Hard Disk Backup

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Backing up the Hard disk

What would you do if your hard disk 'went down' or couldn't be accessed. Though it doesn't happen often it can happen.  Apart from your whole set up being lost, would you lose all your carefully saved pictures, documents, music and email addresses ? 

Backup religiously Cartoon

Leo Notenboom has set out in plain language how to backup your computer (in case of failure or malware/ransomeware).
I reproduce his article here with sub links to each method

1. Make an image
Start by making an image backup of your computer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to do with it — that’ll come later.
By creating an image of your computer, you’ll have a known point to which you can always return should anything go wrong in
the future.
Creating a Backup Image Using Windows’ Built-in Backup walks through the steps to create a complete image backup of your
machine on an external hard drive, using what Windows 10 calls the “Windows 7” backup and restore tool.

2. Make a recovery disk
Next, I recommend making a Windows recovery drive. This is a disk (a DVD or USB thumb drive) from which you would boot your machine in order to restore the image that you took in the first step. In reality, the Windows recovery disk also includes additional tools to examine and possibly repair your system, as well as the ability to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch if needed.

3. Restoring an image
Restoring an image is the process of taking a backup image you’ve previously created and putting it back on your computer’s
hard drive, (which erases anything currently on that hard drive). An image restore is exactly what you would do after replacing a faulty hard drive with a new, empty one.

4. Restoring files from an image
I rely on image backups primarily because there’s no question about what’s in them: everything. But sometimes you don’t want to restore everything; you just want a single file, folder, or collection. Microsoft doesn’t make it obvious, but you can do that with a backup image you create using the Windows backup tool.

5. Set up File History
With image backups under our belt, we can move on to more silent, “in the background” backing up, in the form of File History. File History sets aside some amount of space on your hard disk — ideally an external hard disk, and possibly the same one
containing your backup images — to which it writes copies of your data files each time they change. Using File History, you can
recover a file as it was an hour ago, a week ago, or some time in between, depending on how often files change and how much space you’ve set aside for it.

6. Restore a File using File History
After you’ve had File History running for a while, you’ll surely encounter a point where you want to recover a file that has been backed up. Learn to browse what’s been backed up, locate the file or files you want, and restore them

8. Restore a file from OneDrive history
Just like File History, the day will come when you need to recover a file that’s been backed up to the cloud.

End of article from Leo. With thanks to Leo Notenboom


Whilst all Windows versions have provided a facility to backup the main system files this does not make a backup of ALL of your programs and all your data files such as photographs. To do this safely you are advised to have an external memory device such as a hard disk connected  to your computer via a USB cable or at least a memory stick.  These days they can be quite large in the number of gigabytes they hold.

You then need to set up the computer to tell it where to store the backup.  This is done via selecting Start, Control Panel, System and Security, Backup and Restore. 

Recommended Software.  Computer Shopper recommended Acronis TrueImage at 39.  It allows full back and incremental backups subsequently. Scheduling or backup of specific folders is catered for. And they give 5Gb of Cloud storage.  A free program which will help you with Backup is EasUStodo

Imaging software makes a complete, compressed, backup of your hard disk (rather than just backing up your important data).  There are free versions, such as Macrium Reflect.  But see a full discussion at http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-drive-cloning-software.htm      In addition Windows 7 onwards has introduced a better backup system than previous Windows. 

Dropbox There are numerous places on the internet where you can store things and these can be safer than keeping them only on your hard disk.  In fact, one day this will be the preferred place and hard disks will become less important.  One such is Dropbox, which gives at least 2gb of free space.  More can be purchased and you can even earn extra free space see https://www.dropbox.com/help/15/en
The great thing about Dropbox is that you can share files and folders between all the PCs on your home network or you can send a link to other people to invite them to look at a file or folder. Having copied the material to Dropbox it appears like any other folder (as long as you are connected to the net) and you can arrange things on it, in folders, delete items, copy them to your PC or whatever. To share an item on your home network, such as a folder, document or picture, right click it, click Dropbox in the dropdown menu and click Share; click the name of the network owner and click Share.  The item will then be synchronised to the other PCs.  To send someone a link to an item, right click it, click Dropbox and click Get Link.  Copy the link at the top of the screen and send it to them. For large files, such as your videos.which are too big to attach to emails, this is a good technique. The nice thing is that Dropbox appears on your computer like an extra hard disk.  so you can copy things to it in the same way, with the only restriction being the speed of your broadband how much Dropbox space you have at your disposal.  Dropbox makes money by selling additional space. I also find that it synchronises my new photos automatically.l

Making a 'bootable' flash drive. Bob Rankin suggests that, in addition to backing up data, you should make a bootable flash drive (memory stick) in case your computer won't start.  The computer must be capable of starting from a memory stick connected to a USB port and you must have an original XP/Vista/Windows7 disk.  He recommends the free software Wintoflash found at http://wintoflash.com/home/en/ The downloaded Zip file is over 6 Megabytes ..............

Before going into the various backup techniques one needs to think about what you are going to backup to. You can backup things to the hard disk you are using.  But that will not help very much if the hard disk crashes completely. Even if you backed up to another 'partition' this will not help if you had a disastrous crash.

The alternative is to back up to CDs or DVDs but, with hard disks getting so large, this may not be the best thing.  No problem if you just want to ensure that you have copies of correspondence or maybe your photographs.  But for a thorough backup you really need an extra drive.  This can be a hard disk like the existing one.  If you have a desktop machine these can be fitted reasonably easily by the average handy person.  In fact, an extra hard drive can be the most economical way to back up large amounts of data. See below under " An Additional Hard Drive."  If you have a laptop this cannot be done and you will need a USB drive (or you can fit a standard drive into a Drive Caddy with a USB connection) Currently a USB drive is around 35 upwards, according to size. Most do not require a power socket, the power from the USB being sufficient. When you want to change your PC you can then just attach it to the new one and, when you have cleaned out the old hard disk, the PC can be sold on or given away.

Another alternative is to back things up to space on line.  It helps to have a fast broadband connection but some sites now give as much as 10 Gb of  free space. If you have a Gmail address you have access to over 7 Gb of space which can even be made visible as an extra drive.

Windows Backup.  Everyone says .... be sure to backup everything before you do this......So what does Microsoft do?  It excludes the backup program from Windows XP Home Edition. What is worse, if you type 'backup' in Help it says nothing about how to go about it. So what to do ?
Searching the net leads us to the Microsoft article on the subject which says : "The Backup utility is not included in the default installation of Windows XP Home Edition. The Backup icon is not present on the Start menu in Windows XP Home Edition, nor is Backup listed in Add Remove Programs . This article describes how to install Backup, which is included on the CD-ROM in the Valueadd folder. To use Backup, you have to install it manually: see below.

However, help is at hand with Comodo Free Backup See http://backup.comodo.com/  This is OK for XP, Vista or Windows 7 An alternative free program is GFI. These programs can be scheduled to backup at regular intervals and can either overwrite previous backups or just add what has been changed since the last time.

To Manually Install the Backup Utility in XP
. You need to dig out your original Windows XP disk

1. Double-click the Ntbackup.msi file in the following location on the Windows XP Home Edition CD-ROM to start a wizard that installs Backup:
2. When the wizard is complete, click Finish.
So, having installed it you can backup to another part of the disk or to CD or DVD.

However, I have always found this program very confusing and I would suggest dedicated backup software for this purpose.  Even the backup program included with Windows Vista seems to be a very blunt instrument.  It gives you the opportunity to back up things by "File Type".  So, if you just tick the Pictures box it will search the hard disk for anything that looks like a picture, whether you want them or not.  The categories are Pictures, Music, Videos, Email, Documents, TV, Compressed files and Additional files (this could be anything). However it DOES compress things into Zip folders, which can be viewed in detail. The next time it backs up the same things (according to your schedule) it does not take so long.

What it DOESN'T back up are System Files, Temporary or Recycle bin files or online material such as your emailsl.  

 System Backups : Programs such as Mcafee and Norton >may offer a complete 'system' backup, which is obviously useful if you have a serious problem.  Windows XP and Vista do this automatically every few days, using its Restore facility. (See Start, Help, Restore) Obviously this takes a great deal of space, no matter what technique is used. If you are down to your last 100 Mb of hard disk space you will not be able to do this. Restore points build up over time until a certain percentage of hard disk space is filled, when the oldest restore is automatically deleted. To clear old Restore files (XP and Vista), turn off Restore then turn it back on again  OR use Ccleaner's Tools menu. But it IS possible to reduce the percentage of the hard disk devoted to Restore points by going to Start, Control Panel, System, System Restore.  Click the C drive and then Settings and reduce the percentage shown.

Backing up to a CD, DVD or Blu Ray writers * is a good move. All those old photo files and even word processing can be put on a disk and filed away in case you wish to access them later. To make a compressed backup of your hard disk you can use Norton Ghost or a similar utility. This is a utility for fast and safe system upgrading, backup, and recovery. Bear in mind that the capacity of a CD is only 650Mb, a single layer DVD is 4.5Gb and a dual layer DVD (needs a dual layer DVD writer) will take 9Gb. The new BluRay drives (around 90) and disks will accept up to 50Gb on BD-R DL (Dual Layer disks)

If you wish to transfer main details to another drive or computer Windows XP and Vista have a special program called Fastwiz.exe which enables you to do this. It can even help you transfer settings from a Win 98 machine. But many people are content to copy their My Documents Folder onto disk or a 'pen drive' memory device.

An additional hard drive ?  Adding an extra hard drive to a computer is not difficult these days.  Enormous (500 GB/1TB) external drives that connect to your USB socket are available for around 60 and, if you have the space inside a desktop PC, an internal drive is around 35.  The advantage of an external drive, apart from the simplicity of just attaching it, is that you can take it with you when you move to another PC, having transferred all you data  (photos etc) to it. If you opt for the internal drive you have to open the box, find a space to fit it, attach it with the screws (provided?) and attach the power and data cables.**  If your old drive drive is the PATA (Parallel ATA) type the connections should be clearly seen as a wide flat grey data cable and a milky white four socket power cable. There are always spares and the same cables connect to CD and DVD drives. However, looking on the web, I see that almost every drive on offer these days is a SATA (Serial ATA) type See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA.  Older PCs will NOT have suitable connections for these and it would be necessary to add an additional card to one of the white PCI slots and, additionally, get an adapter for the power plug.

Newer SATA drive connections

All in all it seems hardly worth the hassle and you should either get a PATA drive somewhere or get an external drive.  Note that, if you have an older PC your USB may be the original slower type.  It will work with the external drive but, really, you are getting to the point where a total upgrade is looking more worthwhile.
** When buying a hard disk you may come across something described as a cache, measured in Megabytes.  This is additional memory built into the drive and is intended to make the drive work faster.  The bigger the cache the better. Also you will see speeds in revolutions per minute (RPM). A hard disk that moves at 7200 RPM will (obviously) pick up data faster than one that works at 5400 rpm.

* More about CD and DVD Writers

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