Trustworthy backup software for users

So I’ve just had a pretty colossal failure. User buying used workstation to upgrade from his really old workstation. Wants to stay on Windows 7 because his old copy of Solidworks 2012 won’t run on Windows 10. For those who don’t have experience with Solidworks the license is multiple thousands of dollars so upgrades were never a possibility.

Anyway. User runs Norton for backup and it’s been a couple decades since I’ve been burned by Norton so I make sure it’s set to back up all file types and all locations and run a backup of the user’s old machine. Now his old machine has an SSD that he wants to port over to the new machine.

So we discuss a plan where first we’ll take the new machine with its HDD and we’ll build everything out on that and make sure it’s 100%. Only after everything checks out do we pull the SSD and install it in the new machine, wipe it, and load on a new copy of Windows 7, his apps, and his data. He agrees and we install all his apps and restore his data on the new machine. He spends some time looking it over and says “looks great”.

Alright, so we’ve got a working plan and what I thought was a good backup. So we swap the SSD, wipe it, load Windows 7, load his apps, and restore his data. “Where are my solidworks files?” FML, please.

So my normal attitude is I don’t trust any backup software in my normal course of operations. If the user trusts their backup I’ll run with it but I generally prefer to copy files from one place to another because that way you can see the files and they’re there and there’s no doubt. So is there is any backup software I can put in the hands of users that is trustworthy and where I’m not going to get burned? It has to be for end users because I can’t always be there holding their hand.

Now I didn’t know this but I was screwed from the word go because apparently you can’t copy solidworks files and I didn’t know that. Apparently, with copied files some proprietary Dassault scheme of internal file links or associations gets broken. So even if all of his data hadn’t gone poof he would have still been left with a bunch of broken files.

I’ve got some data recovery software I’m going to try on his SSD but if anyone has any recommendations for good data recovery software for Windows 7 x64 I’ll take that too.


Some people use OneDrive to backup their windows user profile.

Anything inside the documents folder will be auto backed up.
You can even change all of the default user profile library folders to reside inside of onedrive.

Have a good day!

If backing up to a USB drive or over the network to a share, Veeam Endpoint is free, fast, reliable, modern and has plenty of features.

The other similar, highly regarded free option is Macrium Reflect, but I don’t have much experience and can’t vouch for it myself.

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I’ve recently discovered Veeam and have been happy with it. It was easy to set up and forget. I plan on testing it in a few days to see how easy the recovery process is.

I have been using acronis true image for many years on all machines. Full partition images with verification, plus encryption and keeping several copies in different places.
I’ve never had a problem restoring a copy. There has never been a situation of missing files or a non-working OS after moving to the new hdd / ssd.
It is not free, but for some SSDs, such as Crucial, there is a free license.

I think fundamentally, backup is a strategy/process, where the software itself doesn’t really matter so much. Can be file or block level.
The only good backup is one that has been tested to work.

Depending on the technical level of the user, even a backup USB drive and some bundled software might be fine, as long as the user carries it out.

If the user is a mate or customer, I would schedule a date like 6 months in the future to discuss it, either in person or over the phone to check up on them, or re-asses the strategy?

Personally I do replication if file systems, to hot pluggable drives that I cycle out and store at work.
I’ll loose no more than 2 weeks, if disaster strikes.

Let me add a few more words to the overall discussion… :slight_smile:

For SOHO customers, I personally recommend cold backups once a day. Preferably after the end of the day overnight or early in the morning before the day begins. If anything happens, the return point is fairly close, and usually the user’s machine should not contain hot data with high change activity.
Acronis allows you to create a special rescue partition from which it can be run pre-OS or possibly from usb. Useful when dealing with something other than NTFS and Windows (yes, I use it for Ext4 and linux too, sometimes even for VM). In the case of Windows, copies can also be made from the OS level. Plan and location of copies as desired. They can be holistic or incremental, with or without compression, encrypted or without …
You can also perform periodic checks of the correctness of the copy if bit rot has not crept in.
The storage of the backup depends on the level of the critical data and the client.
I personally recommend that clients keep their copies away from the source machine. It can even be a usb data carrier. Can be SMB / NFS resource via lan. Possibly an external location, be it a cloud or some dedicated server.
I used Odroid HC2 quite often as a local small LAN point. Windows machines via the local network have veracrypt containers mounted individually reachable via samba per machine.
Even if one machine gets infected with some crypto, you won’t be able to damage other resources.
Backup file rotation and proper access rights are also important. The machine that performs the backup procedure itself should never have R/W access to all backups. It should be planned so that even aggressive crypto will not be able to deprive us of all backup files. The backup after execution and verification should be immediately disconnected / moved / changed to RO rights for the source machine in order to avoid loss of backups in case of hostile action.
In the case of NAS penetration, even if the backups themselves are not encrypted, the data is contained in an encrypted veracrypt container. So data leak from NAS does not cause an extreme problem.

Overall, it’s best to have three independent backups and a prepared and tested data recovery plan. :wink:

The backup software is going to largely dictate your strategy. Cloud based backup software is going to necessitate quite different strategies than software that only knows how to write tapes. The speed and data-size of your backups are going to impact how often it is possible and desirable to perform backups. And some backup options even necessitate continual, online backups, while others work better with long intervals in-between.