Back me up on this
August 23, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

What are the best backup solutions for Windows 7 these days? Looking at all types of backups - whole system restores including installed programs, manually/automatically copying data to a second hard drive/flash drive/SD card, and cloud storage.

Now that I'm finally buying a swanky new laptop (the ThinkPad X1 Carbon) and upgrading to Windows 7, I'd like to overhaul my backup habits too. What are the latest and greatest backup/restore technologies? I'd like to hear about as many different options as possible. Caveat: I will not have a CD drive in my new laptop, so flash/USB options are best.

I'm specifically wondering about:

- options for a complete system restore, in case of hard drive failure or a bad virus, preferably that can run via USB (I currently use a bootable CD program called ShadowProtect, which is an IT-professional-level tool that makes a complete image of your hard drive including all installed programs and settings and data files, and can write this image onto any hard drive to restore a system to exactly as it was at the time the backup was made in about 20 minutes - is there something like this that works from a flash drive?)

- options for storing lots of music & photos & documents that I'm not changing/editing (I have about 200 GB worth, and currently I just have a second copy of it sitting on a portable hard drive - is there a better option?)

- options for storing existing files that I edit frequently and new files that I create (I currently work with about 5 GB of files regularly, scattered over 3-4 different folders, and I don't have any automatic way of backing it up - would SugarSync or Dropbox work well here?)

- options for partitioning my hard drive, if at all (I'm currently used to a setup where all programs are on C:\ and all files and documents are on D:\ which makes it easier to do a system restore [just rewrite the C drive] and a data restore [just rewrite the D drive] - is this still a useful method to follow?)
posted by danceswithlight to Technology (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked out Carbonite? It's supposed to be particularly good for backing up large quantities of files.

For stuff you edit frequently, I would definitely recommend either Dropbox if you don't mind paying for more space (you get less than 5GB on a free account) or Google Drive if you want 5GB for free. I use it to back up all of my writing and programming projects as I work on them, and it's never let me down. (Although you should obviously have a local backup as well, just in case.)
posted by anaximander at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2012

For your daily working set of files and for the music, photos, etc my recommendation is CrashPlan. It's a great cloud backup solution; the software works great, the price is reasonable, etc. 200GB will take awhile to back up initially, but it's smart about it. Cloud storage is good because you want something off site, in the horrible event your house burns down.

For complete system restore you want a local backup to a USB 2.5" hard drive. ShadowProtect sounds good; is there something it's not doing for you? Windows' built in backup tool is also pretty good for this purpose. Last I checked, none of the third party Windows backup programs were very good.
posted by Nelson at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: ShadowProtect is a bootable CD, but I won't have a CD drive in my new laptop. Looking for something that will work from a USB stick/drive.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:17 PM on August 23, 2012

Crashplan is great for data backup. As Nelson says, it can do cloud backup, but it can also additionally backup to multiple additional locations, including a USB drive, a network share, another computer running Crashplan, a friends computer running Crashplan somewhere else on the Internet. 200GB over the cloud will, indeed, take a while to back up, though for ~$120, you can send them a seed backup on a HDD.

I don't know about whole system backup, but if you like ShadowProtect, there are ways of turning a bootable ISO into a bootable USB thumb drive.
posted by Good Brain at 12:47 PM on August 23, 2012

Dropbox is not a backup. What happens of you get a virus? Dropbox mirrors the infection. What happens of you accidentally delete or overwrite a file? Dropbox mirrors the error. Etc.

I don't use it myself, but Windows 7 backup is reported to be very good. It can Backup to a USB flash drive and it can do who,e system images (for bare metal restore) if you have the space. Acronis also has its defenders.

For individual files, CrashPlan is probably the best option out there. I'm not sure if it will backup to USB, but it will back up to the cloud or even another offsite computer you control. That's better anyway.

For files that won't change regularly, you could look into the recently announced Amazon Glacier service.

More important than technology is structure and planning. Read this.
posted by gd779 at 9:56 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Crashplan.

(And I will happily be a destination for you!)
posted by dmd at 6:46 PM on August 24, 2012

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