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Win 7 Backup... explanation please.

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a b $ Windows 7
February 12, 2012 4:11:29 PM

I cant believe it so difficult to google this info... but I get LOADS of stuff about how to use Win 7 backup - but precious little on exactly whet the hell its actually doing. If anyone can help - or give me a link I would appreciate it.

I have Win 7, 64 bit Ult... and am current backing up to a NAS. What I would like to know is what it is actually doing (its damn inscrutible).

I have it backup once a week - and have a "system backup" and some other specific directories with my user data. It seems to create a "WindowsImageBackup" foldr which seems to hold the system backup.... thats about 37GB where my system partition has about 43GB of actual data... so I presume it not back up page files etc - so I guess thats a true "image" of my system partition? that correct? but it does not keep multiple backups... just th eone image - does it really take a full fresh copy each week - or is it cunning enough to update? Some weeks the backup does not seem to take long enough to do a full image of 37GB +.

Im more confused on the data backup - that has created a directory called <my PC name> and inside that has created a "Backup Set 2011-03-13 170003" which as you can see - it quite old... but inside has a further directory for each week of the backup. Are backups Diffferential or incrimental? as the size veries dramatically each week, I assume incrimental? but that means I cant delete any old backups :( 

However, I messed around with partitions etc - and so today its now decided to create a new backup set "Backup Set 2012-02-12 170026" and the directory within it for this week is currently 30GB (and growing)... so I guess whatever I did has made windows think it need to start afresh...

So.. I would like to understand the backup phylosophy that Win7 uses.
and... Assuming I happy to lose ability to back any further than this week - could I delete the old backup set (dated 2011-03-13... its a total of 104GB and I dont really need anything but a "current" backup).

Thanks in advance for enlightening me :) 

P.S. Happy if you want to guide me on sticking with windows backup - or go to something like Acronis True image

More about : win backup explanation

a b $ Windows 7
February 12, 2012 8:16:17 PM

Update....

Having decided to do a new backup set - the backup failed... saying

"The backup was not successful. The error is: Windows Backup could not create a zip file. This could be because the drive that Windows is installed on does not have enough space or it could be a temporary error. Make sure you have at least 400 MB of free space and try again. (0x81000015)." - The system drive has 71GB free.

I lost faith... so deleted all backups and started again and it seems to have run through cleanly.

But still interested in understanding how Win7 backup works - per my original questions.

Cheers
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a b $ Windows 7
February 12, 2012 8:25:59 PM

Windows 7 does an incremental backup after the first, hence the weekly incremental files, although you can change the frequency of back ups.

While it is probably a fine tool and certainly better than no backup, and I highly recommend it over nothing, I stick to stuff that is actually battle tested by me when it comes to back ups [/paranoia]. I use either True Image or Ghost 15 to create an image file of my OS drive monthly to a raptor that sits in an anti-static bag until the next back up by its partner raptor from my OS SSD. I also back up data to a NAS daily so that is not an issue. Sure, I may wear a tin foil hat with all that effort but I never have situations that I can't recover from quickly.

Also, for every new build I create a Windows 7 system repair disk so I can rapidly launch my OS from a new drive.
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a b $ Windows 7
February 12, 2012 8:29:03 PM

yoji said:
Update....

Having decided to do a new backup set - the backup failed... saying

"The backup was not successful. The error is: Windows Backup could not create a zip file. This could be because the drive that Windows is installed on does not have enough space or it could be a temporary error. Make sure you have at least 400 MB of free space and try again. (0x81000015)." - The system drive has 71GB free.

I lost faith... so deleted all backups and started again and it seems to have run through cleanly.

But still interested in understanding how Win7 backup works - per my original questions.

Cheers

LOL. Now you see why I only trust stuff that I have actually used many times for recoveries when things went horribly wrong. It doesn't give you much comfort if your backup fails. :D 
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a c 209 $ Windows 7
February 12, 2012 9:36:06 PM

yoji said:
I cant believe it so difficult to google this info... but I get LOADS of stuff about how to use Win 7 backup - but precious little on exactly whet the hell its actually doing.
That's exactly the reason I don't use it. I don't have a clue what it's backing up, how long it's keeping it, and what the heck is in that convoluted protected directory structure it creates on the backup drive.

I have four different backup drives, two onsite and two offsite, that I alternate among on weekly and monthly cycles. After making a backup to the first drive I have no idea whatsoever what Windows backup does when I do the next backup to a different drive - does it do another full backup? Does it back up files whose archive attributes are set even if they were backed up on the previous backup? How many versions back can I go?

I have no idea whatsoever, and while I suppose enough testing might possibly answer some of these questions it's just too much work to go through all the permutations. As a result I use scripts and a file archiving tool for my file-based backups because that way I know exactly what's going on.

I do use the "System Image" feature of Windows backup, though. It creates a similar opaque directory structure to hold the image backup, but I don't really care as long as I can treat it like a black box backup of the entire system drive. I've tested its ability to to a bare-metal restore and it works very nicely.

One disturbing thing I did learn about Windows backup is that it uses NTFS Shadow Copies to keep prior versions. One (IMHO) extremely dangerous result of this is that if you ever connect your backup disk to a Windows XP system you'll loose all the prior versions, since XP's version of NTFS doesn't understand multiple shadow copies and so silently deletes everything except the most recent one. This raised all kinds of red flags for me since when I started with Windows 7 I was using the same backup drives to back up both it and my older XP system.

You have been warned.
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a b $ Windows 7
February 23, 2012 9:05:35 PM

Best answer selected by yoji.
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a b $ Windows 7
February 24, 2012 12:03:20 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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