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I hate backing up my data! (But I have to)


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I am so burnt out on figuring out a reliable and automatic back up system that these days I am about ready to throw caution to the wind and just.....not back up anything.

After all, when is the last time you have heard of a hard drive "crashing" on today's modern machines? Was data lost irretrievably?

I am no expert but it appears that today drives are rock solid. As well, XP and 2000 have utilities that help you recover and even warn you in advance if there are pending problems.

But....I backup anyway.... I am just not as "worried" about loosing data as I used to be.

After using tape backup for years (which is a pain in the a**ss) I am now using Drive Image 2002 Click Here. But it has its weaknesses.

1. You can not schedule a Image to occur while you are logged off, say in the middle of the night. Gawd! We can build the Space Shuttle but we can't do something as simple as that!!!

(NAV is just as guilty. No scheduled scans will happen while you are logged off in 2002 or 2003! That's lame)

2. You can not create an Image on an external hard drive such as a USB 2.0 drive which I prefer to use. Once again... give me a break!

3. You have to be Administrator or have Admin rights to Create an Image. (I don't see why this needs to be.)

3. Drive Image 2002 has a bug with XP where once you create the image you can not access the image! At first. You have to actually go to the Image and go to its properties and give yourself rights to that file. The default is only System even when the image was created in a folder with which you have full access, or even Adminstrative access. It is a known bug in XP.

4. That eliminates your being able to overwrite the previous week's Image with the newly created Image. (You can't overwrite something you do not have rights to). What a pain! Hurry up an fix it PowerQwest!

5. On PowerQuest's web site you will fine and "error list". It is helpful, but the amount of errors listed bothers me.

Having said that, it is pretty cool to have an Image of your drive instead of just a Backup of your drive. There is a great difference.

What I am implementing is:

Doing a weekly image. (Unfortunaltely this has to be done manually.)

Then I am using Windows built in Backup software to make a simple backup of my hard drive daily. This is totally automatic and happens (with the computer logged off) each night through Windows Task Scheduler. Each new week overwrites the previous week.

All these backups occur on a 2nd hard drive. I also use an external USB 2 hard drive and archive older Images and backups on there and I keep it at another site.

I am aware of Online Backups but I do not want to pay for it and I do not trust its reliability. There is no imaging.

I like the idea of RAID, continually spanning the data over 3 or more hard drives, but I do not like its complexity and you still have to have some off site backup in case of fire or theft.


Do you backup your data? If you don't, I can't say I blame you because it is a pain. I have heard that most people do not bother.

If you do backup your data, how do you go about it? How often?

What appraoach do small to medium size businesses use?

A good start for a home user is to backup your critical files on a 250 Zip disk(s) or burn them on a CD once in a while. If you do that you will be ahead of most. Also consider a 2nd hard drive and backup your files on that drive. They are so cheap now.

Hope this helps someone.

John R.

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Damn you computer genuises!

Hi Zixar,

I might do that eventually. However, I have heard that there can be configuration probs and is complex for an average user. I am certain I will go RAID when I upgrade my server at work next year.

But can you answere a couple of questions?

What if there is a fire or theft. RAID drives are bye bye.

Can you back up a RAID array on an external media such as another hard drive? If so that seems attractive.

Is is difficult to set up? I have a great article on it but...... it is pretty technical.

I know there are some great speed improvements but aren't todays high end IDE drives almost just as fast without the hassle of the configuration? Such as the 120 GB one from Western Digital with an 8mb cache.

What does your company use. What is mirroring? Is that a RAID term?

[This message was edited by igotout on October 04, 2002 at 19:46.]

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When starting DRive Image for the first time it prompts you to create bootable floppies or bootable CD. Then it creates a 2nd one called Program.

Still learning but I think the idea is when you format or have a disaster you would startup with these disks or CD's. Then you eventually get to the Drive Image program disk which then allows you to install the Image you previously created right on your hard drive. It is a mirrored image down to the last little system file apparently.

So the question is...where is your backup image? It can be on another hard drive, on a network drive on another computer, or it can be on CD's. (A drive Image will not fit on just one CD even though ist uses high compression. So it is "spanned" across several CD's.)

When you restore the image everything is exactly the same as it was when you made the image. Sounds cool.

But there are warnings. I an not so sure this process goes so smoothly if you restore to a dirrerent computer unless it is practically a duplicate of the hardware. You can understand why.

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John: RAID arrays are a lot less complicated than you think. It's a function of the controller rather than the drives. Here's how it works:

There are several levels of RAID arrays:

RAID Level 0 - Disk striping. In this configuration, two or more hard drives are logically combined so that a packet of data is written across all the drives. The advantage is speed--two (disk) heads are faster than one. The downside is that the system is immediately half as reliable, in that of one drive is lost, all the data is lost, because it's split amongst all the drives in the array.

RAID Level 1 - Disk mirroring. In this configuration, data is simply written to all drives in the array at once. Each drive gets the exact same data--a realtime backup. The advantage is increased reliability. If one drive fails, the other kicks in automatically. The downside is that you only get half the capacity in a two drive system.

RAID Levels 2-4 you can skip. None of them really has much advantage over the others.

RAID Level 5 - Error-correcting striping. In this config, three or more drives are linked together (typically 4 or 5 drives.) but the data is split up in the controller and error-correcting data is added before being striped across the disks. If one disk is lost, the others have enough info to re-create the lost data from the error-correction data. This makes the drives in a Level 5 array hot-swappable--you don't even have to take the server down to swap a bad drive. As soon as a new drive is put in the array, the others rebuild the old drive from their data. This is the most reliable, most cost effective per byte of storage configuration. The downside is that RAID controllers that can do Level 5 are more expensive than the typical Level 0-1 controllers found on some of today's motherboards, and that you lose one drive's worth of storage space in total to cover the error corrections. So, if you have 5 120GB drives in a lvl 5 array, the total space available will be 480GB instead of 600GB. Hot-swapping also requires a special drive enclosure.

RAID level 10 (sometimes called 1+0) - striped and mirrored drives. In this config, two pairs of striped drives are mirrored together, mixing levels 0 and 1. This takes four drives, but you get speed and security without the money hit for level 5. Most of the level 1/0 controllers will also do level 10, too. Four 120GB drives will give you 240GB of fast, mirrored space.

The good thing is that all of these configurations appear as a single logical drive to the operating system, so you can do anything to an array that you would do to a normal drive. So, you can use your regular tape backup on a RAID drive just fine. Of course, a fire will wipe out anything, including tape backups, too.

RAID 0 is good for a home gaming machine because of the speed.

RAID 1 is good for a home office PC because of the reliability.

RAID 5 is the best for people who need large amounts of secure, fast storage, and can afford it.

RAID 10 is the next best alternative for smaller servers.

Make more sense?

I'll send you my bill!

(Oh, RAID arrays aren't that difficult to set up. The controller does most of the work. You just have to tell it what kind of array you want, and let it grind away for a while.)

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Raid 10 sounds like what I want. That's cool that it treats it as one drive! That's the part that was confusing me. THis eliminates the need for backup software on site and gives you speed too.

What about an off site backup using a program like Drive Image? As I said earlier, you can not create an Image on an external hard drive but you can transfer the image to one. How would a person Create an Image? and then transfer the Image to his external hard drive for off site? The image can be created on a Partition and then transferred but does RAID allow partitioning?

I suppose it could also be burned on CD's but that's kind of a pain because it has to span across several CD's so you have to be there to insert CD's as required.

Maybe burn the image on a DVD?

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From PowerQuest's web site


RAID Levels Supported by PowerQuest Products:

Only hardware RAID levels 0 (Stripe Sets) and 5 (Stripe Sets with Parity) are supported.

For further information about RAID levels, please see Description of Commonly Used RAID Levels (Windows NT).

and this:

Getting PowerQuest Products to Work with RAID 10

PowerQuest products do not support RAID 10. Consequently, you must break the RAID 10 mirror to create a RAID 0, a RAID level that is supported by PowerQuest products.


So I guess for us Drive Image users we would be limited to RAID 5. What other alternatives are there for backing up a RAID array off site? If you remove one of the hot swappable drives does it contain all the data?

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More from their web site:


7. Will Drive Image do a disk-to-disk copy from a larger drive to a smaller drive?

Drive Image 3.0 can perform a disk-to-disk copy from a larger to a smaller hard drive. Previous versions of the product were not able to do this directly.

Disk-to-disk is designed to copy from one internal hard drive to another internal drive in the same computer.


It appears the solution for me would be to use one of those drives that you can plug into the bay rather than a USB drive because USB is not supported with Drive Image.

But this is getting complicated.

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I use windows backup with an XP system. You can find the setup file for windows backup on your xp setup disk. you can schedule backups for whenever you want them to run. one hint though you have to create and use a user password for your computer even if you are the only user because in order for the scheduling to work it requires the user password.

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Ghost used to be it's own company, now they are a part of Norton's Utilities series.

I do not know if it is compatible with XP or Win2K, but I do know that it works at a DOS level, and does a BIT by BIT copy, and not file by file. Therefor I think it will not be dependant on the OS or format scheme (FAT or NTFS). But I am not for sure.

What I like about it is that you can restore from the DOS level as well. I have NOT had a successful restore from a Windows based backup. You have to reinstall the OS to access the backup files. Then, if the files you are are restoring are in use by the running system, you can't access them. What a pain.

I will try it out at home for you and let you know if it will work with Win2K. I do not have XP to check that. I have an extra HD I will restore to to see if it will work. I have an older copy of Ghost, but Norton has updated versions that I am sure will handle the new OSes.

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The simpler solution is to have a C drive for the OS, and have the RAID array be your main data drive. Use Drive Image to back up the C drive, and a high-capacity DAT drive to back up the array, since it will consist entirely of normal files, i.e., all the registry, boot sector, hidden file crap resides on C.

Remember that DVD-R can only hold 4.7 gigs per disc, and it takes a LONG time to write each disc. If you properly segregate your data and only keep OS files on C, you can probably keep it under 5 gigs and able to fit on a single DVD.

Then again, if you have a DAT drive to back up your RAID array, you might as well just use it to back up your C drive, too. Or, you could use your USB 2 portable to image your C.

This isn't really that complicated, guys!

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John: Go look at backups by a company called Exabyte--they have tape solutions that can handle up to 1.5 terabytes.

Of course, a 1.5 TB Exabyte drive will probably run you five grand or more...

They do have smaller ones, though.

Just a thought,


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I used to think disks didn't die but have had 3 crash in the last 2 years (of course I'm exposed to about 15 computers on a regular basis. The funny thing is the most recent two were both XP machines. The win 98s have done fine.

But the real reason to backup is operator error. I've used backups more to find files I mistakenly deleted than for anything else. Second most often for when the database gets corrupted. That could be user error too - I don't monitor everything they do back there.

Never had a fire or break-in so I do an off-site every week not every day. Use tape for that. ONSTREAM.com has a nice machine that gets 30 gigs on a tape, very fast. They say you can use it like a hard drive - you can find individual files that way but it's not that fast.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Zix - I may have found something that suites what I am looking for. Raid 1 for redundandcy combined with hot swappable drive bays. The idea is to have 3 drives. Two for the Raid 1 array constantly mirroring one another. Each night (or just every few days in my case) it appears that I can replace one of the drives and take it off site.

"If disaster strikes, and you no longer have access to your computer, the "mirror" drive can be used in any PC to access your complete operating system, data, and applications?even without the RAIDcase. You are instantly up and running, with all of your data up to date and intact."

This appears to eliminate the hassle of tape backups and annoying backup software.

What do you think? Click here to view this product:

DupliDisk Raid Case

John R.

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On my Windows XP computers, it's simple. I occasionally write out the entire C:Documents and settings directory to a CD (I don't store music there though.) My MP3's I put on CD as well, mostly beecause I have a portable MP3 player. I also transfer the MP3s to the other XP computer so I can listen to them there. It's easy and inexpensive to burn CDs and that's usually the way to go.

On my linux box, I regularly use Samba to copy over the contents of /home (and /usr when I make changes to it) to a special directory on my WinXP desktop and back that up to CD at the same time I get the Documents and Settings directory.

As far as making a bootable image, I think it's fairly worthless as most companies that sell PCs give you one when you buy the PC. I generally just go by that, and then install my extra programs from CD, and then whatever downloaded stuff and data I have in the Documents and Settings directory on CD. It takes me less than an hour to completely restore everything, so it's not too bad.

I do think stuff like RAID is really overkill for a computer at home. I would do it if I ran a server or something, but not for something that I use to play games and surf the internet.

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Pmosh - this is for a work server for a small business with critical data. (Plus the songs alone are 3 gigs at that site.) CD's as backups for me are too small even at my home. But I agree it is suitable for most people and hold a lot more than a Zip. After all, most people do not even back up at all. I also like the idea of external drives they are so cheap now.

But I also like the idea of off site backups in the worst case scenario of a fire or other disaster. For example, years of scanned family and other photos are at my home as well as DVD videos of family stuff going back 15 years. It is irreplacable. Also dozens of important personal email messages and documents. I have it all backed up and in a vault.

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Server backups are usually best on tape then. I've worked with quite a few different types of backup tapes and systems. In fact, had this been three years ago I could have gotten you two DLT tape libraries (hold either 8 or 10 each) with a drive in each of them for $50.

Anyway, if I were to buy a backup tape drive for my server at home or at a small business, I'd probably go for a DDS3 DAT drive. I believe those hold 12GB a tape, and they're pretty cheap considering. They're also small, which means you can take them home and put them in a safety deposit box if you don't want to spend money on an off site backup vault. Or you can mail them pretty easily.

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Thanks guys. I am really trying to get away from tape backup devices. I really like the simplicity of this removable hard drive / Raid 1 thing. And yes, Zix, ONE large hard drive should do us for a good while.

The downside of this interesting solution, however is that I will need three drives to hold the contents of one. But it seems to be the ultimate in ease and security for us lazy backer uppers. Just pop it out and replace it with another and take one home.

But if I am going all out I suppose I will get three of these:


But I just thought of one other potential problem with this. Suppose a file is discovered missing that had been deleted a while back maybe even months ago? With my method I will have no older backups to go back and check.

Damn...always something. Any suggestions?

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