Department of Redundancy Department seeks backup suggestions

I could use a little help. And so could some others, I bet.

I’m already a believer in backing up computer files. My pictures, for instance. I have all my digital image files in at least three different places. All my music, too. (Although I do need to move one external drive out of my house, like to a drawer at work.)

I’ve recently begun cloning hard drives, mostly as a way to install new, bigger drives in systems. But I know I can clone them to create backups that should let me restore things without reinstalling all my software. (A few weeks ago, I cloned my main desktop machine at home, only to lose one major software installation when the new drive crashed. I popped the old drive in and everything else was perfect, but the most recent software was a complicated install that had taken a couple of hours. I am a fan of redundancy in computers now.)

So now I want to start creating backups of my desktop, and a couple laptops as well. I’m in the market for software to help me and I’m looking for suggestions.

In an ideal world, I would use one 1-terabyte external drive to create a backup for three different machines.

Is this prudent, or should I use a different external drive for each machine?

And what software do you recommend?

Western Digital has a version of Acronis True Image that works if one of the drives involved is a WD drive, and in most cases I can use it. I’ve also tried a couple others. But I’ve never restored from an external drive and the idea makes me nervous. Would I be better off just making a clone of the entire drive regularly and setting the clone aside?

Help!

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rbohlen wrote on June 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

As an former Apple software consultant I'm exposed to a limited number of PC backup challenges, however a backup philosophy is the same whether on a PC or MAC. I feel it's NOT necessary to clone your drive periodically and call it a secure backup. What about applications installed, or those documents you've worked on between clones? They would be lost since your last cloning.

I use an incredibly simple and secure Mac backup scheme called TimeMachine. Assuming, however that you're a PC user, I suggest you look at ShadowProtect Desktop 4. Its an application which follows your files as they are saved and back them up on the fly. It's reviewed in PC Magazine as an Editors Choice as well as a user favorite.

My favorite philosophy of backups is to preserve all my files/documents, applications, and settings so they may be reinstalled if something is lost (or even trashed by accident). If a whole drive goes down it's a simple (yet time consuming) task to reinstall the operating system from your original software, along with whichever backup application used initially, then tell that application to reinstall all the files/documents, other applications, and settings from the external drive on which the backup has been maintained.

In this manner you save a great deal of time and money, and as said previously, are certain all files/documents on which you've been working up to the moment are maintained as well.

Hope this helps...Dennis F Potten, ACN

Mike Howie wrote on June 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm
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Thanks for the suggestion. I am not familiar with this one, so there's something to explore. I appreciate the time you put in to your response.
- Mike