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Automatically delete old backups as space is required for new backups?

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Beginner
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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 not?

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Legend
Posts: 109
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Jimmy, ATI does have automatic cleanup options available to allow you to 'set it and forget it' provided that you understand how these work, which may be different to your experience with other products.

With ATI, automatic cleanup works on 'completed backup version chains' and will only delete older such chains after a new chain has been successfully started by a new Full backup.  The rationale for this approach is to never leave a user without a valid backup image as could happen if it deleted the backup files before creating a new one, then failed to create the new one!

There are two different automatic cleanup methods available, one based on age in days and one based on the number of backup chains to keep.  I have always used the second option and find it the easiest to understand and manage.

Example: Automatic cleanup using 'Store no more than 2 recent version chains'

My backup task creates a Full backup followed by 5 incremental backups to make 1 chain.

Automatic cleanup will only run after 2 chains (2 x Full plus 10 incrementals) have been created followed by a further new Full backup for a 3rd chain, so this is how much space I need to keep available on my backup drives (plus some more to allow for expansion of file sizes).

The above approach has worked fine for me for some years with no need to do any manual cleaning up of backup files etc.

Beginner
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Hi Steve, I am looking to do the same thing but had a question. 

When you say "automatic cleanup works on 'completed backup version chains' and will only delete older such chains after a new chain has been successfully started by a new Full backup"  you mean the old full backup will not delete until the new full backup is complete?

If that's the case, it defeats the purpose for those of us who have large amounts of data and need to create the drive space for new backups.

Example: I have 4.5TB of music files that must be managed on a single drive. My backup drive is 8TB, but that means after one full backup, there is not enough space left for another full backup.

Is there any way to set it up so the old full backup will automatically delete once the new full backup starts or will ATI read that there is not enough space available?

If not, can you recommend a solution so I don't have to continually monitor and delete old backups manually?

Beginner
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PS my version is ATI 2015

Legend
Posts: 109
Comments: 27768

Please see the following description of how automatic cleanup works:

There can be lots of confusion around the topic of automatic cleanup which can be better understood if some basic concepts are known!

First:  automatic cleanup only works on complete(d) versions / version chains.  Do not expect individual elements of version chains to be cleaned up, such as incremental or differential files!

Second: automatic cleanup only runs after a new Full backup for the next version / version chain has been created successfully.  This means that there must be sufficient free space available on the storage drive / location to hold a new Full backup image file!

Third: counting of days does not start until after a new Full backup file has been created when using the option to ‘Delete versions / version chains older than X days.’  It does not start for the active backup version / version chain before that point!

Fourth: the simplest & easiest automatic cleanup option to use & understand is to ‘Store no more than X recent versions / version chains.’  The criteria here means that if you set X = 2, then when the X+1 (3rd) version / version chain is created successfully with a new Full backup file, then the oldest version / version chain will be deleted by automatic cleanup.

Example:

Incremental backup task, using Full plus 5 Incremental backups before next new Full backup.

Task scheduled to run daily with automatic cleanup set to ‘Store no more than 2 version chains.’

Day 1 – Full backup created.

Days 2 – 6 Incremental backups created.

Day 7 – Next new Full backup created. 

Days 8 – 12 Incremental backups created.

Day 13 – Next new Full backup created.  Automatic cleanup deletes files created on days 1 – 6.

If the same task used ‘Delete version chains older than 7 days’, then those 7 days wouldn’t start counting until day 7 for the first set of files (version chain 1) and not until day 13 for the second set etc.  So automatic cleanup wouldn’t delete the oldest chain until day 14 in the above example.

If your source data is 4.5TB in size and comprises of files that are already highly compressed such as music, videos, images etc, then you either will need a larger backup drive or else will need to split the backup into smaller chunks.

Beginner
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Thanks Steve!

I've set up several backups with automatic cleanup based on number of version chains.

Some appear to be working fine, others are not creating any incremental backups at all (even thought the settings are clearly set for incrementals) and instead are creating a new full backup each time. Not sure what is happening in those cases.

Regarding my largest backup (4.5TB of music files), it is sad to hear that there is no easy solution for this. I just bought expensive 8TB drives and was hoping there would be a setting that would offer a solution.

I certainly understand the default behavior of the software being to not leave the customer (even temporarily) without a backup BUT in my opinion, ATI should certainly allow a manual option to delete the previous full backup immediately prior to creating a new one (if the user manually chooses to do so, regardless of any minor risk). That would free up the space for the new full backup.

In the case of users with huge amounts of media files, this would make complete sense. I shouldn't need a 16TB drive to backup 4 or 5TB of music. I don't want or need multiple full backups taking up expensive storage space. 

Because of my media player, I think all the music files have to be on one drive. Can you clarify what my options would be to "split the backup into smaller chunks"? I presume that means I would need to buy yet another drive and backup half the music on one and half on the other. Is there any option that doesn't require me to spend even more money on more storage? 

 

Thanks again! MM

Legend
Posts: 109
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Some appear to be working fine, others are not creating any incremental backups at all (even thought the settings are clearly set for incrementals) and instead are creating a new full backup each time. Not sure what is happening in those cases.

One quick check point regarding incremental backups, if you are using ATI 2020 or later and creating disk / partition backups that use TIBX files, then all incremental backup 'slices' are consolidated within the same file as the initial Full backup for that version chain.

If you are making files / folders backups using TIB files, then incremental backups are contained within separate backup files using _inc_ notation in the file names as with earlier versions.

I certainly understand the default behavior of the software being to not leave the customer (even temporarily) without a backup BUT in my opinion, ATI should certainly allow a manual option to delete the previous full backup immediately prior to creating a new one (if the user manually chooses to do so, regardless of any minor risk). That would free up the space for the new full backup.

There is a manual method for deleting any backup version / version chain by using the Clean up versions tool provided with ATI 2019 and later versions.

See KB 61844: Acronis True Image 2019, 2020 and 2021: How to delete old backups

In the case of users with huge amounts of media files, this would make complete sense. I shouldn't need a 16TB drive to backup 4 or 5TB of music. I don't want or need multiple full backups taking up expensive storage space. 

This is probably a use case where using Acronis backups is not the best solution and you would be better served by looking for a different solution such as using a synchronisation tool that allows for file versioning, where only changed files are added after the initial full sync has been performed.

Note: the synchronisation feature of Acronis only allows for syncing to other PC's or to the Acronis Cloud, so won't work with locally attached storage drives or network storage.

Beginner
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Steve Smith wrote:

I certainly understand the default behavior of the software being to not leave the customer (even temporarily) without a backup BUT in my opinion, ATI should certainly allow a manual option to delete the previous full backup immediately prior to creating a new one (if the user manually chooses to do so, regardless of any minor risk). That would free up the space for the new full backup.

There is a manual method for deleting any backup version / version chain by using the Clean up versions tool provided with ATI 2019 and later versions.

See KB 61844: Acronis True Image 2019, 2020 and 2021: How to delete old backups

>>> I read that article but it is not clear to me whether this is what I am looking for. I would like to know for sure before purchasing an upgrade. This looks like a way to (manually?) delete old backups that are already stored? I am looking for an automatic setting (either in backup or clean up) that can be set to automatically delete the previous full backup BEFORE creating a new one, so I never run out of available storage space and always have a current backup. That way I could set it, walk away and forget about it. Does this option exist in ATI 2019-2021?

In the case of users with huge amounts of media files, this would make complete sense. I shouldn't need a 16TB drive to backup 4 or 5TB of music. I don't want or need multiple full backups taking up expensive storage space. 

This is probably a use case where using Acronis backups is not the best solution and you would be better served by looking for a different solution such as using a synchronisation tool that allows for file versioning, where only changed files are added after the initial full sync has been performed.

Note: the synchronisation feature of Acronis only allows for syncing to other PC's or to the Acronis Cloud, so won't work with locally attached storage drives or network storage.

>>> Yes, I would love to find an easy to use sync tool that would serve all my needs and work with external USB drives. I have tried a couple different programs, but both had minor flaws for my needs. Some will not work right if an external drive gets disconnected and reconnected, others won't work properly if I change folder or file names in the source, etc.

Thanks again for all your help. :)

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To do what you want the synchronization program would have to constantly monitor the data being backed up so that is aware of instance where files or directories are moved or renamed. I am not aware of a synchronization program that will do so. The closest things is using DropBox which deals with shifting data without the need to upload it again. However, given the amount of data involved this be far too expensive. OneDrive could also be an option, but again cost is likely to be prohibitive.

Ian

Legend
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One obvious solution could be to use the integrated Windows RoboCopy tool to mirror all changes between the source and target locations, though I don't think this offers any option for versioning.

One sync tool that I use that does provide versioning is the free SyncFolders program which I use to backup my own Hyper-V and VMware Virtual Machines which I tried using Acronis for but found it not suitable!

Beginner
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IanL-S wrote:

To do what you want the synchronization program would have to constantly monitor the data being backed up so that is aware of instance where files or directories are moved or renamed. I am not aware of a synchronization program that will do so. The closest things is using DropBox which deals with shifting data without the need to upload it again. However, given the amount of data involved this be far too expensive. OneDrive could also be an option, but again cost is likely to be prohibitive.

Ian

Thanks Ian. Yes, some type of real time mirroring or sync program  would be ideal. I use Dropbox at work and I hate it. I don't use OneDrive or any cloud-based service. The cost is not as much the problem as the slow speeds to upload 8TB of files to the cloud. The last time I checked it said it would take 45 days or something like that. A sync tool that mirrored every change to every file from source to destination would be ideal and it doesn't sound like a difficult thing but I havent found one yet.

Beginner
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Steve Smith wrote:

One obvious solution could be to use the integrated Windows RoboCopy tool to mirror all changes between the source and target locations, though I don't think this offers any option for versioning.

One sync tool that I use that does provide versioning is the free SyncFolders program which I use to backup my own Hyper-V and VMware Virtual Machines which I tried using Acronis for but found it not suitable!

 

Thanks Steve. I've heard a lot about RoboCopy but due to my limited tech skills, I tend to look for simpler UI based programs. There seem to be some GUI tools that integrate with RoboCopy. Does RoboCopy automatically mirror in real time any and every added, deleted and changed file and folder (or is it something that has to be run manually)?

I have tried a couple sync programs but am not familiar with SyncFolders, I will check it out. The ones I tried (AOMEI and EASEUS both say they mirror/sync in real time but I found the following issues with one or both:

If an external usb drive gets disconnected for some reason and plugged back in, the sync fails.

Some won’t accurately sync when renaming files/folders at the source. 

Others will not delete files/folders on the target destination drive, even after they are deleted in the source folder/drive.

Do you think SyncFolders will work and not have the issues above?

Does it run in real time or is it more like a backup that is scheduled?

Thanks again!

 

Beginner
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I just read this in the SyncFolder link you sent: "Propagates deletions and detects file renames" so that sounds promising since the two other programs I tried did not do this. 

Beginner
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Just a note. I also did some deeper digging in my own records and I see that a friend set up RoboCopy on my old machine in 2012 but I had several errors and issues with it, so it didnt work then, not sure about now. It was at that time that my friend suggested Acronis and I've been using Acronis ever since. But now I have a LOT more data on a LOT more drives.

Beginner
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Reading a lot about SyncFolders and it sounds great. Looks a little more complicated than I am used to. I can't find any support, forum or even a tutorial, so I'm a little concerned about having nowhere to go for help with settings and such.

Legend
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MM, I do not use the scheduled sync option of SyncFolders but there is one available - you have to click on the gear-cog icon to the left of the ? help icon near the top right corner (just below the version information), and the drop-down menu offers that option to schedule.

In terms of complexity, most of the settings are fairly self-explanatory in that you create a new rule, define the source and target folders to be used, then decide which of the three options to use, i.e. Copy, Backup or Sync two-way.  Typically, I use the Backup option for some rules and the Sync two-way for others depending on what data is involved and whether I am making changes to that data from multiple places / systems.

You can set Filters to Include or Exclude certain files / folders or types, including whether any sub-folders are excluded.

There are options for dealing with various scenarios when comparing files for changed data which can be used.  I tend to use the default of comparing by file time and size mostly, plus decide how to handle any conflicts that might arise.

Versioning again has some options on whether to use this or not and how long to keep any versions of files (in days, months or years).

The final settings on the Advanced tab offer some further settings which I normally leave as default but offers the equivalent of Acronis Pre & Post commands.

You can create as many rules as are needed and each can have their own settings.  Any rule that show a 'tick' selection mark in the left column will be run when either the Scan or Synchronise buttons are clicked.  I run a Scan to check how much is being found and if needed to check what will be synced, then run the Sync when am happy.

I have 8 rules in my list with only 4 that are ticked.  The other rules I tend to only use occasionally 'on demand', i.e when transferring photos from my camera SD card or reversing changes to my VM's should I manage to break one!

The Help for SyncFolders should be good to get you started without the need for a support forum etc.

Beginner
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Steve Smith wrote:

Please see the following description of how automatic cleanup works:

There can be lots of confusion around the topic of automatic cleanup which can be better understood if some basic concepts are known!

First:  automatic cleanup only works on complete(d) versions / version chains.  Do not expect individual elements of version chains to be cleaned up, such as incremental or differential files!

Second: automatic cleanup only runs after a new Full backup for the next version / version chain has been created successfully.  This means that there must be sufficient free space available on the storage drive / location to hold a new Full backup image file!

Third: counting of days does not start until after a new Full backup file has been created when using the option to ‘Delete versions / version chains older than X days.’  It does not start for the active backup version / version chain before that point!

Fourth: the simplest & easiest automatic cleanup option to use & understand is to ‘Store no more than X recent versions / version chains.’  The criteria here means that if you set X = 2, then when the X+1 (3rd) version / version chain is created successfully with a new Full backup file, then the oldest version / version chain will be deleted by automatic cleanup.

Example:

Incremental backup task, using Full plus 5 Incremental backups before next new Full backup.

Task scheduled to run daily with automatic cleanup set to ‘Store no more than 2 version chains.’

Day 1 – Full backup created.

Days 2 – 6 Incremental backups created.

Day 7 – Next new Full backup created. 

Days 8 – 12 Incremental backups created.

Day 13 – Next new Full backup created.  Automatic cleanup deletes files created on days 1 – 6.

If the same task used ‘Delete version chains older than 7 days’, then those 7 days wouldn’t start counting until day 7 for the first set of files (version chain 1) and not until day 13 for the second set etc.  So automatic cleanup wouldn’t delete the oldest chain until day 14 in the above example.

If your source data is 4.5TB in size and comprises of files that are already highly compressed such as music, videos, images etc, then you either will need a larger backup drive or else will need to split the backup into smaller chunks.

Steve,

Thank you for this information.  I will be trying the Full plus 5 Incremental backups along with the Store no more than 2 version chains. This sounds like effective backup settings. 

 

Beginner
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Since someone else already bumped this thread, I thought I would mention that I ended up stumbling onto an obscure Sync program called Synchredible and it's working great so far for my real-time sync needs. It's free nagware but I might upgrade eventually. 

Regarding my backup program, after yet another major crash/glitch, and their decision to go with annual license fees, I finally ditched Acronis (which I have been using since 2011). I'm giving Easeus Todo free version a try and it seems to be working great so far.