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Problem

What I need is a way of quickly and easily, but properly and completely backing up a memory-card to a flash-drive (see scenario below for details).

Research

Obviously there are plenty of ways to do this (there’s a few backup-related question listed above and to the side as I type this), but the problem is that most solutions tend to have critical drawbacks and limitations. For example, simply copying or “synching” files will alter the created and sometimes even the modified timestamp of the backup. Moreover, they rarely seem to be capable of accurately detecting renames and moves (I’ve been struggling to get my Chrome bookmarks in sync on two systems because of this).

Imaging the drive will make a packed file that would require a viewer (or restoring the image to a drive) to access the files on the backup. And cloning the drive can be troublesome if the drives are not identical. Worse, cloning or imaging the drive would cause far too much writing to the backup device; the whole drive would essentially be copied even if only a couple of small files were modified. A differential image could be made, but that has all of the drawbacks of, well a differential image.

Requirements

What I am looking for is a method or program of making backups such that:

  • Moved or renamed files are not wastefully deleted from the backup and then copied; if a file is renamed or moved, the program should be able to simply rename or move it
  • The source and destination drives can be different media and different sizes
  • The backup files have identical metadata (attributes, timestamps, etc.) as the source files
  • The backup can be used like a regular disk (mounting an image might be acceptable if no drivers are required, but again, an image would write too much…)
  • The backup causes a minimal of writing to avoid wearing out the flash media

Question

Does anybody know of a way to make effective backups like this?

I’ve had designs on writing the “perfect” backup program of my own for what feels like forever, but it always gets pushed aside for more immediate projects.



Scenario

There was a good sale on storage, so I got a flash-drive and memory-card. The goal is to transfer all of my personal files (the kind that I created myself and are thus irreplaceable) into one place instead of having them scattered around different locations. That way I can have all of them together with me at all times, so I always have something to do.

Of course, since they are irreplaceable, I need to keep a regular backup, which is why I got two different types of media. One is a flash-drive and the other is a memory-card. They are from different (but reputable) manufacturers, but both the same (nominal, advertised) size. This decreases the chances of losing everything since there is diversity (two identical ones could be from the same lot and thus both bad).

The memory-card will be my primary storage because it tucks nicely into a computer’s card-reader whereas a flash-drive would stick out the side (begging to be snapped off), and occupy a USB port.

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3 Answers 3

Essentially you want something that provides incremental backups i.e. only backs up files that have changed.

Depending on what operating system you are using you could look at the command/tool rsync in Linux/Unix or a GUI equivalent.

Or in Windows, having just done a search, you could look at DeltaCopy, which is a Windows friendly wrapper around the rsync tool.

These should tick all your requirement boxes.

Edit: Doesn't the Windows 7 backup tool allow you to select flash media (?more than one medium). That is incremental I believe though DeltaCopy looks like it has a lot more features.

Edit 2: It's not clear whether the W7 backup tool is incremental or not , but either way it saves it as an image so does not meet your requirements.

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Essentially you want something that provides incremental backups Essentially, yes, but most of the tools I have tried over the years have either been user-unfriendly or really "cheap", and most have modified timestamps which I don’t like. I haven’t used Windows Backup in forever, but even if Windows 7’s version is good, it’s built into Windows which won’t cut it. I’ll give DeltaCopy a try. I like that it can reduce writes even further by diffing them and writing the changes, but it looks like it only does individual files. –  Synetech Aug 2 '13 at 0:13
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Individual files as opposed to what? rsync, and therefore DeltaCopy, does not modify timestamps unless you modify the file in the location being backed up. It actually uses the timestamp and file size to check if there have been any changes. –  archery1234 Aug 2 '13 at 0:28
    
Individual files as opposed to what? The whole drive. does not modify timestamps unless you modify the file in the location being backed up. It actually uses the timestamp and file size to check if there have been any changes. I hope that doesn’t mean it touches teh file, because the backup copy should have the timestamp of the source file, not the date/time that it applied the patch. –  Synetech Aug 2 '13 at 17:59
    
Individual files, typically grouped into folders, can be backed up with DeltaCopy. As I stated, only if the source file attributes have been modified, ergo the files and location being backed up, will files in the destination be modified. I've looked and it can be used to backup local drive to local drive, but is designed for backing up over a network hence its usefulness in the way it works and reducing network traffic. Local drive backup would require the server and client to be running on the same machine as discussed here. –  archery1234 Aug 2 '13 at 18:51
    
Two flash based backups kept locally; what happens if you lose your laptop? –  archery1234 Aug 2 '13 at 18:54

I would recommend Crashplan for any backup solution. Crashplan can make incremental backups so you can restore any file from any data. It should also maintain meta data and it's free. It should be able to talk to all your storage mediums if your computer can read it. It's free to back up locally or you can pay a little extra for off site backups (but that's unrelated to this question).

I'm pretty confident that Crashplan would achieve what you are looking to accomplish.

Crashplan Website

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It's free to back up locally Oh good. Their website didn’t make that clear. I’ll take a look at the free, local version (if I can find the free version… the only one I could find so far says “free trial” and “create an account”, and for some reason is 38MB). –  Synetech Aug 2 '13 at 18:03

Windows 7 backup. You'll love it.

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You may want to examine the existing answers (and comments) before adding your own. –  Synetech Aug 4 '13 at 1:53
    
Windows 7 backup is not always incremental. If there has been a long gap between backups (1 yr) or significant number of files have changed/been deleted (50%), it will perform a full backup unless the registry is tweaked. There is a post here about half way down with the registry tweakings to change this setting. –  archery1234 Aug 4 '13 at 1:54
    
And even if it were, it’s still built-into Windows 7 which makes it a poor choice as a general-purpose backup solution (e.g., completely useless when in XP like I am tonight). –  Synetech Aug 4 '13 at 1:56

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