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I have had too many occasions when I found it appropriate or even necessary to describe my strategy for backing-up my PC. I thus decided to document my strategy formally for future use.
In the following description, I refer to drives C, E, and H. E and H are not the actual drive letters, which I prefer to keep private.
My PC uses Windows 7 Ultimate. The hardware includes a solid-state drive (SSD) that is partitioned into drives C and E with a combined capacity of approximately 110 GB and a "spinner" drive having the single partition for drive H with a capacity of approximately 1 TB.
For performing backups, I use Acronis True Image 2015. There are good other backup applications available, but I received a recommendation for Acronis from the person who setup my PC. He installed it and covered the cost.
Although backups can be scheduled to run automatically and even continuously, I much prefer to run my backups manually for two reasons:
In preparation for the backups, I delete temporary and cache files, compress SQLite databases, compact Thunderbird mail folders, disconnect from the Internet (from my local router), and finally disable my anti-virus application. I offload onto a flash drive any software installer files that I have accumulated. All this reduces the sizes of the backups and slightly speeds the process.
In Acronis True Image, I have set options to exclude certain files from the backups, especially existing backup files (.tib files) and FTP log files (generated when I upload Web pages to my Web site).
Each drive is involved in a three-week cycle of backups. For each drive, a cycle begins with a full backup. In the following two weeks, each drive is then incrementally backed-up, capturing any changes since the prior backup. This is illustrated in the table below.
|Drive C||Drive E||Drive H|
Note that, just before doing a full backup of a drive, the full and two incremental backups of that drive from two cycles earlier are erased. After completing my backup task, I thus have two full backups of each drive. I use a strong file erasing application that overwrites the backups twice each. Also note that when backing-up drive H, I exclude the folders containing photos and music.
As I indicate above, I exclude the folders containing photos and music when backing-up drive H. When I accumulate what I subjectively think are a sufficient number of new photos or music files, I back them up. I also backup the contents of the flash drive containing my archived software installers when I subjectively think there are a sufficient number of new installers. These are backed-up — not necessarily weekly — in cycles of four instead of three: full, incremental, incremental, incremental. Again, the full and three incremental backups of those files from two cycles earlier are deleted (not erased) when a new full backup is to be generated. Thus, backups of photos and software installers are not aligned with the backups of the C, E, and H drives.
The C, E, and H drives are all backed-up to folders on the H drive. Using PGP, I then create encrypted copies of the backups, which are then moved to an external hard-drive that is stored away from my house. The folders of photos and music are also backed-up to the H drive; I copy those backups to that same external hard-drive but without encryption. When I backup my archived software installers, I have Acronis True Image operate directly from the flash drive to the external hard-drive, again without encryption. As I place backups on the external hard-drive, I delete any backups that I already deleted from my H-drive.
During backing-up, I have Acronis True image give the resulting files names that reflect the source drives, type of backup, and date of backup. Thus, I might have files such as
The backup files output onto my H drive are kept there. They are not encrypted because, if someone breaks into my home to access my PC and those files, I have much worse problems than exposed sensitive data. (I do encrypt certain files on my PC, which I will not characterize here.) I can open the backup .tib files and navigate down to the source folders and files that were backed-up. This allows me to recover individual files that I might have destroyed or otherwise mangled beyond recovery.
4 January 2017
Updated 21 December 2021
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