Reformatting a system you’ve been on for a long time can be stressful. You’ve spent countless days and months building an empire, and although that empire begins to wither, it is your empire none-the-less.
Backing up your Computer
I landed on two pieces of software that I really enjoyed for backing up a system. Each one of these backup tools has it’s own strengths. Neither of these I am endorsed by or have a connection to. One will handle file backup while the other is great at creating backup images. The most important part to having useful backups is to have recent backups, both of these programs offer automated backups.
Types of Backups
File back ups are great to quickly access a specific file or keep per-file versioning. Examples of file back software can be Google Drive, DropBox, etc. This is great for restoring a specific file or folder or going back to a previous version of a file.
These often are a full drive backup and often require extra work when you need to access a file on the backup. These can be great to restore you system back to an earlier time to an image of the system if you need to.
- Crashplan – Easily choose a backup location and what you want to back up (or use its default user folders – the areas you tend to save everything to; the places that matter). The best part about Crashplan is that it will sit in the background and actively monitor the folders waiting to backup when the time is right – you can choose to have it act when the CPU usage is low or you’re away from your system.
Crashplan is free, but offers a paid cloud service so that your backups can truly be safe off-site (this is a hard one for most people to accomplish, not even I can boast this). They even allow an option to send a hash code to a friend and you can use their system as a remote backup location. The initial backup will take the longest but everything after that will be incremental meaning that any changes will be saved rather than creating redundancies. One caveat I ran into: it kept auto backing up my chrome user settings which were constantly changing, this used up unnecessary space and caused it to constantly back up those files. With fine tuning you can decrease the time between auto back up and remove troublesome folders that you do not need. If you want it to backup some very specific files Crashplan will overly excel at this task.
TLDR; Crashplan is great for backing up individual files & offers remote/cloud backup.
- Macrium Reflect – Allows you to create full disk backups without needing to turn off your system and boot into some disk backup tool. It actually creates a full backup image fairly quick and compresses it down so it doesn’t use 1:1 for data storage. There are some nifty features that were a great help for me; you can create differential or incremental backups. This is useful if you created a master backup and then you wanted to backup again two days later. A differential backup saves only the differences from your master backup images, whereas an incremental backup creates a backup off of the last incremental image which is also dependent on all previous incremental images to patch together. You can also create automated schedules from scratch or use one of their predefined templates which includes interesting schemes such as Grandfather, Father, Son – Grandfather is a full backup every month, Father is a differential backup every week, and Son is a daily incremental backup. One of my most favorite features is being able to mount an image, it does this extreamly fast and allows you to browse through an old image backup. This is fantastic because I just reformatted my system and it’s very easy to pop my old drive up and grab files that I need. You can even convert the images to .vhd to use in a virtual machine if you would like; it is very timely and since you can nearly instantly mount Macrium Reflect images you might as well do that, but you can mount it and boot it up which is pretty awesome OS-Inception! You can toss the drive onto a Virtual Machine like VirtualBox boot it up and grab application settings that you forgot to backup 😉
TLDR; Macrium Reflect is great for creating backup images including full drive backup images. It also includes file backup, image mounting, and allows for a recovery disk if you have a hard system failure.
You can choose to run these both at the same time if you want. I honestly fell in love with Macrium Reflect, I think it was the better tool at hand for reformatting. Crashplan still has its place, I love that it uses a file watcher to determine what has changed to back it up rather than spending the overhead to scan the system and determine that. Where Crashplan can take hours to backup some files, Macrium Reflect can do in less than an hour – I just finished scheduling backups on my fresh OS and setting up a scheduled backup plan (grandfather, father, son) in 7 minutes and 26 seconds – that’s on a slower/older SSD with about 50GB consumed.
Here are a few helpful articles to read about what you should focus on when backing up and getting ready for to reformat. Some of these steps will really save you time and frustration – some settings, configurations, and keys of programs that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily get to with a backup.