Personal Computer Backup Strategy – the Wrong Way

Computer storage is cheap. Yet vast majority of home and home office users do not back up their computers, risking the loss of priceless data accumulated over the years. Main culprit in my opinion has always been the lack of reliable backup system provided by operating system (OS) makers.

Until relatively recently, users have relied on OS built-in backups that were confusing, hard to use, and most importantly quite unreliable. Words “unreliable” and “backup” do not go well together. Some third party solutions have been on the market but they usually have high perceived cost and reliability there is spotty as well.

With the advent of the Time Machine by Apple that first shipped with the 10.5 “Leopard” release of Mac OS X, the Mac users have been at a slight advantage with user friendly backup with advanced features. Another major OS maker, Microsoft however has been lagging the in this field and only in Windows 8 was the first time we saw a Time Machine-like backup solution. I have not personally tested the Windows 8 backup yet but the fact is that majority of computer users have older Windows OS-es and many are still reluctant to upgrade for various reasons.

Windows XP is still the most popular Microsoft OS and it’s backup solution has not been working out for me personally. A few years back, I had a Windows XP PC with a few gigabytes of personal data on it. Windows default backup system even allowed automated backups via scheduling. Easy right? I went ahead and set-up a schedule to back up my main C: drive (OS and documents) to a secondary E: drive. Everything was going well, Windows kept backing up incrementally, and I had a peace of mind. One day however I lost some files and decided to get them back from the backup source. To my horror, Windows XP reported that it could not restore files because there was a “problem with backup archive” – that’s it! No explanation, no recourse and the file wasn’t even damaged – Windows XP has simply decided that the backup archive was not good enough to even try and restore few of my files. Since the archive is proprietary, I had no other means of retrieving my files even though they were there … somewhere.

I tried online backup solutions as well, but they were all inadequate – mainly because of the high bandwidth requirements and the speed at which I could upload huge amounts of data (Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) severely limit the upload speed).

Since then, I have decided to implement a more robust backup system that did not rely on a backup software or proprietary systems. My thought was that such a robust system would be more complicated than Windows own, but after doing some research and refining it over the years I believe I have a backup strategy that is good enough for a home user and possibly even a small business owner or a professional. In the case of a hard drive failure my data is safe and I can get back my whole setup in a relatively short amount of time. Even in the event of catastrophic failure (fire, theft), with this strategy I can minimize the data loss to only a very recent period.

Check out my next article Backup Strategy That Works for details.