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I have a laptop that I wish to backup. The best method for me is to periodically attach an external drive and mirror the internal drive to it (of course after the first time only the delta changes should be mirrored). Then take the drive away (to prevent both the laptop and drive from being damage in a fire). The laptop is with Windows 7.

What are my best options? Would defining the drive as a mirror of the internal one in Windows work? Is there an external application that does a better job? (I don't want to need to specify explicit folders to copy, want to always have a mirror of the entire drive). Can I recover my Windows environment (meaning, not just data, but also registry, application configuration etc.) If the internal one needs to be replaced?

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3 Answers

There are a few possibilities to fix a messy backup solution.

For a continuous mirror, RAID 1 is your best bet. If you're constantly accessing the drive, an internal drive would perform much better. The only problem is you want to keep moving your drive away in case of a fire....

Maybe periodical Full backups with more frequent differential and incremental backups is better for you. The backup frequency is dependent upon the value of your data. If in a single week, you feel you create a substantial amount of valuable data, your backup frequency should increase. Remember, you can schedule backups manually as well after you've done very important work. DriveImage XML is a great full backup tool. For incremental backups, Freebyte backup is excellent (DriveImage XML may also have this feature). The point I'm trying to get across is, you can make a full backup every once in a while (say every 2 weeks) and store that somewhere else, and small incremental backups in between. Incremental backups take up less disk space than full backups, and are faster to perform.

Something else you might be interested in is syncing. You can make a full backup every 2 weeks or so with the registry and all, and then maybe just sync your new documents over the network to a NAS in another room. Synctoy is excellent for this and easy to configure.

Use whatever combination works best for you to ensure your data is safe and backed up. Just remember, more backups require more space, but space comes cheap, so backup as often as you can! There's an old saying that "Your data doesn't really exist unless it's saved in at least 3 places", which basically states that copies can easily be destroyed and lost. I try to keep true to this saying, and maybe others should too. ( Not mentioning any names! :) )

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

actually, windows 7 has a tool named "backup and restore center" that copies only the modified blocks after an initial backup (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/backup.aspx, http://lifehacker.com/5144757/first-look-at-windows-7s-backup-and-restore-center)

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You really shouldn't try and set it up as a mirror drive since this will result in constantly breaking/remirroring which is very intensive and will slow your system. There is a backup drive from ?CMS? which does what you want - you hook it up, backup to it, remove it. When something goes wrong, you can pull the drive out of the backup, put it in and boot directly from it.

What you may want to do is to do a full backup, do differential to an external share. That way to restore you need to restore the full backup and just restore the differentials. So, do a full backup to the external drive, send small differentials to something like a web share. More time to restore, but you can keep the external hard drive away from the site. You don't really want to try and do a full backup to a network share since it takes forever to create each time.

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