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I don't want to consider cloud, as none are free beyond a certain amount of gig, and I have put files on bitcasa before that have just infinitely gone missing.

I have also been bitten by physical drives, ie. storing stuff on an external drive that one day dies and loses everything with it.

I have got to the point where I used about 4 seperate laptops - each laptop is good for different things so I've ended up accumilating documents/music/downloads on all of them.

It would be good if there was a hard drive that had some kind of RAID set up built in. 3 disks, all replicating eachother. But then I suppose if you lose it or the whole thing gets run over by a truck..

Ahh.. I will stop contemplating and leave you guys to tell me about something simple I've completely overlooked.

I've also got potentially duplicate files if there's an easy way to address that issue.

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I have a NAS with 1TB of Raid 1 storage that is in a closet and is only used for backup. –  dbasnett Aug 17 '13 at 17:31
    
If you have sufficient storage available on each PC/Laptop you could store the backup for PC A on PC B and PC B on PC C, etc. That way any one machine going down isn't catastrophic. –  Tog Aug 17 '13 at 17:53
    
I don't think you understand RAID well, but thats basically your only option. But then you sound very paranoid, and a simple RAID NAS setup on an old desktop with offsite backup too in case that truck runs over your NAS box... is what you need to do...... so (1) LOCAL backup via RAID/NAS and/or removable/offsite backup. –  Logman Aug 17 '13 at 19:11
    
Raid 1 is not backup :/ –  wolfo9999 Aug 17 '13 at 19:28
    
@wolfo9999 More to the point, RAID is not backup. –  Michael Kjörling Aug 17 '13 at 20:28
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3 Answers

You are looking for a free physical solution to backing up your computers? Aside from stealing hard drives, that is an oxymoron and there is no real answer. (Except for one which I'll mention at the bottom).

Here are some 'inexpensive' options:

If you have an old computer and drives laying around

If you are willing to invest a few hundred dollars one time into your backups


In conclusion I'd recommend Crashplan Desktop Free. It installs on Windows, Mac, Linux and lets you backup to any other computers running the same software. This is what I use. I backup to my old computer and I have a second backup that goes to a co workers home computer. Everything is encrypted.

Crashplan Desktop could be free if you have a lot of generous friends that don't mind if you backup to their computers.

Other crashplan, you will need to purchase or recycle hard drives which will involve money.


Also see

Software to backup data and files on a Windows computer
How to store and preserve lots of data?
3 - 2 - 1 Backup Rule

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  1. Get a NAS.
    • For windows: Get a program called Allway Sync. It is free and will synchronize 2 or more folders. Setup bidirectional syncing between the NAS drive and a local folder. That way you can still get your files even if you are not online.
    • For Linux: Setup rsync to do bidirectional syncing between the NAS and a local folder. If rsync isnt for you, you can use Synkron, a multi-platform folder syncing tool.
    • If you want data backups, use a cronjob with cp and your favorite compression standard on your NAS machine.
    • If you want data redundancy, meaning if you delete file X its still on the NAS, change those syncing programs to do a bidirectional sync, but not allow them to delete files. This will keep any new file on the NAS until you delete it manually.
    • If you want hardware redundancy, use RAID. This is encouraged along with the 2 previous options.
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I have about ten computers in different locations based on different motherboards, so your problem is very familiar to me. Over the years I have developed a largely free backup system which satisfies me. It relies partly on hardware (not free), partly on software (free) and on careful organization. On-screen all my computers now look exactly the same and behave in exactly the same manner.

Hardware: All computers have only one small hard drive, the smallest but fastest SSD I can find at the time, each formatted with a 32G primary partition. Anything remaining is left unused to speed up cloning. This drive contains only the system (XP in my case) and all registered programs but no portable programs. This drive is cloned as a backup (I use Acronis, but free cloning software is available from http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx)

All data and portable programs are kept on external USB drives, one of which travels with me where ever I go. The new USB3 1TB drives are excellent for the purpose and if you buy or build a computer, you should make sure that it has USB3 ports.

Software: Other than the cloning software for the system drive, no commercially or freely available software is used for backing up data. Everything is done with simple home-made batch programs for complete control over what is backed up and how it is backed up.

Organization: The system depends on meticulous organization of the data, especially on the drive that travels from one computer to the next and which turns out to be the hub of the system (G:XFER on my system). The way I have organized the data will not suit everybody and this is something you have to work out for yourself over time. There should, however, be one folder on your XFER drive which contains the masters of all programs you regularly use so that each computer can be updated when the need arises.

As for hard drives dying, you should, of course, have backups of your backups.

Advantages:

  • Secure. If you catch a virus, your clone will get rid of it.
  • Off site backup storage.
  • As customizable as you can get.
  • Independent of bugs and "features" of supplied software.
  • Cheapest possible solution as far as hardware is concerned.
  • No other expenses.
  • Easily upgradable to exploit latest technology.
  • Does not rely on anyone's computer other than your own.
  • Faster than any other method.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to learn a tiny bit of batch programming. Not much of a disadvantage.
  • Organizing your data does take time, often a lot of it. But it also saves a lot of time.
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Tried to vote this answer up but my reputation is not high enough to do so. Happy to mark as correct answer if you can provide a decent source to learn batch programming. I think what I have basically decided myself id to try and get rid of some pc's. Remove the hard drives from these, and just keep them in the safe, and plug them into a universal caddy to explore data on when I need to. It is all very disorganised but nothing but time and hard work can solve my problem there. Eventually I could amalgamate them all on to one drive that I can use as per your answer. –  pedromillers Aug 28 '13 at 20:53
    
The internet abounds with batch guides. Just trawl for something like "elementary batch guides" and you will find sites like this: dreamincode.net/forums/topic/55203-batch-tutorial-part-1 which is a very basic beginners' guide to get you started. You will very quickly need something more concise like infionline.net/~wtnewton/batch/batguide.html –  Pablo678 Aug 29 '13 at 11:08
    
I suggest that you familiarize yourself with some DOS commands before you even start scripting, especially XCOPY which you will use most. For example: 1. >Start>Run 2. then enter "cmd" without the quotes 3. A window opens 4. Enter xcopy/? 5. A specification of the xcopy command appears 6. start using it in the same window: 7. XCOPY C:\WINDOWS\Web\Wallpaper C:\Temp 8. Answer "D" when asked file or directory 9. Check that you now have a new temp folder on C: –  Pablo678 Aug 29 '13 at 11:11
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