Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Backup if you Only Have One Hard drive?

It is possible in Windows 7 to back up to the same hard drive that Windows is installed on.  In order for this to work, you first need a hard drive that is large enough for the operating system, your files, and the backup and secondly a second partition on the operating system hard drive.  Personally I would not recommend trying this on a hard drive much smaller than 320 GB.  Also like I mentioned in a previous post, I do not recommend using this as your only backup method: http://www.computer-skills.info/2011/08/backupsdo-you-have-one.html.

Just note if you have a second hard drive, you should by all means use that for the backup! You can use the same directions below; just skip the first parts about creating a second partition and go down to Next Step – Setting Up the Backup.

This does not work in with the Windows Vista or Windows XP backup applications.  If you want to backup in Windows Vista or XP, you will need a third party program to perform the backup to the same hard drive.

Creating a Second Partition

First off, we need to create a second partition, if you don’t have one already.  Some manufactures will split the hard drive into two partitions so you might be all set.  Creating a partition basically splits the hard drive into 2 hard drives or more.

Go to Start, right click on My Computer and go to Manage.


Once the Computer Management Console opens, go to Disk Management, which is under Storage (it may take a few minutes to load the hard drive information).  In my screen shot, you can see that my hard drive is already split into 4 partitions, all originally created by Acer for the purpose of system restoration.  My hard drive is a 750 GB hard drive.


Right click on the Windows partition and click on Shrink Volume the Windows partition should be the only one with boot in the status and will most likely be the largest partition.


It will take a few minutes for the computer to figure how much it can shrink the Windows partition by and present you with its results.  In my case 324,824 Mega Bytes (MB) or 324 Giga Bytes (GB) can be freed up.  Results will vary considerably here especially if you have had your computer for a while, hopefully you can get at least 100 GB.


Enter a size for the amount of free space you want to create for the new partition.  In my case I am going to go with 200,000 MB or 200 GB, which should be more than enough for me.  Once done entering size, click Shrink and Windows will shrink the partition, shrinking the partition may take some time.


When the computer is done shrinking the partition, disk management will show the free space created.  Just a note about hard drives at this point, you are only allowed 4 partitions per hard drive, so you may be wondering how I am able to have 5?  The last partition on my hard drive is a logical partition (the Windows partition, designated by the fact that it has a green outline around it), which is capable of holding volumes (instead of partitions).  A logical partition is basically a partition holding more partitions or correctly called volumes within itself.  So, depending on how your hard drive is setup, you will be creating either a partition or volume.


Right click on the free space and click create New Simple Volume or New Partition.


Click Next in the New Partition Window.


Enter a Value for the size of the new partition, unless you need something special you should be able to just accept the default number and click Next.


Choose a Letter to assign to the new hard drive.  Again you can just accept the default and click Next


For formatting the new partition I recommend using the NTFS file system, Default allocation unit size, add your volume label – in my case I am going to call it Backup; and check the box next to Perform a quick format; click Next when done.


Click Finish.


Once you click finish, Windows will create and format the partition/volume.  This may take a few moments.


Next Step – Setting Up the Backup

First go to Start and then go to Control Panel.


In the Control Panel go to System and Security

Control Panel

Under System and Security in the control panel go to Backup and Restore.


Click on Set Up backup in the right top corner.


It will take a few minutes for Windows Backup to start, once it does select the hard drive to back up to, in this case hard drive (partition) Backup (D:), which we created in the previous steps.  You should receive a warning that the partition is on the same disk as the operating system.


In the next screen you can choose what to backup.  You should be able to just leave it as Let Windows Choose what to backup.


On the next screen you can review the settings and change the schedule.  If you need to change the schedule click Change Schedule.  When done click Save settings and run Backup.  Windows will then run the backup for the first time, which may take a few hours.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Backups–Do You Have One?

“Better safe, then sorry!”

Three questions:

  1. Do you have a backup?
  2. And most importantly, does it WORK?
  3. Do you know how to get your data back from your backup
Most people realize they need some form of a backup and have even gone to the trouble of setting one up.  However, does it work?  I have seen some interesting backup solutions over years, a couple note worthy ones (if these described you, you have some work to do):
  • I have a USB flash drive I backup to occasionally.  Whens the last time you backed up?  Um, about a year and half ago.  Yea that should work really good!
  • For last 6 months my backup program keeps saying the media is full!  More than likely this means your backup source is full and any backups will be pretty much worthless.
  • External backup hard drive and backup program that backs up daily.  From what I can see I’ll bet it works really good without the external hard drive plugged into the power outlet!
  • No don’t need a backup, nothing I need to save if something happens.  Oh crap my hard drive crashed I need a couple of important documents!

These scenarios are just some of the backup solutions/problems I have run across.  Unfortunately all of these problems I have run across have occurred after the user lost some data or after the computer crashed.  By the way, just because your computer crashes does not mean your data is lost, in most cases it can be recovered!

Now for a third question, assuming you can answer yes to the first two!  If your lucky you have never had to restore from backup, but knowing how to restore is just as important as actually having a backup.  Having a backup is worthless if you do not know how to restore the data.  If possible you should test restoring from your backup once you set it up.

Some Backup Solutions (more or less from worst to best)

USB Flash Drive – Good for backing up files and pictures, just note that pictures can take up a lot of space in hurry!  While this is not a bad backup method, there is one significant problem (you).  This backup method requires interaction on your part and like my example above if you forget to backup, it basically becomes worthless.  One good thing about a flash drive is that is virtually indestructible.

Same Hard Drive – Yes, it possible to backup to the same hard drive and if you do not have the money to spend on additional components this is the method I recommend.  Just make sure you have a hard drive that is big enough for your system and your backup.  I would not recommend anything smaller then a 320 GB for this, and also make sure you create a second partition for the backup, preferably no smaller than 120GB.  There is one major problem with this backup method, and that is the fact that if your hard drive fails, most likely your backup will be history as well.

Second Hard Drive (or External Hard Drive) – This is definitely better than backing up to the same hard drive since the chances of both hard drives failing at the same time is small.  However, it is still possible if the computer catastrophically fails that your secondary backup drive could be ruined as well.  I recommend that you get a hard drive that is the same size as your main hard drive for best results.

Network Attached Storage – This is good solution if you have more than one computer you wish to backup.  This solution also allows you to have the hard drive completely separate from the computer, or even in a different building!  Just make sure you have enough space for all the computers you are backing up; also, if your network attached storage device allows, create a hard drive partition for each computer, this will prevent backups from other computers from interfering with each other.  Just to note, that restoring from a network attached device can be more involved as well as being slower depending our network connection speeds.  Also not all backup programs support backing up to network devices.

Online Backups – This is starting to become more popular and is possibly one of the best ways to backup.  These services however can be somewhat costly especially if you want to backup the entire hard drive including the operating system.  The biggest issue with online backups is the fact that they are only going to be as fast as your internet connection which even with a fast connection is going to be extremely slow.  This is why some online backup providers offer to snail mail your restored data.  While this is a great backup method I recommend supplementing it with your own backup for quicker data restoration.

Previous Versions–A Windows Backup Feature

Previous Versions is little known Windows backup feature that automatically backs up files and folders.  While this backup will not help you much in restoring a crashed computer it is great for restoring the occasional file you accidentally deleted or messed up.  Sorry XP users, this only works in Windows Vista or Windows 7.  Previous Versions was originally known as Shadow Copy and was part of Microsoft’s Server operating systems.

To access the backup, go to the folder where the file was originally stored and right click an empty spot and click Properties


Once the file Properties open, go to the Previous Versions tab.  It may take a few minutes for Windows to load the Previous Versions for the folder.


Under the Folder versions, find the date you want to restore from and double click on it.


Double clicking a restore point will open up a folder that will look like it was on that date


Now, find the file or folder you wish to restore, and what I usually like to do is drag it to the desktop first.  From there you can put it back in the original folder, alternatively you can drag it straight back into the original folder as well.