Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums


Solutions for backing up and restoring system drive

  1. #1


    Posts : 4
    windows 8.1

    Solutions for backing up and restoring system drive


    Hi Guys!

    In few days I will have my new computer with Windows 8.1, and I wonder what solution would be the best for easy backing up and restoring of system drive in the new machine. For last 5 years I've been using Acronis to creat an image of entire partition c: , with windows and all my crucial software, and if only my system felt slow or there was too many stuff installed, I simply restored it from this image (of course appdata was moved to d:, so that no settings of my programs were replaced). From time to time I was making new image, so that it was always ready to work 'out of the box' with all the updates etc..

    I wonder if there is maybe some kind of different solution to accomplish the same as I don't want to move appdata to d: any more because I'll have ssd drive for my system, and I would prefer to have it all in one partition, so my solution will no longer be effective. Is there any native Windows 8 solution for system backup and is it any good? Or maybe I could simply backup "windows" and "program files" folders, and restore just them. Would it be as effective as restoring entire partition?

    Thanks!

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2


    Posts : 454
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center


    AppData should be included in system images, as the programs that use it may not be able to recreate all the files they stored there without being reinstalled, which defeats the purpose of imaging your system drive. You can't just back up Windows and Program Files, either. Besides the hidden AppData, there is also the hidden ProgramData folder, the registry, etc. Then there is the hidden Windows System Partition. So imaging is the right thing to do for your System drive. Acronis should be fine for that. Lots of people here recommend Macrium. I use the Terabyte products myself.

    If you do file-based backups of your data, you should selectively include the data you create that programs store in these hidden folders without telling you. More on that here:

    User Profiles - Relocate to another Partition or Disk

    Hmmm. Just because I posted in that thread doesn't mean I endorse its subject. If you want to save space on your System drive, you should move your data folders, not the Users folder. If you move Users to another drive, you still need to include it in System images, and you need two drives to restore to. Plus, if you're trying to reduce system image sizes, you still need to move your data folders to yet another partition to keep them out of system images. Also, if your Users drive were to die, you wouldn't be able to boot into Windows at all except for Safe Mode, which is not usable for getting any work done. You'd have to replace the secondary drive and restore the system image then and there, and you wouldn't be able to use, say, file-based backups of your data on external drives until you did. Not being able to boot into Windows also means you won't be able to use that system to troubleshoot the problematic secondary drive. That's the nightmare scenario I encountered in Vista in 2007, and it ended my practice of this, which I had been doing since NT4 circa 1996. I recently verified the same thing happens in Windows 7, and I would assume Windows 8 is no better about it. Microsoft continues to maintain KB articles that recommend against doing it for other reasons.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3


    Posts : 4
    windows 8.1


    Well, I've been doing it the way I described for years, and it worked perfectly. On C: I keep only such stuff that can be deleted, so program files and windows itself. All the user folders (like music, or documents) are moved to d:, and appdata is also moved to d:.
    As for ProgramData - I've left it on c: as it doesn't seem that important (no important user data is stored there), so it can be replaced on restore.

    If I would backup appdata within the image than with every restore I would lose all my data that was created between backup and restore, like emails, chrome bookmarks, movies, pictures etc.. I'm fully aware that there might be some problems after restore, but after 5 years of working this way I can say - usually there are none. The only application that gave me some problems was Chrome, but only if I updated it before restore, so this problem could be easily fixed by waiting with updating chrome till after restore and than creating new image with new version of chrome included. But besides chrome - everything worked smooth!
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4


    Posts : 454
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center


    As I described in some detail in the message I linked to, you need to selectively back up the relevant parts of AppData and ProgramData in your more regular backups of your data. Then you can add it back after you reinstall the OS or restore an image, images typically being created at less frequent intervals than data backups. There is some danger that the newer data will be invalid for the programs stored in the older image, which is why I try to keep it very selective and only include the data that is obviously "mine" and not data that a program creates during its operation that is for its own internal use.

    When you exclude AppData from system images and reuse your AppData folder stored elsewhere, you maximize the risk of mixing newer AppData of unknown purpose with older versions of the programs that created it. My thinking is that restoring a system image ought to bring the OS and installed software back to exactly where they were at a given point in time, and including AppData, ProgramData, the registry, etc is necessary to accomplish this.

    If you do want to move AppData, I would definitely recommend creating a second administrator account whose AppData is left in Users which is left on the System drive. Then if the secondary drive holding your AppData fails, you will be able to boot into the admin account and troubleshoot. As I recall, Microsoft surreptitiously disabled the hidden admin account that was formerly accessible pre-Vista with double-Ctrl+Alt+Del, which is what kept me out of the Vista system when my profile drive died; see, I wasn't even moving the entire Users folder, just my own Profile folder, and I was shocked double-Ctrl+Alt+Del didn't work when I needed it. Even though I stopped moving my profile folder after that experience, since then, I've always created a secondary admin account in case something goes wrong with the main one. I mainly use it when the Explorer icons get corrupted so I can delete my IconCache.db without having to kill Explorer.exe, but I like having it as a fail-safe above the system imaging level.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5


    Posts : 4
    windows 8.1


    Well, as I said - my solution worked for me very very well for years, and the only reason that I have to stop doing it this way is because I want everything on SSD drive. You're right that there is a risk that after restore the appdata will be out of "sync" with program versions, but it really never was a problem for me (just with Chrome), and the solution was either to wait with update until restore, or just do the same update just after restore to make it "synced" again. To be honest I can't imagine doing it any other way - before I figured out this method I had so many problems with my data on c:, basically each time I did a restore I was forgetting about backing up some important stuff, and it just was a disaster every time. My method is flawless in terms of protecting your data, which is more important than system integrity, because even if some programs will get out of sync with appdata you can always reinstall them, but if you will lose your data - you will not get it back.

    Anyway, I have an idea how to solve this issue - I will leave appdata on c:, but I will move some of the folders from inside appdata to another disk, and replace those folders with symlinks. This is not perfect, but it should work!

    Thanks!
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. #6


    Posts : 454
    Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center


    I still like the idea of a system image being a standalone, coherent snapshot of a point in time, but if the system drive dies, in terms of recovering up-to-date AppData, my way is good only as far back as my last image or, more likely, file-based data backup. Your way, with AppData or portions thereof offloaded to a secondary drive, you're covered up to the current moment. However, if both drives are equally likely to fail, then it seems like a wash, and you still need to have a recent backup of the relevant parts of your AppData.

    I guess I see the main advantage in moving AppData as saving space on the system drive, and not so much in safeguarding data. Selectively moving potentially huge folders out of it like those for "Local/Plex Media Server" and "Roaming/XBMC" and backing them up separately could also help reduce system image sizes. Restoring a system image or reinstalling Windows are very unusual things for me to do, so I wouldn't reap any convenience rewards out of moving AppData, and when I do have to do those things, I feel better about selectively restoring stuff that is clearly "my data" that was more or less inappropriately stored there without my knowledge.

    FWIW, if you're going to the trouble to identify folders to be moved and replaced by symlinks, I guess for the purpose of "protecting your data" as you said, you could leave them where they are and identify them in a program like SyncBackSE to include in your personal data backups, which again, you still need to be making on a regular basis.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. #7


    Posts : 4
    windows 8.1


    Quote Originally Posted by crawfish View Post
    FWIW, if you're going to the trouble to identify folders to be moved and replaced by symlinks, I guess for the purpose of "protecting your data" as you said, you could leave them where they are and identify them in a program like SyncBackSE to include in your personal data backups, which again, you still need to be making on a regular basis.
    Thanks, I will try that!
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  8. #8


    Posts : 11
    windows 8.1


    Hi saoloowaty.

    Quote Originally Posted by soloowaty View Post
    In few days I will have my new computer with Windows 8.1, and I wonder what solution would be the best for easy backing up and restoring of system drive in the new machine.
    Regarding windows 8.1 build-in system restore/backup.

    A method for backup/restore of the windows system and swap partitions. My notes are taken from this web page:

    Using Windows 8?s ?hidden? backup to clone and recover your whole PC | Ars Technica

    But modified to show how it worked on my version of windows-8.1-64-eng. My screens, labels and buttons was not identical to what was described on the web page. If you want to use my notes, then look at the web page too, in case your version of windows is not identical to mine.

    ==To create a backup:
    1) Start 'File History'
    2) Click 'System Image Backup'
    3) Select where you want to backup and click 'next' and 'start backup'.

    Note: Before you click start backup, you might want to rename your previous backup, as this utility seems to overwrite the previous backup.

    ==To restore a backup:
    1) From Metro go to 'PC Settings -> Update and recovery -> Advanced Startup'
    and click 'Restart Now'.
    2) Select 'Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> System image recovery'
    3) Follow the rest of the instructions (boot, login, etc) and wait for the
    restore to complete.

    Note: I noticed that the windows update history was a little modified. The default screen didn't show updates for the last days, but clicking the windows update history did show the. Who knows what else doesn't work as expected - it's Microsoft.

    With regards to your appdata, I suggest you backup/restore the directory manually. Maybe you should identify the exact data in appdata that you need to backup/restore, and only backup that stuff.

    Best Regards
    tiresmall
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  9. #9


    I've used Acronis True Image Home for many years and it's served me well. I use it on all of my PC's, running various versions of Windows from 7-8.1. I make an image of my system drive (120GB SSD) and all of my data is on a home server.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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