Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Backing up and restoring simplified

Backing up and restoring your computer simplified 

One thing is certain.  If you have a computer at some stage you will lose something or everything on it.  If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it almost certainly will, regardless of how computer savvy and careful you might be.

The loss can be caused by any one of a number of factors, a hardware failure, a software problem, a virus or other malware or by simple human error.  Whatever the cause you will have lost something important to you unless you have protected it properly.  If you haven’t protected yourself properly you are almost sure to regret it and the cost of trying to put it right can be far, far greater than the cost of protection.  At the very least you must make sure that anything on your computer that is irreplaceable is protected against disaster.

What follows is Microsoft Windows oriented but there are also references to Apple Mac.

The 5 steps that you must follow to protect yourself properly.

STEP 1.  If you have a notebook or netbook computer, you need a set of repair disks or USB drive made in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions so you are able to restore the manufacturer’s essentials for your computer.  Instructions about this will almost certainly have come with your new computer.  I cannot give you any more help about this step except to emphasise that you need to know where these items are and to have them clearly identified.

STEP 2.  For every computer you have, you need a system repair or recovery disk or drive, either an external hard drive or USB drive, for your operating system.  You might have had instructions about this but if not look at your control panel for backup and restore or similar.  For example, if you are installing Windows 10 you get to it through either searching for "recovery" or going to it through Control Panel and "Recovery".  If you have an older Microsoft operating system and do not have a recovery disk or drive web search for "how to create a recovery disk or drive for [insert name of your operating system]" and you will get the answer either from Microsoft itself or an associated source.  Here are links to the answers for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.  For Apple Mac operating systems go to the links under that heading below.  Make sure you clearly identify your disk or drive and know where it is.

STEP 3For every computer you need regular System Restore points for your hard drive so that at the very least there is a copy of your registry that you can return to if something goes haywire.  Your operating system makes its own copies of the registry from time to time and, depending on your operating system, when you make important changes to it.  System Restore is the means by which your registry and certain parts of your system can be restored to a previous state from a record on the hard drive. It will enable your computer to run as it did at the time of the earlier restore point.  If new software or a download has caused some incompatibility leading to your computer crashing the use of an earlier restore point can save an enormous amount of time and effort. You can be up and running again in minutes instead of hours.  However, it does not save your personal files or material and normally does not enable them to be recovered. In addition if your hard drive fails then System Restore is no more and cannot help you.  For more on System Restore see below. 

STEP 4You need a regular backup system in place so that if there is a disaster all your essential personal material can be recovered.  You don’t create a document without regularly saving it in case something goes wrong.  Equally you must regularly save the content of your hard drive by a backup system so that it can be easily recovered if a disaster occurs.
 
A backup can be an image of your hard disk or a copy of a file, folder or the content of your entire hard disk saved in a location other than your main hard disk just in case any of the disasters mentioned happen to you.

If your computer does crash irretrievably, with your hard drive or motherboard dead or the material on your hard drive totally corrupted by malware, much or all of your documents and folders and e-mails and favourites or bookmarks and other personal material are going to be lost if you do not have a backup that is accessible. Yes, you can restore your operating system and all your software from your support disks or the internet but everything that is personal to you is lost unless it is backed up somewhere beyond your main hard drive.  

The backup cannot be on your main hard drive.  It must be on a second hard drive, preferably an external hard drive, a flash/USB/thumb drive, an internet backup system or even DVDs or CDs if your computer still has such a drive.  And to be safe you should have two backups of what is really important.  That’s because there’s no such thing as a completely safe backup.  Any backup medium can fail.  Ideally you will have at least three copies of everything of value to you, namely, what's on your computer, what's on independent hardware in your home and what's on a cloud - internet - backup system or on independent hardware beyond your home.

Step 5.  Make sure you have followed steps 1, 2, 3 and 4!


I now enlarge on what you should do after you've completed steps 1, if necessary, and 2 - ie - system repair or recovery disks?

STEP 3. Ensure you have System Restore Points.

Microsoft Windows operating systems:

Creating system restore points on any Microsoft Windows operating system is reasonably straightforward and it is good practice to ensure that it happens before you download new software or make any major changes on your computer. Fortunately even if you overlook doing that it is often not fatal as restore points are created on a fairly regular basis anyway by the better software downloads and by your operating system.  The more recent your operating system and your software the more likely it is they will protect you with System Restore points when updating.

There are various ways of accessing System Restore to create a restore point or restore your computer from an earlier restore point. One way common to some Microsoft operating systems, including Windows XP and in part Vista, is to go to Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore > Create a Restore Point. In Vista once you get to System Restore you have to left click on Open System Protection and left click on Create. Another way in Windows XP is to go to Control Panel and look for Performance and Maintenance and then System Restore.

In Vista and Windows 7 you can left click on the start button in the bottom left corner of your screen, right click on Computer, left click on Properties, left click on System Protection and go to Create. It is slightly different in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 in that you get to the essential page by searching for "restore" in the former and going to "create a restore point", while in the latter you search for "create a restore point".  Once you have System Restore open it is really just a matter of carefully following the instructions.  Although there are differences in how you get there the result is almost identical in all the recent Windows operating systems.  

[Here is what to do if you are in any doubt about creating a restore point for your computer:

If the worst comes to the worst you can use System Restore in Safe Mode, but I do not intend to develop that here as it is not something for the beginner.

Apple Mac operating systems:

These do not have a System Restore capability.  However, according to Apple the latest operating systems "OS X Lion or OS X Mountain Lion include a feature called Recovery that includes all the tools you need to install OS X, repair your disk and even restore from a Time Machine backup without the need for optical disks."   The OS X Recovery and the associated Time Machine backup are broadly comparable with the Windows 8 system, both Apple and Microsoft having each sought to introduce the better features of the competing system.

STEP 4 - Backing up your computer - general.

It’s theoretically easy to back up a computer, with options ranging from making simple, manual drag-and-drop copies of important files, right up to disk images of the entire hard disk.

However, for most of us it is not easy in practice as it requires us to think about it and to do something fairly regularly. 

Let’s try and keep it simple -
HAVE AN AUTOMATIC BACKUP SYSTEM.

Your primary objective is to be able to recover your personal data so that you don't lose anything of importance to you.  Whether we like it or not the  simplest ways probably cost money.  You need an automatic backup system either on to an external hard drive or through the internet to an online cloud storage drive or, preferably, both.  If you want a different backup media you have to apply yourself to it in some other way. I deal with the different methods and media below.

NECESSARY SOFTWARE:

Windows Operating Systems

The easiest option is to use the backup system provided by Microsoft, particularly if you have Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 as they have the best backup systems yet provided by the much maligned manufacturer.   

In Windows 7 you go to Control Panel, System and Maintenance and then Backup and Restore.  [If in doubt you can use Microsoft's own tutorial on it. Or you can use Fred Langa’s excellent advice in Windows Secrets under the heading “Build a complete Windows 7 safety net”.  Or you can see what PC World has said about it.]

If you are using Windows 8 or 8.1 it works rather differently.  You go to Control Panel, System and Security and File History.  [If in doubt Fred Langa in a later 10 July 2013 issue of Windows Secrets newsletter gives you all you need to know about it.  Others, such as as lifehacker, Cloudeight InfoAve, Paul Thurrott and 7Tutorials also have useful material on it and on how to use it.]

If you are already using Windows 10 you go to Settings, Update and Security and Backup or you can go to this Microsoft page for help.

If you are still using an older version of Windows don't fret. Just use the backup system provided. You can usually find it pretty easily under Control Panel, Backup and Restore, or under Programmes, Accessories, System Tools, Backup. Use the Wizard provided, making sure you select Backup and not Restore.

(If you are a Windows XP Home user you will have to install the back up system manually from the Windows CD.  Put it into the drive and double-click the CD icon in My Computer. When the Welcome to Microsoft Windows XP screen appears, click the Perform Additional Tasks link. Now click Browse this CD and use Windows Explorer to navigate down through the ValueAdd, Msft and Ntbackup folders in turn.  Finally, double-click the ‘ntbackup.msi’ file and follow the prompts to install Windows Backup. Once this is done launch Windows Backup by clicking on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and Backup.)

[The different Windows backup systems haven't been immune from criticism and you can if you wish use one of the free backup software packages that are available.  


One relatively simple way to go is to use one of the programmes that will synchronise the data you want to back up on your main drive and your back up drive.  These include programmes such as Karen's Replicator, which I use, Sync Toy, a Microsoft product, and SyncBack.  

Make sure the programme you are looking at is compatible with your operating system.   

There are also general back up programmes such as  Comodo Backup, GFI Backup, Cobian Backup  or FileGee Personal Edition.   

Remember, however, that each of these also has its drawbacks.  Most of these and other freeware alternatives are mentioned in sources such as Bright Hub, Gizmo's Freeware, Simple Thoughts or ghacks.net.]

Drive Imaging Software:

The software mentioned thus far is not, for the most part, drive imaging software.  What is the difference between file and folder copy backup systems and drive image backup systems?  With file and folder copy backup systems you cannot restore the whole of a drive.  You can only restore the content you have copied.  With drive image backup systems you can copy and restore the whole drive, warts and all as it was at the time of the back up.

There are very real advantages in having both a drive image and a full backup of the material on the drive.  It is much quicker to restore a whole drive from a drive image than to have to re-install an operating system and all essential software before restoring your own personal material. On the other hand the restoration of the whole drive might contain material that caused the drive to fail or it might be inconsistent with any new operating system you want to use.  The built in systems in Windows 8, Windows 10 and the latest Apple OS X systems may or may not overcome those problems.

Windows 7, Windows 8 or 8.1 and Windows 10 all provide for creating a system or drive image and full backup software for the whole of your drive.  In Windows 7 it is straightforward as you go to Control Panel, Backup and Restore and then System Image.  In Windows 8 or 8.1 and
Windows 10 you have to go to Control Panel, File History and the link in the bottom left hand corner to System Image backup, which in fact takes you to a Windows 7 page for it, which is slightly confusing.  [For a tutorial on doing this in all of these versions of Windows see How-To Geek, while this Bleeping Computer page deals with Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1.    Otherwise there is good freeware available such as AOMEI and Macrium Reflect Free, recommended by Gizmo's Freeware, as well as a host of others that you can find by searching for "best free back up software".

If you want to go the extra step and spend money on one of the commercial programmes for either drive imaging or backing up then there are a number of them including programmes such as Acronis True Image Home, Paragon System Backup and Symantec Norton Ghost.]  

Apple Operating Systems

I don't pretend to have any personal experience of backing up Apple computers although I have used them and am familiar with them in a general way.  There are very good tutorials to help users, e.g., Apple's own help pages - Mac Basics: Time Machine and Back Up your Music, Photos and Documents; TechRadar has a tutorial on What you need to know about Mac backups; as does mac tuts +, with the title "Create a Foolproof Backup System for Your Mac" and there are many more out there, to be found by Googling "mac backup tutorial [and your model or operating system]".  A simple page is provided by Stephen Hackett under the title "Backing up your computer is easy".  If only!

AUTOMATIC BACKUPS HARDWARE:

These days you can get an external portable hard drive running through a USB connection from around $100 to $200 and upwards for 1TB and more.  These are great for automatic back ups.  Those that have their own power supply and are not dependent on their USB connection are safer.

Well known external hard drive makes containing back up software include Seagate's Free Agent, Verbatim's Store 'n' Save and Western Digital's My Book.  These all have the advantage they run off their own power supply independently of their USB connection to your computer but they do cost more.  They are great for a permanent back up system constantly attached to your computer.  The cost of an automatic backup system to an external hard drive is worth it for peace of mind if nothing else.

[USB/flash/thumb drives are cheaper but their capacity is less.  They are excellent for occasional back ups as are external portable hard drives.]

[Checking the Backup

If you want to know about this its best to look at excellent pieces by Fred Langa in Windows Secrets Newsletter, Issues 477, 16 April 2015, and 504, 5 November 2015, on safely verifying backups — for any current Windows version, although that requires you to be a subscriber.  Try web searching for "safely verifying backups" if you do not have access to it.]


ONLINE BACKUP SERVICES:
 
An automatic back up system to an online backup service is, in many ways, the ultimate way of making sure your data stays safe.

Technically it’s much safer from hardware failure and corruption than your own external hard disk at home, and the fact that it’s stored geographically far away from your house in more than one location makes it immune to theft and flood or fire damage. Online backup can also be free or work out relatively cheaply if backing up a lot of material is of real importance to you.

Here's what Lincoln Spector of Windows Secrets says in Windows Secrets Newsletter, Issue 392, 4 July  2013, and who am I to disagree with him?

"Last but not least: Set up automatic backups

First rule of computing: Back up your PC — and all other digital devices. Second rule of computing: Most PC users rarely back up their systems — and if they do, it's usually too late.

... the backup process must be completely automatic. And while you might back up your system to an external hard drive, that's not the best practice for novice or casual PC users. Why? If the drive is plugged in 24/7, a single disaster could destroy both the original files and the backup. And if the backup depends on plugging in the external drive on a daily basis, it simply won't happen.

A cloud-based backup service is safest for novice/casual users. These services are slow (the first backup will take days; later ones will take minutes or hours) and, in the long run, more expensive than an external hard drive. But once set up, they work automatically — in the background, without any effort on the user's part."

Those of us using a Windows operating system have easy access to Microsoft's OneDrive, giving 5GB of free storage.  Whether you are a Windows or an Apple user Google Drive gives 15GB of free storage.  You can of course buy additional storage, but that would only be of interest to a few of us.
[Gizmo’s Freeware, which is not up-to-date, notes various alternatives for free on line storage from your ISP through web mail to programmes like OneDrive, Google Drive and IDrive, which gives 5GB free storage.  All of these programmes encrypt everything.  Stacy Fisher in About Home lists 22 Free Cloud Storage Services in June 2016 and BackUpReview lists 21 free Cloud storage sites in April 2016.

Similar services are offered by others, including Apple's iCloud - built in to new Macs, which offers 5GB of free storage,and Amazon Cloud Drive Some of you might use Dropbox but its free limit is just 2GB.  (For an annual fee varying between US $10 and US $100 you can add 10 to 50GB to the free limits.)]

If you  create your documents in or convert them into Google Docs format then so far as I aware cloud storage is free.   Sometimes the downside of such a service is that it can be slow, even using a broadband connection, since uploading data is generally much slower than downloading it.

For your photos think of using an online photo-sharing service such as Flickr. For the backup to work properly, you might need to make sure that you keep your account active, or your photos might be deleted. Watch out also for file size limits, since you want your backups to be kept at the optimum resolution. You can also try Picasa Web Albums, Webshots and Photobucket.  

[If you want to delve more into Cloud storage here are links to some fairly recent surveys of sites, including the free ones, Backup Review, Gizmo's Freeware, Cloud Storage Reviews, PC Advisor and Top 10 Cloud Storage.

Its worth pointing out that if you are concerned with security you can encrypt your work before saving it to the cloud: see the sites reviewed in Gizmo's FreewareAs Fred Langa points out "It’s always wise to encrypt your most sensitive folders or files to prevent snoops from being able to access them — especially if the data will be transmitted over the Internet or stored in a cloud-based server. I use 7-Zip (free; site) to apply 256-AES encryption to sensitive files and folders stored in my local OneDrive folder. The encrypted files are then automatically replicated to the cloud and to my File History backups."

If you use more than one cloud site, as you can do, you might want to synchronise, which can be difficult: see alphr for help.]


The most appropriate level of backup will depend on how frequently you use your PC and how much new material you generate that you cannot replace in the event of a disaster.

NON-AUTOMATIC BACKUPS

The most basic form of backup: A Manual Backup

Backing up manually is the most basic method if you don’t use your computer very often.  However, it does require application and discipline.  You have to perform the backups regularly, preferably about once a week and certainly not less than once a month.

If you just use your computer for visiting websites, sending and receiving emails, and creating the occasional letter, spread sheet or newsletter, for instance, then making a regular copy of your User folder and any other essential data from your current version of Windows to an external hard drive or even a USB/flash/thumb drive will pretty much do the trick. The User folder is located at C:\Windows \ User \ Your user name.  Copy that entire folder to your external drive or USB/flash/thumb drive and you will have all your personal files and folders handy if you should need them.  My Documents folder (called ‘Documents’ in Vista) and a few other things may well be enough.  This option can be the cheapest if you can just use a DVD although they are going out of fashion.  Best, have it or an occasional copy of it beyond your house to avoid the risk of fire.  Do not forget that even external hard drives are vulnerable to damage if dropped.

You can even use a second hard drive on your machine for backups, but it won't be immune to malware or possible electrical damage in the same way as something independent of your computer.  CDs might be possible but these days they are not very practical.  

Remember to store any disc or drive in a case away from sunlight, direct heat and moisture.

A more limited manual backup involves copies of your documents, pictures and other personal data, including address books, e-mails, favourites or bookmarks and your essential settings and profiles.

To back up just your documents manually there are three simple ways.
·       You can right click on your My Documents folder and then left click on where you wish to send it to.
·       You can simply drag and drop everything in your documents folder to the backup drive you want to use.
·       You can right click on your My Documents folder select Copy and then go to where you intend to save the copy and right click and select Paste.

Don't forget to look in other folders like your My Music, My Pictures or My Videos for other personal material you might want to backup and follow the same method.  And if other family members use the PC with a separate user account, remember to back up their My Documents folders too.
A most important thing is to make backup copies of anything that you couldn’t do without as soon as possible after they arrive on your PC.  So, for example, if you transfer a fresh batch of photos from your digital camera to your computer, try to make sure that these get backed up before you wipe the originals off your camera’s memory card.  The same goes for music you have purchased and downloaded from online music stores.

If you have large folders such as video film you don't have to copy the lot over every time if you manage your folders in a different way, e.g., having one folder for backed up film and another for new film. Then once the new film is backed up it can be moved to the backed up folder on your main drive so that effectively you are just backing up the new increments in large folders.

You also need to make sure your address books and e-mails are saved. Your address books should be in an Address Book folder in your Documents Folder. They are in most recent versions of Windows. However, not all will be automatically saved if they are in a file format inconsistent with where they are to be saved.  For example, OneDrive cloud storage will not save .csv files even if you have saved them into Excel.  Your e-mails are also a different matter as they are not saved in your Documents Folder.

Backing up your E-mail manually:

Backing up your e-mail is such a problem it is well worthwhile thinking of using Google Mail to avoid the need, as well as reducing your spam.  However, Microsoft does supply complicated answers for its programmes Microsoft Outlook, for which there is also both an earlier page and another including a back up tool for the 2007 and earlier editions with an explanation of the tool here, and Microsoft Outlook Express but not for Windows Live Mail, for which various independent tutorial programmes and third party back up tools can be found by web searching relating to that programme and your operating system.  Mozilla Thunderbird is best dealt with by MozBackup, which also handles Firefox.  This Free E-mails Tutorial site covers most major e-mail providers. 

Some advantages and disadvantages of manual backups:

Pros:
·       It’s the simplest.
·       You don't need any backup programme to manually backup the content of your computer fairly regularly.
·       You have the assurance the copies haven't been mangled by third party software and can easily be restored to wherever they are needed at a later time.
·       It is the neatest way of restoring your personal data after a clean install of your old operating system or if you need a new operating system.

Cons:
·       It doesn’t deal with everything you might need copies of.  To back up the settings for the programmes you use, the applications themselves and the latest updates and licences you need something more than copying and pasting.
·       It can result in a slower method of restoring your computer than other methods.
·       It requires discipline to implement regular backups manually.

 
Other aids:

I have not touched upon other recovery tools such as a copy of your operating system disk. Some of the more sophisticated backup software, like Acronis, also provide for a recovery system.

If you have simply lost a file or accidentally deleted it you might be able to find it and recover it with software such as Everything, for searching, or Recuva, for finding and restoring a file.


You need help as to how to backup?

I've already mentioned various tutorials and most operating systems have their own guides under Help. Most third party software has its own help guide. Tutorials for some backup software, including Microsoft's, for the main Windows operating systems can be found at Top-Windows-Tutorial.com.  If in doubt Google for help for backing up your particular computer model or operating system.



Some notes about the different kinds of backups:

There are three common forms of backup - full, incremental and differential. Full is self-explanatory. Incremental saves the differences in data between the last backup, be it incremental or full, and the new one. Differential backups save any files that have changed since the last full backup. Hence incremental backups are faster than differential ones, while full backups are the slowest. However, should you have to restore from a backup then the speed factor more or less reverses, and an incremental backup can be the slowest to restore, even although some programmes like Acronis claim they use "special snapshot technology to rebuild the full image quickly for restoration" to make incremental backups more practical.  There are advocates for each different kind of backup.

Some other views on backing up:

If you want to look at a range of other views on backing up try one or more of these sites: WikiHow or PCBackupReview.com.   For an encyclopaedic 2007 view covering every aspect authoritatively for that time, and incidentally showing just how complicated it can be, see Michael Horowitz's class notes.

Are you still puzzled?

Keep it simple as otherwise you won't do it. It becomes too much of a hassle. At the very least make sure you have what is important to you saved somewhere else, with at least one copy off your computer. Doing it manually is fine so long as you remember to deal with your e-mails as well. Using what Microsoft or Apple have provided in their later operating systems is fine. Otherwise why not look at cloud storage or an external hard drive with in-built backup software. 


If you are lost I repeat the advice to use Google or another search bar "how to backup your computer" and add if you wish what you want advice about, e.g., a particular operating system like Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, or 10 or your Apple Mac system, a particular backup system or medium, or whatever. For example, one of us wanted to know about the Western Digital Passport External Drive system so search for "Western Digital Passport External Drive backup system" or something similar until you get a reference that seems to address your interest. WesternDigital, like other suppliers, has its own pages on its products that you can consult. Here is the WD link. Other external hard drive suppliers include Verbatim, Seagate, Iomega, Transcend, Samsung and La Cie.


Summary:  

Steps 1,2 and 3 - Recovery Disks and System Restore: Follow notes above.

Step 4 - Backing Up:

1. Use the automatic backup system in your version of Windows or Apple and an external hard drive or an online cloud storage drive or, preferably, both. 

2.  Use another form of automatic sychronisation or back up software so that it happens regularly.

3.  If you can discipline yourself, manually back up your User Documents folder or your documents and other personal materials like Pictures and send them to another drive or drives, with at least one being off your computer, regularly.  Ensure you backup your address books, if they aren't in your Documents Folder. 

4.  Backup your e-mails by following one of the ways already mentioned:
For Outlook Express go to Microsoft Outlook Express e-mails. If you are using Microsoft Outlook go to the File Menu and Backup and select your backup destination. Mozilla programmes such as Firefox and Thunderbird are best dealt with by MozBackup.

5.  By all means have your own copy documents and essential data AND use a backup programme AND use a drive image backup programme AND back up to the Cloud as well. But whatever you do ensure you have secure copies of what is essential to you. You might find an image backup useful in some circumstances but it might not save you. If you have your essential data copied and saved somewhere else, preferably in two different locations, you should be safe whatever happens. As has been said "every storage medium and device will fail, the only question being 'When?' "

6.  Should you be unfortunate enough to have to use a backup to restore data have a look at Fred Langa's How to Recover Data from Your Backups in Windows Secrets.

7.  If the worst comes to the worst and you have to re-install your operating system remember the advantages are that you will be able to get rid of almost any problem that isn’t hardware related, such as deeply embedded malware, and of the accumulated garbage on your machine.  How to do a Custom re-install depends a bit upon your operating system: for Windows 7 have a look at this Microsoft page, or for Windows 8 this Microsoft pageExtremeTech has a page on how to reinstall Windows 8 without losing your files and programs.  Better still for Windows 8 there is a possibility you can repair the problem by using Automatic Repair, explained by Bleeping Computer.  For Windows 10 the options are even further improved: look at this Microsoft page and the reset option.  I have already touched upon the Apple Mac equivalent above.

Personal comment:

Most advice on this topic suggests you need a sophisticated third party backup system, at a price.  I've gone along with this for years and have invested in different state of the art backup systems including Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image, Genie-soft's and Nero's programmes and a number of others.  When the crunch has come I have not used any of those aids.  I've done a clean re-install of my operating system, as if you've lost everything why would you want to restore the detritus built into the image backup of your hard drive?  Then I've reinstalled my software and finally I have pasted in copies of all my files and folders and personal data including e-mails and favourites or bookmarks. On various computers using various operating systems, all of which have had to be re-installed in one way or another at some time, I have never had resort to a software backup system except MozBackup for my Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird profiles and data. And it has worked as I have never lost anything of note. 
Although I still have a very recent Acronis programme I don't intend using it again.
 
A year or two ago when my system failed totally I moved from Windows XP to Windows 7. My Acronis True Image backups were of no use whatever in respect of an image of my XP set-up and while the file backups might have been usable it was a long way around when I could simply paste in the copies of my files and folders from my external hard drive and use my download disks and files to restore my essential software.  More recently I accidentally removed my email programme when updating to Windows 10.  I had backed it up prior to the update with MozBackup so nothing was lost.
 

For my automatic back ups I have a WD My Book constantly attached to my computer using both the Windows and WD backup software and Karen's Replicator.  I also use One Drive for my documents and pictures.  On the same external drive I have reasonably frequent manual backups of my email profile through MozBackup and copies of my User folder.  On another external hard drive I have complete backups, including my email profile, and copies of my User folder and other essential information.  I also have a copy of all my essential documents and pictures, my email profile and some other essential information on a 32GB flash drive.    



[Updated and revised 4 June 2016.]

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