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DIY How To - Perform a System Backup

 


What is the purpose of a System Backup?

I like to think of a system backup as an insurance policy.  Insurance against the possibility of the loss of important documents, family pictures, correspondances, and  hard work.  Many times these files would be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace.  Performing a system backup is critical for anyone who has any data, anywhere on their system, that if lost, would create a very unpleasant situation.  Let's be honest, that is just about all of us today.  All it would take is a catastrophic hard-drive failure, and though uncommon, no one wants to be caught without a recent backup when a hard-drive crashes.  In some cases data can be recovered from a hard-drive crash but it is a very costly procedure and there is no guarantee as to how much of the data will be recoverable.  Additionally, data can also be accidentally deleted and there is always the possibility for malicious data destruction.  In any event, a solid backup plan can avert disaster regardless of how the data loss may occur.

Let's take a look at the different types of data backup available to us in windows.

(The following descriptions are directly from Microsoft's website.)

  • Copy backup. A copy backup copies all selected files but does not mark each file as having been backed up (in other words, the archive attribute is not cleared). Copying is useful if you want to back up files between normal and incremental backups because copying does not affect these other backup operations.
  • Daily backup. A daily backup copies all selected files that have been modified the day the daily backup is performed. The backed-up files are not marked as having been backed up (in other words, the archive attribute is not cleared).
  • Differential backup. A differential backup copies files created or changed since the last normal or incremental backup. It does not mark files as having been backed up (in other words, the archive attribute is not cleared). If you are performing a combination of normal and differential backups, restoring files and folders requires that you have the last normal as well as the last differential backup.
  • Incremental backup. An incremental backup backs up only those files created or changed since the last normal or incremental backup. It marks files as having been backed up (in other words, the archive attribute is cleared). If you use a combination of normal and incremental backups, you will need to have the last normal backup set as well as all incremental backup sets in order to restore your data.
  • Normal backup. A normal backup copies all selected files and marks each file as having been backed up (in other words, the archive attribute is cleared). With normal backups, you need only the most recent copy of the backup file or tape to restore all of the files. You usually perform a normal backup the first time you create a backup set.

 

I am only going to focus on the last three options here.  Although there may be some instances where the first two types of backup might be useful I'll leave that for you to experiment with.

Normal Backup - Anytime that a new backup procedure is initiated a 'Normal' backup must first be created before 'Incremental' or 'Differential' backups become possible.  A 'Normal' backup copies all of the selected files and stores a complete copy of them in the destination backup set.  Therefore, to perform a restore from a 'Normal' backup you need nothing more than the most recent 'Normal' backup set to restore every file that has been backed up.

So you may ask, what is the point of the 'Differential' and 'Incremental' backup options.  Well, it comes down to speed and storage space.  A 'Normal' backup can take quite a long time to perform depending on the amount of data that is being backed up as well as use a very large amount of storage space.

Differential Backup - The 'Differential' backup looks at the data that is stored in the last 'Normal' backup and compares it to the state of the data in the current system and then stores only that data that has changed in the interim.  In the typical computer environment, the ratio of the data that changes each day to the data that remains static is somewhere on the order of 1 to 2 percent.  Therefore, the size of the 'Differential' backup is fractionally tiny in comparison to a 'Normal' backup and the time it takes to generate and store a 'Differential' backup is minimal compared to the time it would take to create another 'Normal' backup set.  However, a 'Differential' backup set, in and of itself, is of no value.  To perform a data restore from a 'Differential' backup, both the original 'Normal' backup set as well as the 'Differential' backup set are required.

Incremental Backup - The 'Incremental' backup looks at the data that is stored in the last 'Normal' backup set and also the changes that have been saved in the last 'Incremental' backup set and then compares that information to the current state of the system, storing only that data that has changed in the interim.  This type of backup uses even less storage space and theoretically can be done even more frequently (even hourly).  The biggest drawback to this type of backup is that to perform a data restore using this method you need the original 'Normal' backup set and all of the incremental backup sets as well.

A solid back-up procedure would normally be comprised of a combination of a periodic 'Normal' backup (maybe weekly or monthly) and either daily 'Incremental' or daily 'Differential' backups.  The reason periodic 'Normal' backups need to be performed is because of the fact that over time the 'Differential' backup sets grow larger and larger and take longer and longer to create.  In the case of the 'Incremental' backup, as time passes the number of backup sets continues to increase each time a backup is exectued.  Performing a fresh 'Normal' backup allows this process to start over.


Using Microsoft's NTBackup Utility:

 

  • To start the NTBackup Utility click on Start-> All Programs-> Accessories-> System Tools-> Backup.

 

backup1As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup2As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup3As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup4As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup5As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup6As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup7As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

backup8As you can see Microsoft has included a Wizard in this tool to simply parts of the set-up.  If you prefer to work without the wizard and use the advanced mode you can uncheck this box before pressing 'Next'.

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