Reliability and usage of imaging software (questions)

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by Pete123, Jun 17, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Hello!

    I have recently discovered imaging software and I have some questions I need answered before I really start using it. I will be using the free version of Macrium Reflect. I have already successfully tested that it works on my system.

    So here are the questions:

    1. How reliable are these kind of programs? Can I for example restore an image to revert an installation of a program I wasn't happy with or are they mostly used after a computer crash or virus infection or similar? How do you use yours?

    2. I have reduced the maximum size Windows system restore may use from 50gb to 10gb. Could this cause any problems when using Macrium Reflect? I have read somewhere that you should not disable system restore if you're using an imaging software (or was it the other way around??).

    3. I will store my images on an external harddrive. For convenience I would like to always keep the ext harddrive plugged in to my computer. Is this dangerous in any way?

    Thank you.
     
  2. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Posts:
    3,931
    Location:
    Québec
    1. they can be very reliable, depending on who makes the software.
    in my own experience, i have never seen the Windows 7 own imaging utility or IFW/IFL/IFD fail.
    ever.

    the way you are going to use imaging is gonna depends in most part on the size of the image and the time it takes to create it and restore it.
    if it takes you an hour to restore an image, then you might want to use that only in emergency.
    if it only takes you 3 minutes then imaging can be used more often.
    in my case, with a 3 minutes restore i use imaging as an 'uninstaller'. ;)

    2. you can use imaging with or without your System Restore points.
    again, if it only takes you 3 minutes to restore an image, then you don't need System Restore. :)

    3. if your main OS were to become infected then your plugged in drive could become infected as well.

    i will let others elaborate more.
    but that's it, in a nutshell.
     
  3. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Posts:
    3,042
    Location:
    The Pond - USA
    Hi there!

    I find the best (and usually the simplest) are very reliable and do exactly what they're supposed to do. They may be used for all that you mention above... but remember, it's not just that unhappy program you're getting rid of, it's any change that system has seen since your image (bookmarks/shortcuts, OS updates, personal files, etc.) unless those changes are isolated on storage that's not affected by the imaging/restoration process.

    Windoze Restore and imaging processes usually serve two totally different functions... one, of course, images your storage element, the other is really a snapshot-type program. Normally they should not affect each other in any way. That aside, there may be some imagers who mess around with SR... but they shouldn't have to.

    Only as dangerous as any connected hard drive would be when it comes to virii, malware and rootkits... the less connection, the safer they will be. The aforementioned baddies usually do not affect image files directly.
     
  4. Victek

    Victek Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2007
    Posts:
    5,121
    Location:
    USA
    Imaging is very reliable in my experience, but subject to the same issues as all hardware and software. For instance you have to make sure there are no errors on the external hard drive surface which would cause a failure when trying to read the image data during a restore. I would run Check Disk (chkdsk.exe) at least once with a full surface scan, and then occasionally without the full scan to make sure the drive is error free. There may be an option in Macrium Reflect to "verify" the image data after its written. It takes longer but it's a good idea. You also have to create and test a CD/DVD rescue boot disc (preferably two) and keep it somewhere you will remember when you need it :)

    The size if System Restore is irrelevant. In fact SR is generally irrelevant in my experience. I don't turn it off, but like you I've reduced the allocated space.

    The problem with leaving the drive plugged in all the time is it's vulnerable to power failures like the rest of the system. It's a good idea to use a UPS. I leave my external drive plugged in (with a UPS), but I only turn it on when I'm creating an image so the drive isn't spinning all the time and wearing itself out.
     
  5. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Thank you all for some really good answers.

    For me, it takes about 35-40 min to backup and same to restore so it's not very efficient. But I don't really mind, I'll just do something else in the meantime.

    And yeah, I just noticed Macrium can verify images. That's nice to know.

    Moontan, are you using an imaging program or rollback program? Or are they the same?
     
  6. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Posts:
    3,931
    Location:
    Québec
    i use an imaging program.
    a rollback program (like Rollback Rx or Shadow Defender) undo the changes to your machine from the last time the rollback app was 'engaged'.
     
  7. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    How can you restore an image in 3 minutes when it takes 40 for me? I bet that is extremely convenient.
     
  8. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Posts:
    2,986
    Location:
    Oman
    Would be nice!

    Best regards,

    KOR!
     
  9. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Posts:
    3,931
    Location:
    Québec
    first, i am using Win 7 32 bits, which is about 3 times smaller than the 64 bits version.

    second, i always chose my apps for their small size first.

    third, i store all my data on secondary drives.

    fourth, i use imaging software that are knows to be fast.

    and 3 minutes, that's on a 5 years old computer.
    you could probably get faster times on newer machines.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2012
  10. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Nice! I'm on 64-bit here myself.

    Btw, how is Image for Windows holding up for you?
    I've read alot of good stuff about that here on Wilders. Is it reliable?
     
  11. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2010
    Posts:
    3,931
    Location:
    Québec
    been using it for a few months already.

    it's never failed in over 2-3 hundreds imaging/restore.
    it's one of the fastest as well.
     
  12. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    I might look into that some time in the furutre.

    Thanks for taking time and answering my questions.
     
  13. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Posts:
    853
    For bulletproof backup (from a home user's perspective) you should image to an external drive, and use a rescue disc to create and restore that image. Optionally make 2 copies and store one of them off-site; perhaps at a relative's house, a bank vault, or stuff it in a baggie and bury it in the ground. This will protect against natural disasters, the worst kinds of mal-ware, theft, your own stupidity, hardware failures, and a host of other unforeseen circumstances.

    If you're really really concerned about reliability of your backup, I'd suggest using two separate imaging programs to make two separate images on two separate drives. Depending on how you see things, this But most important of all is to actually test your ability to image and restore. If you don't feel like practicing "live" on your operational system, get a second drive and restore to that and check it out. A backup is totally worthless if you can't access it.

    I also would not leave a drive containing a backup image connected to any computer. It's potentially vulnerable to mal-ware and power surges. Besides, why keep a disk powered and spinning that's only used monthly perhaps? I only connect the backup drive after my recovery environment (rescue disc) has been booted and I'm ready to do backup/restore operations.

    Good practices suggest keeping your USER DATA separate from the OS and APPLICATIONS. This means your main system drive has all the applications and os. And the second drive has all your work output and pictures and music and projects and stuff like that. Both are to be backed up on a schedule you can live with. I tend to like this philosophy because I can recover from a crash or problem quickly without affecting years worth of work. Also you can move all your information to a new system quite quickly without the burden of having to search separate it piecemeal.

    As a side note, it's good practice to keep copies of applications, whether you downloaded them or purchased them or whatever. This will come in handy if and when you need to spot-reinstall or redo an app for any reason. Not to mention getting a new computer. Everything's all at hand and set to go. No fuss'n'fumbling.

    For the past 30+ years I've kept at the ready in some form or other:
    1- OS install disc
    2- Boot disc
    3- Rescue disc with disk imager and file sync program.
    4- Applications, games, utilities, downloads, tools.. all original files.
    5- User data, pictures, music, journal, projects, documents..etc.
    6- Working HDD image, ready to restore at a moments notice.
    7- Offsite(!) backup of special individual files done at a semi-regular interval.

    Everyone will have their own style and requirements. For me I just use an imager, windows explorer, and a file sync program. However you choose to do it is your choice. Go with what works best. The key take away point here is to have 2 copies of anything you don't want to lose!
     
  14. 2YsUR

    2YsUR Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Posts:
    61
    Nice post with great advice:thumb:

    One question. Why do you suggest creating an image from a rescue disk instead of the installed software?
     
  15. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Posts:
    853
    On many systems I've noted faster imaging times. The Linux discs seem to have better performance than the Windows-based drivers and VSS. I also tend to like the comfort of freezing the system just as-is. No room for ambiguity. No doubt. Furthermore, no excess background stuff running.

    Other than the performance issues, I'm not sure if there is a good solid reason to sway the argument one way or another. Perhaps it is an overly paranoid carry-over from the early days of computing when systems weren't powerful enough to do live hot imaging.
     
  16. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Posts:
    853
    Additionally when I put together an offsite backup kit for a home user and they ask for the full Monty all polished and gussied up with theatrics I usually do something like:

    Nice case (Pelican if you have bux delux to spend)
    USB HDD or two and JumpDrive (to use an old term!)
    USB cable
    A/C power adapter if applicable
    Rescue disc, boot disc, o/s disc, Hiren's Boot CD, Memtest86 CD
    Copies of their major apps and settings
    Software of my choice or theirs depending on requirements - whatever we agree on
    List of stuff that should be backed up and where it's at
    A nicely done printout of easy backup/restore procedures to follow
    Logbook or chart - basically date of last backup
    A primer on the philosophy of data backup
    Recommendations for cloud services, NAS, WHS, solutions if applicable
    Recommendations for mobile devices such as smartphones and media players

    Sometimes it all seems overwhelming to the newbie, and the simple version consists of the following:

    A backup program with rescue disc
    A USB powered drive containing your disk image and working data sets
    A keydrive for quick immediate here and now backups of working data sets
    A plastic Rubbermaid box to keep it all together in one spot.

    If and when someone complains it's too much work I tell the men to ****, shower, shave, and wash the car while the backup is going. And I tell the women to make tea and crumpets and do social hour.
     
  17. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Posts:
    853
    I have one other suggestion for home backup operations. It seems a good idea to image the main system drive, or clone it. That is a given. You want all the operational aspects contained in one package, dated, stamped, and verified. Whereas your personal data like pictures, writings, and music and pr0n(!) collection should be done piecemeal, file by file.

    This is where a differential file sync program really really shines! This way, you can easily pick and choose what gets backed up and what needs to be restored. This is perfect if you somehow damage a file you're working with. You can just pick it out of the backup heap and be on your way. Backups can be run in a matter of seconds sometimes. Only new, changed, or deleted files get operated on.

    Furthermore, if any strange single-bit errors happen or a file gets corrupted, well, it's only that one file among perhaps hundreds of thousands. IMHO this is too important to risk to one mega-sized backup image. It's also inconvenient and time consuming.

    Many file sync programs operate on time/date stamps, CRC, filesize, internal record table, or any combination of those; to determine what needs to be backed up or not.. So my recommendation is to get one program, and learn it inside and out. When you need it everything will be in place for you.

    The downside, and it's a biggie fer'sure, if your program is too automated and you connect up a blank device without knowing exactly what you're doing and how the sync program behaves you could be happily erasing your only existing copy and not even know it! I've seen this happen all too many times. In fact I recommend a drag'n'drop operation to start with. Then move into the "filesync" way of doing things.

    So while learning a new backup program you will want to have a tertiary copy someplace. As you gain confidence with the operation of your spank'n'spiffy backup system you can give your girlfriend back the drive you clandestinely cannibalized from her system.. And apologize for repartitioning it!
     
  18. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Very useful information, thanks you. :thumb:


    I think I will settle with the following scheme:

    1. Image my whole system once a week, store on an external harddrive.

    2. Keep all my personal files, images, documents, only on external harddrive.

    3. Upload extra important files to Dropbox for a second backup.


    Do you recommend encrypting the Dropbox files with Truecrypt or something before uploading?
     
  19. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Posts:
    853
    *Be sure you have another copy of the personal stuff on that external drive. Sounds like dropbox will have you covered there. The purpose of a backup is to guard against all types of failures, including hardware and software. Two copies is where the safety comes in. Two files on the same medium does not a backup make, as Yoda would say..

    *If I send anything over the internet to cloud storage I tend to always encrypt it somehow if it's super important. Perhaps a password protected zip or rar file would suffice here? Or like you say, Truecrypt. But it's not likely that someone is going to be scanning through the cloud looking for pictures of your new tool shed your brother's uncle just built. You're lost among masses. But locatable by court order and authorities in an instant should the need arise. Security can become an obsession, especially if you keep thinking about it over and over(!)

    If you're just sending media like pictures and recordings just upload and call it a day..

    Regarding dropbox specifically -- https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Security and Privacy -- https://www.dropbox.com/security -- take it for what it's worth.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
  20. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Well, I'm thinking of uploading a copy of my Keepass database and keyfile, so I would probably sleep better at night knowing they're inside a truecrypt container. Any media files will of course just be uploaded as usual.

    And yeah, I forgot to mention that I will use two different external harddrives for dubble backup. Oh yeah. :p
     
  21. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Posts:
    2,986
    Location:
    Oman
    Yes, encrypt but not with Truecrypt, due to lots of files keeping them in a container. Use CloudFogger which is made for Dropbox to encrypt each individual file and kept in Dropbox as an individual encrypted file. It creates a virtual drive "X" and show your encrypted files in your computer so that you can work on them.

    http://www.cloudfogger.com/en/

    Best regards,

    KOR!
     
  22. Pete123

    Pete123 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Posts:
    21
    Cloudfrogger sounds good if you plan on encryping lots of files (which I don't). As I understand it you can decrypt individual files instead of the entire container containing all files as with Truecrypt, correct?

    I have never heard of this software before, is it well known?
     
  23. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Posts:
    2,986
    Location:
    Oman
    It creates a sub-directory called, "CloudFogger" for you in Dropbox folder. Under that sub-directory, "CloudFogger" you can create tons of sub-directory.

    Anything, you put in the sub-directory, "CloudFogger" in Dropbox, it is automatically encrypted and sent to Dropbox.

    A virtual "X" drive is always mounted with your unencrypted files from the "CloudFogger" sub-directory in Dropbox folder, so you can use them as regular files. So, to add, remove, make changes or simply view them. For TrueCrypt, you have to mount the virtual drive.

    It is a new program and I am using it for about 2 months now and been very happy about it. There are paid programs out there doing the same thing.

    Install it, try it with dummy data and you have nothing to lose.

    Best regards,

    KOR!
     
  24. aladdin

    aladdin Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Posts:
    2,986
    Location:
    Oman
    For example, in the above situation, I have a sub-directory in Dropbox called, "Password/Keepass". Here I keep my Keepass database file. This file is already encrypted and therefore I don't need further encryption.

    Now, I have sub-directory in Dropbox called, "CloudFogger/Password/Keepass". Here I keep my keyfile and I sent it encrypted to Dropbox through CloudFogger.

    The keyfile opens up my encrypted Keepass database. So, if anyone hacks Dropbox they will not be able to open up my encrypted Keepass database as my keyfile is also encrypted.

    Best regards,

    KOR!
     
  25. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Posts:
    8,634
    Location:
    NSW, Australia
    I've been waiting for someone to say that. You don't need double encryption.
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.