Backups – Part 2

In Backups – Part 1 we covered making backups of your entire system, and the steps required to restore all or portions of the backed up image. Here in part 2, we’ll cover backing up individual files and folders.

Backing up your files and folders can be done any number of ways, using any number of different freely available and commercially available applications. What’s important isn’t necessarily the tool or method you use, but the fact that your bases are covered when a restore is necessary.

There are two types of backups you should be doing to safeguard your data; local and off-site. Local backups refer to any copy of your data residing at the same location as the source data. Backing up your pictures to another harddrive either internal or external, burning them to CD or DVD, or mirroring them to another computer on your LAN are all considered local backups.

Off-site backups are copies of your data stored somewhere else. A burned CD or DVD sent to a relatives house for example would be an off-site backup. A safety deposit box at the bank would be another example. I suggest both types of backups be kept up-to-date on a regular basis to ensure your information is totally safe.

For local backups, I suggest a well known and widely used tool called Syncback. Made freely available by 2BrightSparks, Synback; the freeware version of Syncback SE, can handle any just about any backup task you throw its way. It can backup files to a harddrive, a CD or DVD, a flash drive, a network drive, or even an FTP site. It has both simple and advanced modes and contains a plethora of options relating to how to handle things such as newer file versions existing in the destination, etc.

For off-site backups, your options are either a burned CD or DVD taken or mailed somewhere, or files uploaded to a site hosted a significant distance (hopefully) from your home. While the safety deposit at the bank may be a convenient place to drop off burned discs, you have to consider how likely it is to be hit by the same disaster that could hit your home – earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc.

I use two separate off-site locations for backups, Fotki and Amazon. There are many photo sites available, each with different capabilities, but I’ve found Fotki to be above and beyond the others for a few reasons. For starters, they are more than a simple photo site. You can store links (favorites) there, maintain your own user forums, keep a guestbook, link to videos, and also create a journal (blog) there. Photo storage extras include tagging, mapping, unlimited storage for paid accounts ($30/year), public, private, and password protected folders/albums, printing and selling of photos, 10 distinct upload methods, and the ability to download your uploaded photos in their full resolution glory – one at a time, or in multiples via FTP. That last point is really the kicker. Many sites will allow me to upload all of my full resolution photos, but if I want to get them back (say in the case of a harddrive failure on my home computer) I have to pay for them to burn and mail me my photos on DVD. Some only offer prints as my way of getting my precious memories back.

My current Fotki statistics show that I’m storing 11886 photos in 895 albums and using a total of 21.91 GB. Not bad at all for the functionality I get out of Fotki.

Amazon has a service called Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Solution). Named somewhat innapropriately IMO, it’s anything but simple to use (without the right tool). They’ve created a storage solution, but it’s up to you to figure out how to actually use it. There are many tools available for interfacing with Amazon’s S3 service, but I’ve settled on S3 Drive. S3 Drive mounts a drive in Windows Explorer that looks like any other network mounted drive. I have mine mounted as drive S: (for S3) and simply copy files there when it’s time to back them up.

The important things to consider when deciding whether or not to use S3 are:

  • Uploaded files can’t be edited, they have to be deleted and re-uploaded
  • Not all S3 capable tools work in the same way, so a file uploaded with one may not be downloadable with another
  • S3 storage is unlimited
  • You pay only for what you use, there are no high monthly costs if your storage requirements suddenly go down
  • There’s no contract to get out of if you decide it’s not for you
  • Compared to other solutions, S3 is inexpensive – .15/G of storage and .20/G of data transferred

My Amazon backups contain not only my photos, but also my digital camera movies and other home movies as well. I sometimes use Fotki as a photo album for friends and relatives to view my photos, but I typically keep my Amazon S3 uploads private. While it is possible to expose my S3 uploads, I tend not to, as there’s no user interface already setup for people to peruse my files.

It’s important to note though, that S3 requires you to sign up (free) of course, and a credit card to be on file for billing. There isn’t really a free trial for Amazon S3, but you can rest assured that you won’t go broke trying the service out. At prices of .15G for data stored there, and .20G for transfers (up or down) the costs are low enough to feel it out for a month or two without breaking the bank.

In total, my photos are stored on two different physical drives on my home file server, mirrored to an external harddrive, uploaded to Fotki, and also stored on S3. Suffice to say, I don’t want to lose any pictures of my little ones. I wish I could same the same for my digital camera movies, but until Fotki allows me to upload those as well I’ll probably just use S3 as my off-site storage location for those.

28 Comments

  1. Jay Miller said,

    July 28, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    You dixml backup scenario is great and applaud you on your helping us.

    I how-ever have a question?

    What about the Drive_C.001 file that dixml.exe creates when it did my first backup? Don’t we need to delete or re-name it also or what do you think?

    Regards, and keep up the good work!!
    Jay

  2. airjrdn said,

    July 30, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Using the switches I’ve outlined in the article, there should be no file splitting, so you shouldn’t have a .001, .002, etc. set of files.

  3. Stephen Lo said,

    November 5, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Your article is helpful, thank you.

    When restore the dlxml image file to the original partition, it fails on “Unable to set drive layout” in my Winxp pro sp2 (NTFS) machine. Do you know the meaning of this? How could i solve it?

    Regards, and thank you!!

    SLo

  4. airjrdn said,

    November 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Are you trying to restore while within Windows? If so, that’s probably your problem. Restoring is best done via a boot CD.

  5. acl said,

    November 29, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Hello,
    Thanks for the time you put in to write this article. I have a strange problem that I have not been able to overcome. I made an image of my system drive (winxp sp2) on a network share. Then I made a bartpe cd with the plugins I wanted. Then I put a blank hdd that is bigger than the original in the system and disconnected the original drive. My goal here is to do a bare metal test restore well ahead of time. According to the driveimage xml directions, you have to create a primary partition and make it active before you can do a restore. So I did this, ran the restore, rebooted the machine only to have a black screen with a blinking cursor . The machine would not boot the OS. I compared track0 (The mbr) between the original and the new drive to find that the mbr on the test drive was hosed. Have you any idea what this might be? One thing I did notice is that the MS disk management interface usuall will ask you to “initialize” a new drive when you start it up. I did not see this behavior in the pre-boot environment.
    HELP!

  6. airjrdn said,

    November 29, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    DXML creates an image of the data, but unfortunately as you found out, not the MBR. I’ve written them about this and I don’t think it’s in their plans to work that in anytime in the near future.

    Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost, and I assume some others however, will backup/restore your MBR. I spent a little time looking for a small utility to backup/restore the MBR and found a couple of things, but didn’t have the time to actually try them out.

    I wish I could help you more here, but I just haven’t had time to do all of the work required to test this. At some point I will, I just haven’t yet.

    Luckily in your case, you were testing before there was an issue (very smart thing to do). Try locating a simple MBR backup/restore app. If you find one that works well, especially from the Bart PE disk, please take the time to post back here.

  7. C. Abel said,

    January 13, 2008 at 4:10 am

    Hi Airjrdn,

    I just read Backups – parts 1& 2. I am confused about whether or not system images (C:) can be restored. Part 1 says that this can be done using a Bart PE CD but ACL’s comment, after part 2, states that one cannot boot from the restored image because the MBR is not copied.

    Which is correct?

    Thanks for a great article.

  8. airjrdn said,

    January 13, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve used DXML to backup/restore when the MBR hadn’t had any issues. For instance, when I get to a point where I’d like a cleaner install, I boot to the PE CD and do a restore using DXML from there.

    Where it won’t work is if you hose the MBR and want to do a restore. Absolute worst case scenario, you can install Windows and as soon as you’re far enough into the install that the MBR is written, you can stop it, boot to the PE CD and do your restore. I know that works as I’ve done it before.

  9. alecz said,

    January 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I’ve been imaging for years (ghost, PQDI, etc) and I decided to try my hand at Driveimage XML, I’ve used Barts PE for quite some time. However I’m in a pickle currently. I have a laptop with a SATA drive (digital dolly and early partitioning tools will not read SATA drives) with Vista & XP (dual boot). I used driveimage xml to create a image of just the xp partition (hda2), I upgraded my hard drive and reinstalled Vista with install discs. I used gpart to resize the single partition and create 2 subpartitions (I tried logical or physical) when I restore the driveimage xml image file of the XP partition to and partition (hda2, hda3, etc) XP does not completely boot, it hangs at the blue XP logo screen (the one that usually pops up right before the logon screen). It never gets past that point. Oh I also use EasyBCD to modify the Vista boot loader. I can normally get myself out of these pickles, but this time I think I’m stuck.

  10. airjrdn said,

    January 22, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I’m afraid I can’t be much help, but hopefully someone else here can. About the only thing I can suggest is what I suggested in the last paragraph above (post #8). Get your partitions setup, do an install of XP, then Vista, then restore your backed up XP over the cleanly installed XP.

    Whatever you figure out though, post back and let us know.

  11. alecz said,

    January 23, 2008 at 4:38 am

    I think I’ve figured something out. When I originally made the image I thought that I used a 20 gig partition, when I made the new partition I used a 20 gig partition to restore to.(I like keeping ONLY the OS in its own partition). I was looking through the file tables of the original image and found that I used a 20500 mb partition. So I made a 25 gig partition and restored the image and BAM! XP BOOTS COMPLETELY!
    If I NEVER see another boot.ini it will be too soon!

  12. airjrdn said,

    January 23, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    LOL that’s awesome. I’m glad you got it figured out.

  13. dwightschrute said,

    February 14, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I created a dixml backup and now I want to burn it to dvd. Does this mean I need to burn an iso image of the files dixml created or just a regular copy (burn) to dvd? Also, do you know of a good free dvd burner program? Thanks

  14. airjrdn said,

    February 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Just burn it as a data disc, no image (iso/img/nrg/etc.) conversion or burning necessary.

    You can pick up software to do your dvd burning from my freeware site at http://www.MissingBytes.net

  15. dwightschrute said,

    February 15, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    This may be a dumb question, but now that I’ve created the backup using dixml and burned it to dvd how can I restore the image from the dvd if I have only one optical drive? I’m using the Bart PE with dixml plugin to boot but I would have to take that disk out to load the dvd with the actual backup. Thanks for your help!

  16. dwightschrute said,

    February 15, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    One more question, if it’s not possible to switch cd/dvd when booting from Bart PE, would it be possible to include the dixml backup on the Bart PE along with the plugin using a dvd?

  17. oldog said,

    February 19, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I agree with dwightschrute… after booting up using the BartPE bootable CD, DiXML constantly accesses the CD/DVD drive to function properly, so how to restore an image contained on a CD or DVD?? I haven’t tried replacing the BartPE CD with an image DVD, but it’s a no-brainer that DiXML probably won’t even be able to browse the image properly (and the computer will probably need to be hot rebooted!).

    Anyone has a brilliant idea? (apart from storing the images on a different partition or external drive!)

  18. airjrdn said,

    February 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Actually, I don’t remember DXML accessing the bootable CD after it initially loads, but I’m not saying you’re wrong. I never burn my images, I always put them on a separate partition or drive, so that’s not something I have a ton of experience with.

  19. oldog said,

    February 20, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Thanks airjrdn. Yeah, I guess the issue with storing images on a different partition is that if your hard drive burns down (literally!), your images are lost… As you said, I guess the only solution is to store the images on a different (external) hard drive.

  20. artiface said,

    July 22, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I just went through this exercise and thought I would share what I found.

    DIXML does not write the MBR. This is only a problem when trying to restore to a bare metal drive or one with corrupt MBR. There is a utility called MbrFix that does work from the BartPE command line that will finish the job DIXML leaves undone.

    I just made a batch script and linked it into the BartPE menu.

    path\MbrFix.exe /drive 0 fixmbr

    that was all that was needed to have the restored drives boot.

    you can find the tool and description here:
    http://www.sysint.no/nedlasting/mbrfix.htm
    http://www.sysint.no/en/Download.aspx

  21. airjrdn said,

    July 22, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for posting that. I’d basically given up on a “full” solution using DXML because of the MBR issue. Macrium Reflect handles it the way DXML “should”, but one thing I wish Reflect would do is allow backups from the bootable media. Their bootable media only offers the ability to do restores.

  22. videocripp said,

    September 6, 2008 at 9:09 am

    i’m working in a french school and we have bought ten pcs. On one pc, we have installed all the applications we usually used and we have clone an image with dix. We are in a domain under windows server 2003. We have put this image on the nine pcs. Every things are working except one thing. When the users want to enter their password to connect, a error message come, they can’t connect. The only solution is to disconnect the rj45, put the password and replace the rj45. on one pc i’ve try to rename the pc, nothing, i’ve try to use newsid, nothing so if someone cant have an idea it will help us and it will avoid us to reinstall all the pcs.I’ ve reintall one pc with a windows cd and everythings is working well.

  23. airjrdn said,

    September 6, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I’m not a network guy, but the first things that come to mind are IP addresses and the Windows SID – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_Identifier#Duplicated_SIDs

    I would think hardcoded IP addresses would give you IP Address Conflict messages, but not stop you from logging in. I’m not sure about the SIDs though.

    Scroll way down to the bottom of http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Server/2003_Server/Q_23257202.html and look at the accepted solution there. See if it offers you any help.

  24. devoreb said,

    February 17, 2009 at 5:11 am

    I used VistaPE (similar to BartPE, but for a vista environment) to set up a bootable disk with DIXML. I’m using a backup saved to a USB hard drive enclosure, split into several parts (.001, .002, etc extensions). Every time I have DIXML begin a restore, it immediately fails and tells me there was an “error writing to compressed stream.”

    So far I have no luck finding out what this might mean or how to fix it. Has anyone else encountered this problem?

  25. airjrdn said,

    February 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I’ve never seen that error, and a quick search didn’t turn up much. I’d recommend contacting DXML support to get their input. Their contact info is at http://www.runtime.org/support.htm and hopefully they’ll be able to provide you with a solution or workaround. If so, please post back here to help others in the same boat.

    • rivo said,

      July 23, 2009 at 5:43 am

      I had the same error with version 1.x.x version of DriveImage XML. Downloading and installing version 2 solved it.

  26. John said,

    December 30, 2009 at 12:27 am

    20Gb of photos, not bad. I already have about 100Gb stored on Fotki : ). Nice to meet someone from Fotki here. The ability to download/upload photos via FTP, along with unlimited storage, huh, I back up all my photos on Fotki.

  27. airjrdn said,

    December 30, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Hey there. I’m now at 46.49 GB at Fotki, and still growing of course.

    I just wish they allow you to sort pictures in asc or desc order when viewing them via tags. I’ve been contemplating uploading to Flickr just to get more capabilities, I just hate the default Flickr interface, my Mom would never figure it out.


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