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setting up backup routine on a new computer

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Hi Friends,

I'm not sure if I'm posting in the best place, so please feel free to move this, if necessary.  I'm not specifically sharing any best practices, but I have a question about creating a new backup routine, so it's sort of about best practice.  And it's possible I need to be getting support from the hard drive maker.  But I've run into some obstacles going that route.  So I'm hoping you all can point me in the right direction, to get the kind of help I need.

I need to set up a backup routine for a new laptop (Windows 7 Pro, 64-bit).  For the old laptop (Windows 7 Home, 64-bit), I have a large external hard drive (Western Digital My Book) and I used Acronis True Image Home 2011 or 12.  Since I've completely switched over to the new computer, and the other one is across the room, at the moment, I can't remember the specific terminology for the options I used.  But once a week I would just connect the hard drive to the laptop via USB cable, open Acronis, and click Back Up Now.  I do remember that it was not the type of backup where it was backing up constantly, whenever I made any changes on the computer.  The best I could understand about the type of backup, is that the first backup took a looong, long time.  Then the next backup would just include whatever I've done on the computer since the first backup.  Every now and then, it would take an hour or so to run a backup cycle, but most of the time it was 15 to 30 minutes.

I've upgraded to True Image Home 2017, but the download link expired, so I'm waiting for the new link, and then I can install it.  The part where I'm unsure is how to use the same external hard drive to back up the new computer.  It's easily large enough to hold backups for both computers.  And the old computer is still working, mostly, so I don't necessarily want to just erase the disc and start over.  From what little I understand, I think I should put the backups for the new computer on its own partition.  But looking into the WD documentation, when I follow the link to their KB article about formatting and partitioning the drive, it says the drive already comes pre-formatted, so it doesn't need to be partitioned.

But I don't know how the hardware or software could have figured out a few years ago that I would get another computer, and need a new partition for it.  So that's my question.  Do you know if it's possible to partition the external hard drive, after it already has a lot of backup files, backup image, etc.?  If it's not possible then I probably will have to erase it.  In that case, maybe I should partition it from the start, so that a few years from now, when it's time for the next new computer, I will already have a partition for it.  But I keep thinking, in my simple way, and not understanding much about it, it seems like there ought to be a way to just....put a period, draw a line, throw up a wall at the end of whatever is already there, and start adding new stuff on the other side.

Can you all fill in the gaps of my understanding and probably some misunderstanding too?

If I've left out any important info, please just ask, and I'll provide it.

Oh, and I have another related question.  The reason I "side-graded" from Windows 7 Home to Windows 7 Pro, is because I hated Windows 10, and I'm not willing to follow Microsoft into the cloud, with whatever comes after Win10.  So I'm planning to install some Linux distro alongside Windows.  By the time support for windows 7 ends, I'll be mostly on my own on Linux.  And by the time I need the next new computer, it will run Linux alone.

But, while I have both a LInux system and Window 7 Pro on this computer, won't I need to backup both of them separately?  It doesn't look like Acronis offers a Linux version, does it?  But whatever I end up using for backups for Linux, I guess I should probably set up this external hard drive for both the Windows system and the Linux system.  Right?

Ok then, thanks for your patience with my questions which I wouldn't be surprised if they sound weird to you.  And thanks for your help.

All best,


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That email is from a third party and the links in that email are only good for 30 days... Downloads for all products are always available: https://www.acronis.com/en-us/support/updates/  

You should also be able to log into your account see any products you've registered and download from there.  The key with any downloads is that they will essentially be "trials" until you properly register them by providing your product key or by logging into the app with your Acornis account where it will then automatically register the product if you have a valid key assigned to that login.

There are 2 ways to backup... 1) From the installed application in Windows - this is an online backup or a "snapshot" of the live OS - this makes scheduling automated backups and grooming old backups easier/automated.  These are pretty reliable and what most people probably use - but keep in mind, the OS is live when these are run so there are alwys additional potential areas of concern such as third party apps causing issues (malware or even AV programs), Windows issues (VSS problems), etc.  For most though, not a proboem.

2) Offline backups using your bootable rescue media (flash drive or DVD/CD). These occur completely outside of the OS and from memory - not the running hard drive.  These are my personal favorite for reliability and I take one anytime I know I'm going to do something major to my system (like upgrade to the next version of Windows 10).

Regardless of the backup method you choose, these create a backup image in proprietary True Image Backup (.tib) format and can be stored wherever you like.  Since you have an external drive, create a folder on your external backup called Acronis Backups and then create a new folder for each backup you want Acronis to take (for instance, 1 for a full disk backup and perhaps another if you wanted to also just backup your user profile more often as a second backup task).  

When restoring/recovering a full disk - use your offline rescue media ALWAYS.  If you want to restore just files/folders that contain only DATA (not applications or OS system files), you can navigate your .tib files from Windows and copy/paste from them to get things like music, documents, movies, pictures, etc. 

LINUX is not supported.  technically, you can backup Linux with your offline media if you do a full disk backup - however, it will likely result in a sector by sector backup - meaning the entire disk - even the blank space on it.

If Linux is on it's own drive, I would use a product like Clonezilla for Linux instead.  If both OSes are on one drive, Acronis can backup up the entire disk with it as well, but will likely result in a sector by sector backup - the entire drive - even the unused space. Personally, I would recommend you use different disks for each OS and keep them separate.  You can even use an icy dock or similar product for easy access to hot swap drives with different OSes.  



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Sorry for the long delay in responding.  I've been sick off and on for the last several months.

Ok, so I understand about just making a new folder to back up the new computer.  But if something happened  to corrupt the backup for one computer, wouldn't that affect the backups for the other computers?  I was just thinking that a new partition would make them entirely separate....and safe.

When you said to use the rescue bootable media to recover a drive, that can't restore the whole thing, can it?  Because if you only make it once, I guess it needs to get access to the image in the external drive, doesn't it?

Oh ok, I guess I need to find a different program to back up the Linux system.  Do you know if there's anything comparable to Acronis, but for Linux?  Or is Linux sufficiently different that it doesn't need an image type of backup?

So if partitioning a hard drive isn't necessarily needed for backing up, what are the reasons people want to partition a hard drive?  Can it be done after there's already data on the drive?  Or can it only be done before you put anything on it?

(I've finally downloaded True Image 2017.  So hopefully I can set it up later today.)

Thanks again  :-)

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Brynn, if you are worried about the safety of your backups for your different computers, then the best advice is to store these in multiple different places, not all in the same place, i.e. not all on your WD My Book external drive.

You do not need to partition the WD drive to improve safety, just use separate backup storage folders on the drive, one for each computer to keep them separated from each other, in case you re-use the same backup name on different computers.

The most likely failure with your WD drive would be a disk failure or going bad, hence having more than one backup storage device / location offers better protection.

In terms of backing up your Linux system, then you can do this, as Bobbo already mentioned, using the Acronis 2017 Windows application if you have Linux in a dual-boot scenario on the same computer.  Otherwise, you could use the Acronis bootable Rescue Media to boot the Linux system and do the backup offline from Windows or Linux.

Once you get into a totally Linux environment with no Windows systems, then you should look for a Linux backup solution.  
See webpage: 34 Best Free Linux Backup Software for some of the options that are available.

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Oh, thank you so much for the info, Steve!  Between you and Bobbo, very helpful!

Well, I was feeling good that I make backups at all, haha.  Backing up to more than 1 place.....well, I mean, where does it stop?  Hard drive might fail, better have another hard drive, or go to the cloud?  Gets lost in the cloud, what then?  Where is the best place?

I do actually have 2 external hard drives.  The largest one contains the backups for a couple of small websites that I run (SMF forums).  I suppose it probably has room to also hold a 2nd backup for my computer.  However, I don't think it would work the other way around.  I don't think the hard drive which backs up my computer would be large enough to hold a backup backup of the websites.

Hhmm....not unless I only keep the databases.  The DBs take up much less space than the rest of the server.  So yes, it probably would work to back up the computer backup, on the website backup drive!  And back up the website DBs backup on the computer backup drive.

But still, I'm having all my eggs in 2 very similar baskets.  What is the best backup routine, do you think?  There must be all kinds of possibilities.  I really want to avoid "the cloud".  I guess I wouldn't mind using some online backup, where I upload them somewhere.  Maybe if it was some kind of private network?  Although that would probably require some kind of subscription.  I'm not sure why, but I'm not having much confidence about the cloud, especially MS's One Drive.  But I'm also not thrilled about buying a 3rd external drive.

Oh hey, I just learned about solid state drives, when I got this new computer.  It's a regular hard drive.  But I wonder if it's possible to buy an external solid state drive?  I wouldn't mind getting a 3rd one, if it was solid state, because that would be using a little bit different technology, and I wouldn't have all my backups in the same kind of media configuration.

If such a thing exists, would that be a good way to back up the backups?

Thanks again  :-)


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Brynn, I guess that many of your questions can only be answered by yourself, not by others.  How valuable is your data, how important is it to protect it, how much would it cost you if you lost it all, how much time would be needed to recover from a worse case scenario etc etc?

I also run a fairly big website (for 26 Methodist Churches in our local Circuit) and I tend to rely partially on my hosting company to backup their own servers where the site is hosted, plus I make a regular backup by exporting the MySQL database for the site (based on Joomla! CMS) and saving this on my local PC's.  My host also offers the option of saving the entire site structure into a zip file which I have a copy of, but the majority of the work is held in the MySQL database along with the extra files (documents, images etc).

My own approach is that I run 2 copies of my website which I keep aligned so that if one gets hacked I could always do a quick DNS switch over via the ISP Host control panel and bring the second site fully online.

For my home computers, then I have multiple different backup storage options, including a Synology NAS with a pair of RAID drives, along with several other backup drives, some on the network and others standalone USB drives ported as needed.

I also use some Cloud services, mainly Dropbox to share copies of documents between my desktop, laptop etc and keep these synchronised with minimum effort.  ATIH 2017 now offers the option to use Synchronisation between your computers but I have not used it.

SSD drives are still fairly new and are very expensive when you want larger capacities.  The main benefit of these if in improving boot performance and general OS responsiveness rather than using them for backup storage.  I would dread to consider how much my 2 x 3TB WD Blue drives in my RAID NAS would cost if these had been SSD's!  The one downside to SSD's is that when they go bad they tend to dive off the cliff not go bad slowly like you get with older spinning drives.

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There's no, one solution for everyone.  I'd stick to the 3-2-1 backup strategy for a simple home solution (it's an idustry standard, but ideal for home users too).

at least 3 copies of your data (original + 2 more)

Store on at least 2 different locations (local hard drive, external hard drive, NAS, et)

and at least 1 of those is offsite (the cloud, a friend or relatives house, etc).

You can't plan for every event or issue, but not putting all your eggs in one basket will give you options. Even if you have multiple backups, but they're all located in your house, may not save your data if there's a fire, theft or some other disaster in that location.

As for paritioning - I see it less and less these days.  Running dual boot systems is getting more complicated with UEFI and the ever changing structure of Windows with the new "Windows 10 upgrade" process that happens about once every 6 months to a year.  

I'd say it's easier to have one OS per drive, if you have the space and the funds to do it.  Drives are so cheap now, it saves more time to buy an extra one than to deal with paritioning and worrying about recovery issues as a result of the different paritions, bootloaders and whatever the OS is doing to them when it has access to the drive.  $50 for a 1TB WD blue, or $65 for a 250GB SSD is relatively cheap - how much is your time worth getting dual boot setup, functioning and then having to deal with it again in the event of a restore down the road? 

My home setup is simple.  I use a fast, small SSD for my OS, apps and critical data - 250GB works well for me with lots of room to spare.  The entire SSD is dedicated for this and only the paritions that Windows sets up on it exist.  I back this up on its own and a full backup takes roughly 7-8 minutes. Restore takes about the same time.  Plus it's simple since I know I can backu the entire disk and restore the entire disk without much effort and doing so has no impact on any of my other data that is stored elsewhere.

I have a second drive for data (pics, videos, documents, software repository, etc).  It is a single parition, but organized with folders.  I back it up separately as a disk - as needed (full disk backup is not often for this one).  However, I also backup specific folders more frequently as a file/folder backup, in case I need something more current and/or only need to restore poritions of this large disk (2TB, but only about 750GB in use).  

I backup both drives to another local drive (4TB), to an external usb drive (2TB) and to a NAS (4TB).  I also do some backps to Acronis Cloud - my family pictures and things that are most important to me.  

I also use different backup products (Acronis is my main one, but I believe in diversifcation to the fullest) and basically do the same thing on different days than when Acronis is backing up.  WAAAAAAY overkill for many, but I have the storage and means to do it and I don't worry about losing any data or having much downtime with my OS.  For you, I'd just go with 3-2-1 for peace of mind and consider using dedicated disks for each OS if it would make life easier in the long run.

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Oh wow, thanks for all the discussion!  It really helps to hear how other people handle backups.

I'm not sure what the value of backing up your computer, actually ON your computer would be.  Because if the computer goes down, down goes the backup.  Well at least not an Acronis image type of backup anyway.  I can see making copies of certain files, or maybe libraries, in case the originals become corrupt or damaged or something.  But not the whole computer.

And I've suffered through the nightmare of relying on the website host to keep backups.  The host was backing up all his customers' websites on the same server as the websites.  When the server died, everything was lost, including the backups!  So I say, if the host wants to keep a backup, that's fine.  But I'm not going to depend on it.

Yeah Steve, I never thought of it before, but it is a realistic plan to back up the website on my computer....at least the DBs.  Probably don't have room for the whole server, but the DBs should be fine.  Then that gives me 2 backups for the website's DBs.

Hey!  What about ISPs?  Don't most ISPs offer their customers a small amount of webspace?  Mmm, but it's probably too small.  And it would somehow need to be made private, and not live on the internet.

Steve Smith wrote:
My own approach is that I run 2 copies of my website which I keep aligned so that if one gets hacked I could always do a quick DNS switch over via the ISP Host control panel and bring the second site fully online.

Do you just not have much confidence in your site's security?  Or you host's security?  Or is your site's content is just that important?  Are they both on the same server?  Same domain?

Well, you guys have more technical know-how than I do.  What is NAS?

I'm still not sure if I'll set up a dual boot with Linux on my original Windows system, or if I'll always run Linux from USB drive.  But in either case, it's only a temporary situation.  By the time I need my next new computer, it will run only Linux.  (Hhmm, can Windows run from a USB drive??  If so, I might keep Windows around.  But it won't be dual boot.)  I'm not following MS into the cloud, and  I'm also not upgrading to Windows 10.  I tried it, but couldn't tolerate the update system.  For goodness sakes - lock out the owner of the computer, for hours at a time, without any advance notice.  What kind of idiot thought that would fly?!!  No fully functioning email program.  And it goes on and on....  Now we have apps instead of programs (which for all the world I thought were the same thing -- but now, apps are apparently wannabe programs!)

Bobbo_3C0X1 wrote:
As for paritioning - I see it less and less these days.  Running dual boot systems is getting more complicated with UEFI and the ever changing structure of Windows with the new "Windows 10 upgrade" process that happens about once every 6 months to a year.

Do you mean that partitioning would work better without any dual boot or windows 10?

I keep thinking of partitioning as almost a separate backup media, even though it might be on the same external drive.


Hhmm, now I'm exploring the newly installed ATI 2017, and checking out my drives (which I haven't done in a while).  I see that the drive for my computer backups is approx 90% full!  I never would have thought I was generating that much data!  I don't remember the capacity of my old system, but I remember buying the largest external drive the MS store had at the time, which is 930 gb (I think that's close to a tb, isn't it?) and thinking it was more than I would ever need.  I thought it would be 10 years before it came close to being full - has only been 5 years!

I see when I look at the Properties dialog for the drive, there are several options which I think might give me more space.  But I'm not sure if one would be better than another, or maybe some combination?  Or maybe buy a new drive, or maybe erase this one?  Although it would be nice to keep it.....hhmmm

There's a Disk Cleanup button, but there's no clue what that does.  Searching Windows Help and Support gives no results for "disk cleanup" (big surprise - that Help feature has gotten progressively more worthless over the years).  On another tab is the Defrag option, and I do already have a clue what that does.

Then there's a checkbox for "Compress this drive to save disk space".  Do you (or anyone) know what the difference is between those?  Would any of those damage or compromise the viability of the TIB files?


Thanks again for all your helpful info  :-)


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Brynn, to answer some of the questions you posed above.

A local backup on the computer can be a lifesaver in some situations but should not be the only backup you have.  I do this with my laptop where I have a backup on a spare partition, but where the laptop only have the one physical disk drive.  If a Windows Update goes bad or a virus gets past my security etc, I have an option to restore the laptop back to that restore point from the backup when I am away from home without having to carry a portable drive.  This won't protect against a complete drive failure but is good for a quick fix in a hurry.

Webspace provided by ISP's is normally fairly small, my own ISP decided to do away with giving any space at all, electing to point all its customers to Go Daddy instead.  I declined because I have my own hosting contract with another company who specialise in hosting for businesses and individuals, I have a small business package and have never had any issues with them protecting my sites from any infrastructure issues they may have.

My reason for maintaining two copies of my website are simply a precaution against my users screwing anything up, I have a number of users with limited editor access and some others (more experienced) with higher levels of privilege, but I have the ability to either back out any unwanted changes or completely switch over between the sites should someone make a mess of doing updates.

NAS = Network Attached Storage, essentially a large RAID array with it's own processor capable of running some of its own dedicated applications and serving the storage array to multiple users etc.  I have a Synology NAS with 2 x 3TB WD Blue drives installed that I use to backup all my various computers to. 

Windows will not run from a USB drive unless you use Microsoft's Windows to go but officially this requires a Windows Enterprise license - see webpage How to Create a Windows To Go USB Drive Without the Enterprise Edition which may be of interest in this area.

When considering running Linux, then the best advice is to keep this to a separate drive if possible, not mixing it on a partition alongside your Windows OS, this makes it a lot easier to manage and to switch over to later as needed.


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Aahh well, got distracted again....

But I wanted to say thanks again for all the awesome info both of you shared!