Reliable backup software for data files, exFAT?

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by theappleseeder, Jun 7, 2014.

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  1. theappleseeder

    theappleseeder Registered Member

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    Hi! New to Wilders and to backing up! I'm looking for a reliable backup solution. Mostly to backup data files: videos, docs, etc., but also backup the Windows system too. I know this type of thing has been addressed before, but there's some specific concerns that I haven't quite been able to find answers for. Any help is appreciated.

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    Before looking into backup software, I knew nothing about it. After days of research, this is what I think I know about it and what I need from a program:

    For Windows system backup I know I should use disk imaging, but I am much more concerned with backing up my data. I have an external HDD with data files that I want to back up to another external HDD. Both are formatted exFAT.

    For a large number of data files totaling around 700GB, I read somewhere that it will be more efficient to use disk imaging rather than merely a file/folder backup (just a copy w/ compression). Is this true? But then I want to update that archive/backup anytime I add files (usually videos, so several GBs per day). Even with just doing incrementals, will imaging take a much longer time than merely syncing? It may be worth the lost time of an initial file/folder-level full-disk backup instead of imaging to save time in the future when doing everyday backup syncing and I even know the specific folders I need to backup...

    If I want to go the imaging route, I would do an initial full backup of my data disk and then incrementals at the end of any day I add files. How often should I replace the full backup? What are the benefits of replacing a full as opposed to going long lengths of time just with incrementals?

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    Reading many forums and reviews, I found that:

    1. Acronis TrueImage is bloated, buggy as heck and unreliable based on several testimonies (however, just as many other people swear by it).

    2. EaseUS Todo Backup - a few people have had restore issues and the consensus of the program features and operation isn't overly flattering.

    3. NovaBackup doesn't have too much written about it in forums, but does have some decent "professional" reviews (which may be biased).

    4. AOMEI Backupper, while apparently robust, is too new and unreliable. People have had problems.

    5. Shadow Protect has been touted by some as the best professional software, but it seems a little too complex and made for server management situations. It runs system-draining processes constantly and supposedly always requires reactivation.

    6. Macrium Reflect (Pro) - I really wanted to use this one. This seems to be one of the most popular and reliable programs after researching. I tried the software and upon backup I immediately got "Error Code = 1". Macrium could not read the volume. Finding what little info about this error there is online, it seems to be related to either disk errors (ran chkdsk and found nothing, so scratch that) or conflicting software on your computer. I have no other imaging software except for VirtualCloneDrive, which was not running and its service was stopped. I shut off real-time virus protection, shut off my firewall, closed all other programs, ended all non-essential Windows processes and stopped any services that didn't seem essential to Windows (though I'm over my head here and didn't want to stop anything that could potentially crash Windows, so I only stopped a couple services). None of this helped. Then I shut off Macrium's file system verification and tried backing up again, this time getting "Error Code = 2. Volume bitmap NULL." Reading what little info there is online about this error, it is supposedly related to conflicting software on your computer. I gave up on Macrium.

    7. Paragon Hard Disk Manager 14 (Premium) - This was my 2nd choice I tried after hearing generally good things about Paragon, and the Manager has all the features of Paragon Backup & Recovery plus more. This time I got an error: "Cluster size specified is not allowed." I couldn't find anything about this error anywhere on the Internet! Not in the official Wilders Paragon forum, not in the Paragon Knowledge Base, not through Google. The backup settings dialogue doesn't give any option for anything to do with cluster size. (And I barely have an understanding of what a cluster is...) Reading more about Paragon, it seems that exFAT is not listed as being supported. Also my two externals, while both exFAT, have differing "sectors per cluster" specs.

    Getting errors with both Macrium and Paragon, I'm starting to think that the problem may be the exFAT format. I couldn't find the official word on whether Macrium supports exFAT or not, and the Paragon literature seems to suggest exFAT is not supported (which is strange, considering this is advertised to be a premiere, no-holds-barred hard disk manager with extensive partition tools). I thought exFAT was a widely-used universal format? Do many backup programs not support it? I don't want to reformat my drives, though I suppose I could pull some disk space ju-jitsu and make it happen.

    Paragon did seem to properly start a virtual backup image of my physical drive, but I didn't go through with it. I'm wary of their new virtual imaging features. Paragon's literature says it's made for making images to be used on virtual machines. It can be accessed like a physical drive though, so it may work as a workaround for backing up my physical drives, but it doesn't seem safe using this for what it's not supposed to be used for. I'm already getting an error for the normal backup operation, this just seems like asking for trouble. (The virtual backup also isn't as robust, has fewer options.)

    I'm going to try TeraByte's Image for Windows next. Lots of people have mentioned it here on Wilders. Any other tried and true recommendations? I know Cobian and SyncBack don't do imaging, but has anyone had success with them?

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    Also:

    Backup Corruption - I've read something about if a single bit in an image file corrupts, the whole thing is garbage. Do most of these programs safeguard against this now? Multiple individual files that make up an archive? Stuff like that?

    Proprietary Image File - It seems most of these programs create a proprietary image file. Some of them can only only be accessed by the software while others, from what I gathered, can be accessed from Windows Explorer. I'm wary of proprietary formats in case of software or OS errors (I'd like to be able to recover a backup even if from another machine and without the backup software), but it seems this isn't really avoidable.

    Scheduling - How does scheduling work generally if the backup drive is an unplugged external? Does the program prompt you to connect the drive? Ideally, even if I had the drive connected already, I'd like a program that prompts me for every backup operation, to make sure I won't be needing to use the drive at the time.

    Restore to Dissimilar Hardware - What does this mean exactly? Does this apply to mere data backups? Shouldn't I be able to restore a video file to any drive, as long as I can access it through either the software or Windows Explorer?

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    Sorry for writing a novella, but why does backing up have to be so complicated! Again, I'll appreciate any help you can give, even if you don't answer all my questions! ;)
     
  2. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    I know if you have a problem with Macrium, submit to support saying you are trialing it. I did and had a response in one day.

    Pete
     
  3. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    My personal preference with data partitions is to backup with data backup software rather than imaging software. I like seeing the backup in native format.
     
  4. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    I have been using cobian for several years and feel it's fairly easy to set up and reliable, offering full backups as well as incrementals and scheduling. However last time I checked the author was interested in selling his "baby" and the support forum was full of spam, so while the program works for me, I would consider it abandonware.
     
  5. MrBrian

    MrBrian Registered Member

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    Types of Backup Software : What’s the difference between Disk Imaging, File Based Backup, or Synchronization, and which should I use?

    For file-based backup, I use Areca Backup to store backups in .zip files. Areca Backup can do incremental backups. Or you could use a sync program such as FreeFileSync for file backups.

    You can use FreeFileSync (or another sync program) to sync the contents of one of your external drives to the other.

    Some other backup options are listed here. My backup strategy is this.

    Regarding backup corruption: I sometimes restore an Areca Backup backup to a different folder, and then use FreeFileSync to compare that to the original by file contents.

    Restore to Dissimilar Hardware: that applies to imaging backups but not file-based backups. The reason why it's needed is explained here.
     
  6. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    There are a LOT of backup options and no end to the choices of utilities to make it happen.

    I, personally, prefer to image my main system and file-sync all my user data. The main system is the Operating System and installed applications. The user data is all my documents and other stuff.

    I also keep the two clearly separated. It works well because the OS and applications don't change that often. And I can restore in an instant should I have an install problem or mal-ware issue.

    Small bits and pieces in my user data change daily, and it makes sense to simply update just those files with a file-sync program. No need to image tons and tons of stuff when only a little bit has changed. The initial backup would take time, but the subsequent changes go quickly because the backups consist of adding, deleting, or changing just a few files.

    If for example my HDD were to blow up then I'd just replace it and restore the system image, all my programs and configurations and setups would be back to normal. Then I'd just plug-in my most recent user data as needed.

    I update my main system image aperiodically. It doesn't change that often. Of course, I may have to re-update something or re-install something here or there if it's been a while since the previous backup. But it is a far cry from having to rebuild the whole damned thing from scratch. Just imagine having to rebuild all those settings and installed programs and layouts and stuff. Could take weeks!

    Additionally, by splitting the backup task into two parts - my user data has great portability should I upgrade and change systems.

    To recap:
    1- Backup your main OS, applications, and settings via disk imaging.
    2- FileSync your user data and documents and media files.

    Remember that this is clearly a 2-step process and one can be done independently of the other.

    I've been using these methods for a good number of years and they work great! You just need to find something you can work with and live with.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  7. MrBrian

    MrBrian Registered Member

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    I do the same as what Keetah does, except instead of using a file sync program to back up data files, I use a file-based backup program's incremental backup feature. This allows me to restore a previous version of a file if needed.
     
  8. treehouse786

    treehouse786 Registered Member

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  9. Cruise

    Cruise Registered Member

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    This is all you need to backup your system and your personal (data) files ...and it's free!
     
  10. Robin A.

    Robin A. Registered Member

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    I also use FreeFileSync to backup data to external USB disks. It can manage versions.

    I keep confidential information in encrypted containers. Still using TrueCrypt, made tests with VHD virtual disks encrypted with BitLocker in Windows 7, but found problems.

    However, VHDX disks encrypted with BitLocker and used in Windows 8.1 can be a good alternative.

    I am also trying USB Flash drives encrypted with BitLocker. No problems so far.
     
  11. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    At the bottom of the page referenced by Treehouse, the last BETA version (which is solid as a rock) is available for free. If you register this beta (get a beta license) and decide later that you love the application (I sure do), a HALF PRICE retail license is available to registered BETA users ($9.95).
     
  12. angstrom

    angstrom Registered Member

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    @TheRollbackFrog - Beta licenses are no longer available, they ended with the beta a month ago. I wrote Bvckup (and my apologies for barging in like this).
     
  13. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    My bad on that... then the 1/2 price option is not available.

    The BETA application itself is still available and FREE and will be maintained as far as current features are concerned... kinda like an unlimited trial. The trial release version is indeed limited in its feature set after a certain amount of time.

    Sorry for the misinformation.
     
  14. angstrom

    angstrom Registered Member

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    Not to over-nitpick, but while the last beta is available, it's unsupported. The only updates it will see are for the critical bugs.
     
  15. taotoo

    taotoo Registered Member

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    Since we've got your attention ;-)

    Would love to see versioning accompanied by Windows explorer integration. If it could also 'fake' the versions' file path, so that Windows sees it at its original location, it would be perfect (e.g., so that I could open a versioned folder, open an html file within it, and any relative paths in that file would thus be 'live').
     
  16. legacy

    legacy Registered Member

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    I must say, i have used Easeus Todo backup for a few years now and in a business environment backing up workstations, laptops and servers.
    I have never had an issue with universal restore, except a driver issue and has worked flawless for me.

    Paragon also rocks. I spent a lot of time testing products. So i suppose it is what works for you and what your happy with.

    For file backup, i use allway sync, and great for backing up ftp too and to the cloud.

    http://allwaysync.com/

    I also use Ocster backup pro.

    https://www.ocster.com/ocster-backup-pro-8/en
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014
  17. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    Whatever tools are chosen, it is important to test both backup creation and then recovery. I've noted over the years the most common reason why a backup won't restore is because of faulty memory. 1 single-bit error in creation or recovery is enough to stop the whole operation.

    This is why for super mission-critical situations you'd make two off-line images and then compare them.
     
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