Backups

One thing about owning Windows machines for so long is that you really get to know how sluggish they become over time.  When you buy them they boot reasonably quickly and do the same upon shutting down.  As time goes on, they take longer and longer to do so.  I’m not sure what it is that affects them; perhaps it’s the numerous updates that they get or maybe its the programs that get installed and uninstalled.  One thing I do to alleviate that (or at least used to) is to backup my data, and reinstall a fresh copy of Windows.  It’s a time consuming process to install all applications and updates again and there’s always the concern that I missed backing up something important.  Still, it can help speed things up a bit.

In getting this MacBook Pro, I wanted to image the drives.  By that I mean I wanted to take the newly started computer and be able to reinstall that, patches and all, with one fell swoop.  I’d like to image the computer once I install the applications I think I’ll use too.  That way I will hopefully spend less time doing the whole refreshing process if it gets to feeling like it’s slow as well.

Because I’m running Boot Camp, I have an OS X partition and a Boot Camp partition so the backup process is a bit more involved.  On the Mac side, there are two programs that seem well known when I do a Google search.  One is Time Machine, which comes with OS X, and the other is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), which is a free download (donationware).  In reading various reviews of each, it seems like they complement each other.

Carbon Copy Cloner has the capability of copying the drive to an external drive and even making it bootable.  That way if the main drive died, you could get up and running literally right away.  Subsequent updates will backup files modified since the previous backup and it will store the previous version of the changed file in a separate place so it too could be used to restore if needed.  CCC can also save to a specific directory which is non-bootable but can be handy for me because it won’t get overwritten.  The idea of restoring to a freshly installed state can be made possible by doing that.

Time Machine continuously backs up files to an external hard drive but is not bootable and therefore cannot be used immediately should the main drive fail.  It’s said to be a better solution for versioning files (keeping several versions of files that are being worked on).

Because I do not plan to keep an external drive connected to the MacBook Pro at all times (it’s a laptop), I chose to go with CCC.  I bought a 1 TB Toshiba portable hard drive.  It’s really nice!  It’s very small – MUCH smaller than another 1 TB external drive I bought in 2009.  The Toshiba also doesn’t require an external power source and is USB 3.0 capable, which my MacBook Pro supports.  The transfer is pretty quick but of course not nearly as fast as the internal drive.

I partitioned the drive into two, an 800 MB partition for CCC and a 200 MB partition for other files I want to keep, such as copies of programs I download.  The 800 MB got further divided by CCC to make a restore partition, exactly like the internal hard drive has.  I copied the whole drive over, making it bootable.  I plan to use that one to continuously backup to as I plug it in every few weeks.  I try to target backups to take place monthly but it really winds up being more like semi-annually.  I really need to do better but I’ve been doing it manually so it takes a while.  Additionally, I copied the drive to a directory to permanently keep a freshly installed copy of OS X without any changes.  Once I load programs I plan to use, I’ll copy it once again to a different directory so I will have options as to which one I might want to restore.

Now for the Boot Camp partition, a program used to be widely regarded for backing it up.  It’s called Winclone.  It became abandoned but in reading further, I read it recently got supported again.  It used to be free but it now costs $20.  I figured that’s a reasonable price to pay to save images of the Windows partition.  I stored its image in that 200 MB part of of the Toshiba drive.  The best part of that is that it’s patched and activated.  That’ll save a lot of time when I restore that!  Winclone also compresses the image by not taking the empty space so the image didn’t take 65 GB like the partition takes.  It took much less!

One day I will look into cloud-based backup.  Maybe I could use Time Machine that way?  The versioning feature would be nice, particularly as I write programs.  Of course I write program in Visual Studio which is a Windows product so maybe it won’t help so maybe it won’t help after all.  Can Windows Backup backup to the cloud?

I need to come up with a plan for my desktop.  In reading about Winclone, I read the backup utility in Windows can make images as well.  Since Boot Camp is special the Windows backup can’t really be used on the Mac but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work on the desktop.  When I go to do the whole reinstall process on it, I’ll give it a go.