Backups, images, and clones, oh my!
February 18, 2014 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I have an ongoing need to make hard disk clones and images/snapshots for home and business use. What's the easiest, most effective path to do this?

I learned backup systems on Macs so have a good working concept of backups in general. On PC's, my second language, it's more problematic for me to establish a stable workflow that lets me clone or image a drive for restoration if needed.

At a minimum, what I think is possible is for me to have a USB flash stick and an external USB drive, boot a PC from the flash stick and backup the internal drive as either a clone to the USB drive or as an image/snapshot.

If I'm doing a clone, the expectation is that the external drive could boot the PC in the short run from USB or get installed into the PC if the internal drive fails and boot up the system.

If I'm doing an image, the expectation is that I can backup a PC's boot drive state at a point in time (a known trusted state), and then restore it to the internal drive if needed, also using a flash drive and an external USB backup drive.

Obviously, I'm not going to clone and put image files on the same backup drive. Images are more useful overall but in some scenarios you simply want to get the machine working again as quickly as possible, so a clone is the way to do that.

At work, I'm wanting to image Windows 7, XP and possibly Ubuntu systems. At home, I need to clone Windows 7 and a dual boot Ubuntu/Windows Starter system.

I've been using Macrium Reflect to do my home backups with varied results. Mostly I get good backups but the boot loader is messed up or Windows gets parity errors. Just had a disaster on the dual boot PC so found myself having to relearn how to get an OS on a flash drive with various tools to repair the GRUB boot loader, then get Windows on a flash drive to repair Windows and so on and so forth. On the Windows 7 machine my Macrium clone doesn't want to boot via USB. I probably can get it to work if I had to install the drive into the PC. I'm hoping to get a little more confidence in my backup system.

I've found a lot of software that can do the above. Fog City, Easytodo, Macrium Reflect, Clonezilla, and then there's tools to repair boot loaders, make flash sticks bootable and so forth. Is there a Holy Grail for this? Perhaps I've had it too easy. I expect I can take a PC drive and image it relatively easily and have 9 nine's faith the restored drive will boot the system. I need a workflow I can learn once and pick it up in 2-3 months and restore the drive without having to monkey around with it, which is why I tend toward the GUI stuff like Reflect.

If I have to pay more than $50 for software, that's a fail, so have to stay on the lower end and not wanting to use Ghost for example. I'm not so concerned about restoring files on a PC from backups as most of that lives on servers. It's the the PC boot state, OS and applications, its set up that is the valuable item I need to get working again.

Thanks for any tips.
posted by diode to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have had very good results both imaging and restoring images with Macrium Reflect.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:28 AM on February 18, 2014

How's free?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:17 PM on February 18, 2014

Actually expanding the question: what about if $ cap is ~$250? I just don't want a $10/month cloud service...
posted by VeroKlug_less at 11:19 AM on February 27, 2014

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