Long post on First Defense and GoBack experiences

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by nexstar, Oct 27, 2004.

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  1. nexstar

    nexstar Registered Member

    Jun 23, 2004
    Southampton, UK
    For those who were interested!

    This is not a direct comparison of FirstDefense (FD) and GoBack (GB) as I bought FD 6-9 months ago and since I stopped using it I have changed the way I have my system set up.

    These changes make GB more usable for me and may also have helped out FD to some extent so I cannot compare on a like-for-like basis. So, these are just ramblings of my various experiences :)

    FirstDefense ISR (FD):

    This will only work if your partition is in NTFS format. This was not an issue for me but may be for others.

    Its own blurb likens it to having a carousel of up to 10 disk images from which you can choose to boot. This is a pretty fair analogy and, on the few occasions when I felt it necessary to revert, it was a quick and pain-free process.

    My 'problem' with FD was that these images were all stored on the main drive (in a protected form) and would quickly eat into available disk space.

    When you first install FD your first 'image' is the existing system. At that point you have no alternative image to boot to and so it would seem that the first priority would be to create a duplicate image. However, to use FD at its most convenient it is a good idea to set up the 'Data-Anchoring' (DA) feature. It took me a while to get my head around what DA was, but you are specifying data that is volatile and which you want kept up-to-date even if you change to a different image. So you select which folders you want to anchor, these do not then get saved with any image you make but they also do not get overwritten when you move to another image. So your documents, for example, will always be current.

    This feature does help to reduce the impact of multiple images as they are all reduced in size by not duplicating the anchored data. However, the drawback to this is that there are no backups of the anchored data and so it is essential to have other backup strategies in place.

    Raxco suggest having a minimum of three images. The original installation image, a copy of that image which you continue to work on and possibly a fresh-install image which you can use for testing purposes etc.

    As far as the practicalities went, I found that it was necessary to have duplicate images for testing and for the working image. Say I wanted to test out a new piece of software. I would switch to the fresh-install image, install the new software and test it out. When I had finished testing, my fresh-install image was no longer a fresh-install image and so I needed to be able to replace it with a copy of another fresh-install image. Hence the need for two such images being available.

    I still wanted to be able to use 'conventional' imaging methods to backup my drive but I soon found that the increased amount of data I had generated was not conducive to actually doing a backup and meant that my backup disk needed to be pretty large too. I also realised that I could achieve a not dis-similar effect by simply imaging various partition setups to external disks and then restoring them as needed, whilst archiving my 'live' data on a regular basis.

    Don't get me wrong, FD did what it was supposed to do and it did it well but I just found I was less inclined to do regular backups and so I started to look for alternative solutions.

    GoBack 4.0 (GB):

    I had, in the past, been a GoBack 3.0 Deluxe user and had like the program until one day when I tried to revert the drive and found that there was no GoBack history to which to revert.

    That, combined with the sometimes constant thrashing of the hard disk while GB tried to catch up made me give up on it at some point.

    I now tend to think that this was partly my fault for not appreciating fully what GB does and how I could help it lessen the negative aspects.

    When I saw that GoBack version 4 had been released I had enough positive thoughts for it to make me go and buy a copy (there is/was no demo available).

    This time I decided to think a bit more carefully before installing it so that it might work better for me. So, I decided that there was data that was relatively easy to re-install if necessary, games especially, which didn't really need to be monitored by GB. These would be best placed on another partition apart from my system partition. I then discovered a small GB limitation that needs to be worked around in that GB monitors any partition which it can 'see' when it is installed. If you have a second drive which you don't want monitored then it has to be physically disconnected when GB is installed or you need to use a partition utility to hide the partition at that time.

    It would be nice if GB allowed you to specify which partitions to monitor but, unless I've missed it somewhere, then it doesn't at the moment.

    I wanted to create backup images of my system partition and save them locally so that they could be restored easily. This is where the second drive came in. The backups are on a drive not being monitored by GB and, being on different hardware, 'should' be more secure.

    After my FD experiences, I decided to try and keep my system partition as small as possible to encourage me to back it up. The original GB had a limit of 4GB on its history file wheras version 4 allows 8GB on a NTFS partition. I wanted to use the maximum available but I also knew that any GB history was lost on restoring an image so there was no point having the 8GB history file on the system partition when it was going to needlessly bloat any backup image I made.

    So, my first drive was split into two partitions. The second partition was about 12GB. This was to take the 8GB history file and also my pagefile.sys which I decided to set at a fixed 1.6GB. This meant that I was also not backing up the swap file (although I found out later that Drive Snapshot doesn't anyway!) and that it wouldn't get fragmented on the drive.

    My second drive was also divided into two partitions. The first one being for large-installation software (my 8GB Myst - Revelation install, for example) and the second one is for the backups to be stored locally. I also do backups to an external usb drive as well.

    The large-installation partition is also used for downloads and I don't generally worry too much about backing it up regularly as it is fairly easy to re-create.

    With this strategy in place and with the appropriate partitions hidden, GB4 was installed!

    The other things which need to be taken into account are how you actually use the system and what effect that has on GB. Suppose you want to duplicate a cd (legitimately!) and you only have one cd re-writer. The application will have to save an image of that cd to your drive before it can burn it to your blank disc. Most burning software will allow you to configure
    where you want any temporary image stored. Make sure that it is not stored on a partition monitored by GB! If you don't and you go on to copy a DVD then you've made a huge dent in your GB history.

    The same applies to large downloads or graphics applications or even your temporary internet files. Most of these things can be configured elsewhere. It can reduce dramatically the monitoring which GB needs to do and extends accordingly the number of days or weeks you have available in your GB history.

    I admit to liking GoBack. I like being able to right-click on a Word document and being able to view previous revisions of that document. I like being able to put it into 'Safe-Try' mode which allows you to carry on as normal from that point but giving you the option of keeping or discarding any changes you have made further down the line and, of course, I like being able to select a time and day to revert the whole drive to when I discover that some nasty piece of software is attempting to take over my system.

    It is also true to say that GB appears to have trounced my second, unmonitored, drive recently for no obvious reason. However, it is on probation at the moment as its benefits outweigh this slight....ok, major....discretion and I am hoping that this was a one-off. I have become a bit paranoid about making backups since though.

    Drive Snapshot:

    Not relevant to the FD/GB discussion but Drive Snaphot is one of the easiest imaging solutions I have used (ok, I haven't tried them all). It is small, fast and allows me to carry on using the system normally.

    It could do with some enhancements in the restoration user interface to aid novices but, I know it is still being actively developed so this may come in time. The author is also very quick to provide support. Well worth downloading the demo to try it out.
  2. JimmyPage

    JimmyPage Guest

    WOW!! Thanks Nexstar for posting your experiences with FD and GB. I found it very helpful. :)
  3. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

    Sep 20, 2003
    Good post Nexstar.

    My experience was a bit difference. I loved GoBack, especially the multiple version of files. My drive is one 120gb partition. The 4gb limitation was rarely a problem, but some things like offline defrags required disabling, and then it was good by history.

    GoBack v.4 was not that much of interest as Symantec's support is terrible. By contrast Raxco's is excellent.

    When I first switched to FDISR I did at first consider using multiple snapshots, but that does get unwieldy when you defrag, image, etc. I have settled on only one snapshot, beside my primary one. Since I keep my system clean, first thing I do before I backup/image is refresh that one snapshot.

    I use this snapshot for things like beta testing, or testing an upgrade that I don't have a good feeling about.

    One thing I do like is that nothing can disturb that other snapshot unless I do. FDISR has already bailed me out once in that I was using a registry cleaner and my machine hung while the cleaner was working. Had to do a cold reboot, and the result wasn't pretty.

    Using one snapshot I have compared the time of doing an image run with and without the extra snapshot. The time to remove and replace the snapshot totally outweighed the extra image time with the 1 extra snapshot.
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