Sunday, November 15, 2009

How Can You Protect Your PC and Data! Back That Thang Up!

I recently received a question about what to do about backing up a PC. The request also asked about what to do with the infamous “Recovery Drive”! Well, here is my response, hopefully, it will assist you in your Data Recovery endeavors!

The RECOVERY DRIVE is available on most computers, and is there so that if you ever need to recover your computer to factory specifications (or essentially back to the way it was when you bought it), that's where the Operating System, drivers, software and settings will come from! You cannot view the files because they don’t want you mucking around in there! LOL! No really, that is the truth! Some people backup their data to the drive, and it’s not a big deal to put your backups in there, those won't affect the functionality of the Recovery Drive (unless you fill it to total capacity, then yes, you need to remove some of the backups). Now the question is, What the Heck are you backing up, how often and do you REALLY need all these backup iterations? Best practices for home users I don’t think have been established fully, so here is what SOHO (small office, home office) users do:

Daily - Incremental (rotated every 2, 4 or 6 weeks)

Weekly - Full Backup (rotated monthly, quarterly or every 6 months)

Quarterly - Full Backup (rotated yearly)

Yearly - Full Backup (rotated every 4, 5 6, or 7 years)

Now the "Rotation" essentially means, that all backup files reaching the chosen rotation age will be deleted/destroyed. This allows for reclamation of backup drive space, and for file security and data continuity. Essentially the idea is, why continue to hold on to daily backups that are 3 months old, when you have a full copy of that same data copied on Full backups from the past 12 weekly backups too!

Now the rotation period is usually selected by looking at how often you think you will need to recover OLD data that may be deleted (you would want longer rotation periods if you have a bad habit of deleting items, and needing them back 3 or 4 weeks later). You also have to look at how much drive space is needed for the backups, and how large your backup storage drive/drives are. If you are backing up around 10GB of data, and your backup drive is only 100GB, then you really can’t hold 6 weeks of Daily AND 6 months of Weeklys, you would run out of space! So to determine your rotation period, first let’s look at WHAT you are backing up.

I assume you already know the difference between an Incremental and a Full Backup, however, the question is, what TYPE of files should you backup fully or incrementally? For home users, the chances of losing your full system drive, and not being able to recover from that loss, is greatly reduced by the fact that most homes only have 1 PC and/or 1 laptop. Plus, for the past 3 to 6 years, most of those computers were loaded with recovery drives that allow quick and full recovery of the operating system, software, drivers and settings. Therefore, the need for backing up the full system configuration becomes more of a luxury than a total necessity. Now don't get me wrong, recovery drives are not fail-proof, but there is no need to backup your entire set of system files EVERY day or even weekly, when you have that data on the recovery partition.

Therefore, I think (depending on the size of backup storage available) that bi-weekly or monthly Full System Backups should be enough. At least with that Full System Backup, you can restore the computer to a state where all of your software, settings, files, etc are just the way you had them at that backup, then you can use subsequent dailys or weeklys to bring you closer to being up-to-date. Now some would say, that by having that recovery partition, you would never have to do a Full System Backup (thus the reason Vista Basic and Vista Home did not provide a full system backup option), however, if you are like anybody else in the real world, you don’t want to have to do a factory reset, then have to spend 3 or 4 hours reloading software that you installed, printer & peripheral drivers, etc!

With that said, the other TYPE of files (called Personal Files) that you would be backing up more often would be things such as music, photos, documents, PDF files, financial data (quicken files), etc. So if you are backing up Personal Files only with your Dailys and most weeklys, then that should greatly reduce the amount of backup space necessary to hold your data.

The following questions need to be considered and analyzed in order to determine an appropriate backup schedule:

1. how large is your C: drive on your PC (and any other drives you may be backing up)

2. how much free space is remaining currently

3. how large is your recovery drive (because you may want to back that up, if your backup software is capable)

4. how much space is your Personal Data taking up currently (on your C: drive, right click the Users folder (that’s in Vista or Win7, in XP it is called Documents and Settings) and click properties for a data usage count; OR within your User folder, check the properties of each folder that you need to backup, such as Documents, Desktop, Favorites, Pictures, Video and Music, then add them all together)

6. How large is your backup drive, recovery drive, external drive, SkyDrive (Microsoft Lives’ free online backup space), Norton 360 Online Backup, Dell DataSafe Online, or other online backup space

If you don’t already have one, an essential item you should consider is an external hard drive. Either a Western Digital (My Book or My Passport), or Samsung (Free Agent or Free Agent GO) external would do the trick. The Passport and Free Agent GO models have a smaller max capacity (currently 500GB or 650GB) but are FULLY portable, because they only require the one USB connection to a laptop or PC for both data AND power. Whereas the My Book and Free Agent models can have capacities up-to 2TB, and cost a little less than their little brothers too!

Also here are some good articles that you may want to check out as well:,2817,1847364,00.asp,2817,2339037,00.asp


Posted via email from Willie Stylez's posterous