian Backup, which saves the backups in regular folders or in a zip file, so you can always recover your data, even if you don't have the software to hand!

  3. Tim T
    July 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

    thanks! I can't believe that info was difficult to find. Seems like all I got out of searching was finding out more about the common problem of not recognizing the back up through Control Panel, BAckup & Restore options.. But I could see all my files this way.

  4. Hovsep A
    July 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

    1. Open Disk Management.
    2. Click Action -> Attach VHD

    Recovering your files in Windows 7

    Mount a Windows Backup and Restore Center VHD Using DiskPart

    • Tim T
      July 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Of course this says when your finished, be sure and Detach, but I found no way to do that. No option in the Actions Menu or right click menu, so I'm assuming when I closed Explorer, it detached itself.

    • Hovsep A
      July 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      if you go to disk management, locate your attached VHD, right click on it and choose Detach VHD, aster that you will be prompt with ‘Detach Virtual Hard Disk’ message. Click on OK to detach. If you want delete the VHD permanently you can select the Checkbox.

  5. Alan W
    July 22, 2013 at 7:29 am

    What is it that you want to do, image a drive or backup files?

    • Tim T
      July 22, 2013 at 10:48 am

      I kind of thought both, but apparently it doesn't matter. Windows backup/restore can't read either one of them. Whichever works. I probably prefer a data backup, but I thought it would be nice if your computer crashed how cool it would be to restore a complete image and have it all back as it was.

    • Alan W
      July 23, 2013 at 6:31 am

      I use Macrium for an image backup of my drive and have it scheduled to run three times a week. If you have more than one drive or at least somewhere you can backup to then thats the program I would recommend.

  6. Switchblade S
    July 22, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Instead of Window's own backup, you can try a proprietary solution like Acronis True Image Home to do backups or a free solution like Macrium.

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