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[Suggested New Feature] Time Machine-style backups

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Beginner
Posts: 4
Comments: 6

I would like Acronis True Image to back up my Windows files in the same way as Mac OS backs up its files with Time Machine. The benefit of this is that there would no longer be any need to worry about "full" / "incremental" / "differential" backups or full backup disks; if the disk fills up, it can remove the oldest backups until there's enough space to continue.

The way that Time Machine does this is by using "hard links" (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_link), which means that a single file can exist in many places and it keeps track of the number of hard links to it. Deleting a hard link does not actually delete the file unless the file has no remaining hard links.

Time Machine works by starting with a full backup of the disk. Every subsequent backup only contains changed files; unchanged files are hard-linked to the copy in the previous backup. If you delete an entire snapshot from a backup, then any file versions not unique to this backup get their hard link count decremented by one, but they still exist for the other backups which reference them.

Not all filesystems support hard links (specifically, network filesystems often don't), so Mac OS creates a filesystem inside a container that it puts onto the network drive.

The benefits of this kind of backup are:

- No more than one "full backup", ever - all subsequent backups are incremental; this means less time and less wear on the backup drive
- You can delete any backup snapshot (earliest, latest, or anywhere in-between) without corrupting other snapshots
- No need to limit the size or age of a backup; it can continue growing until it's out of disk space, at which time the oldest backup can be deleted, repeat until there's enough free space
- A hard drive can be restored from any snapshot of a backup

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Forum Member
Posts: 8
Comments: 62

#1

There was (or still is?) something like Nonstop Backup in Acronis. Surely bad enough for me to not use it any longer. This tool was assiduously backing up everything that changed - until it got stuck, ran out of space and simply appeared paralyzed. Trying to get rid of it was a very royal pain in the a**. Even assuming it be running smoothly now, I would never ever rely on this as a system backup. I use Acronis (and other software) for backing up whole drives or partitions. And I use File History in Windows to keep track of every change on my data partitions. Set to it high(est) frequency backups for changes (with me every 10 minutes) and give it a fast drive for exclusive usage (with me running into an SSD). Works perfect, is reliable, keeps every little change and is an absolute no-brainer.

Beginner
Posts: 4
Comments: 6

#2

My biggest problem with Acronis is that if I use incremental backups and then my hard drive fills up, I have to delete backups by hand to fix it. If I delete incrementals, then I've corrupted the backup chain past that point. If I delete the full backup, then I have no backup at all until I finish a new one. The only way to avoid this is to arbitrarily set Acronis to limit my backup size or age so that it automatically deletes backup chains, but even then, I think it deletes all my old backups before it creates a new one, and I don't like this at all. And I still might end up filling up the drive with other data before Acronis has reached its backup size limit, and then I'm in the same situation. (Or I could tell Acronis to make a new full backup every now and then, but why would I want it to spend a long time backing up data that already exists in the backup?)

I agree that Acronis Nonstop Backup was a pain, because it had to frequently do "consolidations" of the backup data, and that ended up corrupting my backups a few times. This isn't what I want. Apple's solution doesn't need to rewrite backup data; if the deletion of an old backup gets interrupted, then it can be resumed without damaging other backups.

I don't use File History because I don't want a separate drive attached to this computer and powered on at all times - that makes it susceptible to power surges, hard drive failure, and theft. Also, I believe File History can't be used to restore a drive. Let me attach an external drive when I want, let me press the "Backup" button, let me see when Acronis is finished backing up.

tl;dr: Apple's solution is simple and resilient. I want Acronis to offer something similar for Windows.

Forum Member
Posts: 8
Comments: 62

#3

Brian, you don't need to attach a separate (external) drive to run File History. I use an (internal) SSD that is exclusively available to File History only. And yes, of course you cannot used File History to restore a (system) drive. But that is not the point. You normally backup once a day / week or whatever. That is definitely not enough when it comes to "real" data (Word, Excel, Mail etc.) where you might be working on a document, save it a few times just to find out, that all your saving just saved bull crap because you did something wrong. File History (like TimeMachine) catches all your changes (with me every 10 minutes) and lets you restore whatever version you want. And as it is embedded in Windows, it shows you each and every version of your Excel or Word or whatever file like in the application itself. No more guessing at what time the "good" data still existed, you see it right there while flipping through the pages. There is no way that Acronis (should NSB ever rise from hell again) could achieve that! And also, as long as you have free ports or drive slots in your PC, just get a decent bigger drive. I mean 50 bucks for a 1 TB drive .. and be a happy man again!

Beginner
Posts: 4
Comments: 6

#4

If File History is so great, then why are you here on the Acronis forum? :)

All I'm saying is that, for any situation where you'd back up with Acronis True Image, the idea of full/incremental/differential backups is old school outdated. There are better ways for backup software to store your files that don't require you to make choices and set limits.

(Maybe you'd say, "I like having choices! I enjoy spending hours figuring out what each of the backup schemes does, planning out how much drive space I can allocate to backups, scheduling how often I'm going to make backups, and then configuring ATI to tell it when to make full backups, when to make incrementals, and when to delete backup chains!" If this is you, then I think you're in the minority.)

Forum Member
Posts: 8
Comments: 62

#5

Brian, you do not seem to really get what I'm saying. I use Acronis to backup DRIVES once a day, including my data drive. My DATA however will have changed a dozen times during the day, so I would only backup the very last version, which as we all know may not be the best one. Or that very data did not even make it to see the end of the day. That's where File History comes in, which to a certain level resembles TimeMachine. The latter will also backup the system however. TimeMachine continuously backups every hour but will then delete hourly backups older than one day. Besides of that, it does backups on a daily and weekly base. With File History observing my DATA I fill the gap between daily full drive backups. And of course File History only saves what had been changed.

Forum Member
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Comments: 30

#6

Hello Brian,

Thank you very much for your posting!
I transfered your feedback to our developement team.

Best regards,

Beginner
Posts: 0
Comments: 5

#7

Is there yet, five years later, a simple click-and-run way to achieve what Mac TM does, or any $30 dashcam; i.e. overwrite old backups, automatically, as space runs out?

Thanks for any pointers to how to do this, or what software *can* do this if Acronis can't.

Forum Star
Posts: 169
Comments: 3624

#8

There are various cleanup rules that can be adopted in recent versions of ATI, but not (if I recall correctly) one of the type you are interested in.

ATI 2021 is currently in beta testing so may I suggest you register for the beta program and see if there is a cleanup rule that will do what you wish.

Ian

Beginner
Posts: 0
Comments: 5

#9

Thanks Ian, for the suggestion.

But a five year wait and hope hanging on a future beta... I hope you can see why I have lost faith with Acronis.

I am trialing Genie Timeline and so far it does precisely what I want; indeed their top two bullets on their blurb seem to highlight simplicity in setup, and in use:

"3 step configuration"
"Automatic purge to save space"

So far it has just worked.

I am sure Acronis is highly technical and includes features others don't, but in my hunt to emulate the simplicity (and hence very likely, reliability of tech' and human usage) of Time Machine, Genie seems to get quite close to the Mac OS product.

Beginner
Posts: 1
Comments: 2

#10

Greetings everyone - small business owner, and recently switched from Mac back to PC for all of my business / workstation needs.  My quest to find a backup solution similar to Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner has brought me here. 

In my search, every review has brought me here to Acronis True Image.  However, it seems to lack the one very simple task that I've been enjoying on Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner - that is, the ability to automatically delete old backups as additional space is needed for new backups.  I want a set it and forget it option, and not have to continue monitoring and manually deleting my backups.

Does Acronis have this feature yet?  If not, then why?  

Forum Moderator
Posts: 147
Comments: 5449

#11

Hello Jimmy,

currently, Acronis True Image for Mac offers the automatic cleanup by pre-set number of versions https://www.acronis.com/en-us/support/documentation/ATIMAC2020/#37000.html

Acronis True Image for Windows supports cleanup by age and by number of versions https://www.acronis.com/en-us/support/documentation/ATI2020/#16143.html

Keeping the size of the backup no more than [defined size] was supported in the older builds, but not in the new archive format (here you can find more info about the new archive format https://kb.acronis.com/content/63498)