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  1. #1
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    How to safely test file and image backups




    TOP STORY

    How to safely test file and image backups


    By Fred Langa

    Imagine this: You've lost important files, but when you go to restore them, you discover that your backups are completely unusable and your next words are unprintable. Fortunately, this nightmare is completely avoidable; here's how to ensure that your backup files are valid, complete, and usable.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-safely-test-file-and-image-backups (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Good Topic!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathleen Atkins View Post
    How to safely test file and image backups

    Imagine this: You've lost important files, but when you go to restore them, you discover that your backups are completely unusable and your next words are unprintable. Fortunately, this nightmare is completely avoidable; here's how to ensure that your backup files are valid, complete, and usable. The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-safely-test-file-and-image-backups (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).
    The number of people who actually perform System Image backups and never test them must be incredibly high. In fact, I've never met one.

    I perform such a backup every week and every three months I restore the last backup to an alternate system drive. I then check that the PC works normally and my files, emails, etc are present.

    Of course, if you have a PC or laptop that does not allow changing the system drive, then this method cannot be used. The hard drive in my first Dell laptop (20 years ago?) was very easy to remove. In fact, I ordered a spare hard drive with the laptop, but I believe the latest Dell laptops bury their hard drive under the keyboard.

    I recommend anyone thinking of buying a laptop to consider the ability for the user to be able to swap the system drive for a spare as the number one requirement.

    My PC has two SSDs - one is currently being used as the system drive, the other is the alternate system drive that gets used every three months. I haven't lost any data, ever. The oldest email on my PC is titled "Welcome to Compuserve", dated October 1995.

  3. #3
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    A great topic that all serious pc users should read and practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathleen Atkins View Post



    TOP STORY

    How to safely test file and image backups


    By Fred Langa

    Imagine this: You've lost important files, but when you go to restore them, you discover that your backups are completely unusable and your next words are unprintable. Fortunately, this nightmare is completely avoidable; here's how to ensure that your backup files are valid, complete, and usable.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-safely-test-file-and-image-backups (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    G'day Fred, bravo and good on you. This is a great subject and something I am passionate about.
    I have advertising on my company van that states backup and recovery specialist as one my main services I provide.
    Can't stress it enough to customers especially business and I strongly recommend testing of backups to make sure they are actually working.

    This is something a lot of people just don't think about and also something to put into practice.
    I also agree with Khun Roger quarterly testing is a must especially for business backups. What's the use if they don't work.
    I use Acronis Advanced Server for SBS Editions and Workstations and they work very well.
    I recall the first time I ran a test of my own backup image to an old spare system I had built from spare parts and was amazed when after the restore completed the machine restarted and booted up to the login screen.
    If you are relying on backups testing them is recommended

  4. #4
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    Question what is with MediaID.bin?

    There's something avoided in this article. I tried to restore a Win7 backup and was impossible. I get always a message "Windows found an invalid MediaID.bin - no turnaround was possible to recover the files. Any idea? thank you

  5. #5
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    I do my backup/restore tests by restoring to a separate primary
    partition, either on the same hard drive as the main Windows partition
    or on a separate drive. To set up the configuration that allows this, I
    use Terabyte's BootIt Bare Metal (BIBM) software:
    http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-bare-metal.htm.

    First I shrink the PC manufacturer's pre-installed (huge) Windows
    partition to a more reasonable size -- 100 GB or so still gives Windows
    and applications a good deal of elbow room. That frees up a lot of
    space, some of which I then can use to create a TEST primary partition
    (or at least reserve space for such a partition). I then use BIBM to
    back up the now-smaller Windows partition and then use BIBM to restore
    that image to the space I had reserved for the TEST partition. If all
    this works, then I know the backup/restore procedure works properly on
    that system. I have had a number of occasions (hardware and software
    failures) to use restore for real, not just as a test, so I definitely
    value a known-good backup/restore procedure.

    I could also use the reserved space as the target of a BIBM Copy of the
    Windows partition. BIBM backup creates a compressed image of a
    partition. BIBM restore then decompresses that image and puts the
    result in the target partition. In contrast, BIBM copy does a
    bit-for-bit copy from one partition directly to another; it is an
    alternative way of backing up a partition

    With Windows 7, Dell (and other manufacturers?) started putting the
    Windows boot files into another partition. I had to copy those files
    back into the main Windows partition to make it a self-contained unit,
    suitable for backup/restore and copy. If you don't do that, the
    restored or copied partition probably will not boot properly since its
    new location will be out of sync with where it thinks the boot files are
    located. See http://jgkhome.name/PC_Info/BING_WIN7_Dell.htm for the
    gory details, which also involve updating Windows Boot Configuration
    Data (BCD). But this modification has to be done only once. From then
    on, backup/restore/copy of that modified Windows partition is very easy
    and reliable for all subsequent times.

    I think the above procedure works the same in Windows 8. More modern
    PCs than mine, e.g., PCs with UEFI instead of BIOS and GPT instead of
    MBR for the hard drive, may throw in some additional wrinkles, as may
    Windows 10. I have had no experience with any of these new areas so
    far. I would like to know if anyone has tried a procedure like this on
    such systems. I believe secure boot in UEFI has to be turned off for
    BIBM to work, but don't know if anything else is required. Anyway, for
    older systems, the above procedure works well for testing backup and
    restore.

    Jeff Knauth

  6. #6
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jknauth View Post
    With Windows 7, Dell (and other manufacturers?) started putting the
    Windows boot files into another partition.
    Jeff, I think you'll find that MS started the 100MB partition for the boot files/BCD stuff (you can bypass it by having the disk ready partitioned/formatted to full size, Windows setup will then install the same files to a folder in the root of C: ).

    Dell had been using at least 2x partitioning styles for recovery data etc. for some time prior to W7, see http://www.goodells.net/dellutility/ and http://www.goodells.net/dellrestore/ (the author is also an active Lounger).

  7. #7
    Silver Lounger RolandJS's Avatar
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    One can also test OS and/or data partition image by simply restoring a folder or two, and/or a file or two.
    "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin revisited.
    http://collegecafe.fr.yuku.com/forum...-Technologies/

  8. #8
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    Boot Files in a Separate Partition

    Quote Originally Posted by satrow View Post
    Jeff, I think you'll find that MS started the 100MB partition for the boot files/BCD stuff (you can bypass it by having the disk ready partitioned/formatted to full size, Windows setup will then install the same files to a folder in the root of C: ).
    Right. I have used a similar technique when installing Windows 7 from
    scratch to a spare partition on a disk already filled with other
    partitions. That keeps the boot files where I want them. My point was
    really that I wished Dell had given me an ordering option to let me
    request the non-separation of the boot files for the pre-installed
    system. (I do understand that other people, needing different system
    capabilities, would want the files in a separate partition.) Dell's
    putting the boot files in a separate partition caused me a good deal of
    extra work to get back to the configuration where I could do the BIBM
    backup/restore/copy described in my original post. Of course I could
    have just wiped the disk when I got the new PC and re-installed Windows
    the way I wanted it to appear, but that would have lost some other
    things Dell had pre-installed, which I wanted to keep. Such is life.
    Jeff

  9. #9
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    An install from Retail Windows is cleaner, Jeff, also a chance that you could download the Dell specifics from their support site or maybe install them from the Recovery Disc set that you can usually create from an OEM install, Start > Dell (or w/e OEM name) > 'somewhere'.

    In the UK, I've found that Dell can be receptive to suggestion, esp. those with a data security aspect, providing you can get high enough up the Support chain. I've seen Windows discs optionally supplied for iirc, 5 and an option to keep the HDD if you need to return the machine under warranty for a relatively small amount extra, added to their sales site, each within about a week of me 'asking politely'.

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  11. #10
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    Agree with RolandJS #7. It's easy using BootIt BM's Windows companion TBIView.

    I've been using Terabyte Unlimited's BootIt NG and its successor BootIt BM since Fred recommend this product years ago. I've had to restore a few times and had success with this.

    The main technique I have always used to check image file integrity is to make a hash file of the image file immediately after it is created, using a free program called md5summer. There are probably many similar tools. Both the image and the hash files are then archived to external disks. The same md5summer program can then be used on the target to verify the integrity of the copy. Alternately, one could use a file copying tool that does its own in-copy hash checking. For example, FastCopy http://ipmsg.org/tools/fastcopy.html.en.

    I like #5 jknauth's idea of restoring to a spare partition - I must give that a try.

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