Windows 7 Backup

Windows 7 Professional
64GB boot SSD
500GB storage SSD

I noticed one day recently that my boot drive was filled near to the brim (I regret buying such a low capacity drive in retrospect). I went searching through the drive for anything that may have installed on it mistakenly and could not find much. In the hopes of freeing some space up, I decided to turn off System Restore. I am at peace with this decision as I am now running my boot drive at about 75% capacity, but I find myself worrying about the lack of safety net now. I have heard of numerous backup utilities such as Acronis and Norton Ghost but I wanted to get the opinions of the community before purchasing or installing any program that is going to be handling near 400GB of data. Thank you in advance for your opinions.

I use Acronis at work for imaging a test system between XP, Vista, 7, and 8 and I haven't had any problems to date. You can switch between single partitions or entire drive backups which is nice if you need to save space when doing multiple backups on an external drive or secondary hard drive that isn't very big.

Some of my co-workers use Ghost but I haven't trusted Norton software in over 10 years despite this not being an antivirus. Ghost I believe can do more than Acronis, such as networked backups (someone correct me on this if I'm wrong). Both are decent in the end though.

If you need a free version, try Clonezilla. It is a pretty good program once you get the hang of it.

If you want incremental backups 'Crashplan' is well reviewed. It can also manage backing up to multiple sources, over the local network and even over the internet to a friends computer for instance..

@PerfectAgent007 I'm not a fan of Norton, myself. Those features on Acronis sounds tempting.

@Novasty Free is not required, but definitely something to look into, thank you.

@Kai You mentioned incremental backups. Just so I'm clear, that is what Windows System Restore does, right? The difference being that Crashplan has additional features you explained which allow me to backup a number of different ways?

Since I'm so new to the concept of manual backups, my question is how exactly does it work? I'm thinking that I will only backup my boot drive just in case that gets messed up. Is it smart of me to think that? How should I approach this?

Boot SSD capacity: 17.3GB free of 59.9GB usable
Storage SSD capacity: 88.2GB free of 476GB usable

System Restore keeps a record on your current harddisk so you can rollback. That is not a backup in the traditional sense. Although a great feature it isn't something you can rely on and neither will it protect you in the event of disk failure.

If you are refeering to 'Windows Backup' than yes, it does. Windows Backup is an ok solutation, if a little limiting, but it'll get you by fine.

A manual backup can be as simple as copying and pasting all your files to another hard drive.
A automatic backup, in the example of Windows' built in utility, can copy your files on a regular basis (every day, every week, ext) to an external storage device. It can also copy an 'image' of your HDD which in theroy could be restored if you're HDD were to take a dump.

The first, and most important, thing to backup is your files. Anything you couldn't live without down to the stuff you wouldn't want to live without. A system reinstall isn't that difficult in comparison to recreating all your files. I'd back up your storage drive first.
Thankfully you're on SSDs for both storage and boot so it's less likely to suffer an unexpected issue, but still possible.

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Thank you for all the information and advice. I think you've prepared me enough to start fiddling with the extra drives I have laying around. I appreciate the help.

Have fun. :)

This seems like a relevant place to answer this question, anyone know of some solid backup drives? Either internal or external?

Knowing how much you need to back up will go a long way in determining the best drive for you, and also whether the drive needs to be portable is a valid question.

I personally use internal backups on my desktop because I have four hard drives in it (11TB total) which is plenty for that machine as well as my laptops and any other backup needs. But if you're backing up just a laptop or you have a small form factored desktop where a installing a second hard drive is either difficult or can't be done, a 2.5" external USB 3.0 drive would probably suit your needs. If you need more than 1TB increase that to 3.5" so you can get the extra space. If it has to be portable (no power cord) 2TB is available in the 2.5" size but you'll pay a little more.

As far as brand name goes WD/HGST drives seem to be setting the bar for reliability these days and WD has 3-yr warranties on their Passport Ultra Metal drives and 2 years on most if not all of their other lineup.

That all being said I prefer to build my externals from internal drives whether they be 2.5" or 3.5" because of the better performance options available. External drives are usually built from the cheapest internal drive in a given company's lineup. For example, Seagate typically builds their drives from the Barracuda/Momentus lines and gives them the lowest possible warranties. WD is better quality and reliability, but I still like to squeeze more speed out of them if possible.

I currently have two 2.5" externals built from HGST 500GB Travelstars (these are really just for data transport than actual backup so I don't need much space) but I like these over any other 2.5" drive I've used because they're full 7200RPM and have 32MB of cache which is the most I've seen for any drive of this size with the exception of the WD Velociraptor (Enterprise grade), but those don't always fit an external enclosure nor will they fit most laptops.

If you come up with any ideas I'm happy to give my two cents on it.

(I believe you're replying to me lol) I think internal is the way to go for me, just backing up my desktop 2tb + 128gb SSD. What flavor of the Western Digital would you recommend? Red or Black?

In truth any of the WD desktop drives will work but I like the Reds and up because of the longer warranties (3 for Red and 5 for Black). I can also speak from personal experience that the Red drives are fantastic for speed and reliability. Between my desktop and my NAS I have 15 of them and not one has had a problem in over a year and a half. I had one DOA but that's better than a drive failing down the line.

Blacks are basically the consumer equivalent of an Enterprise drive. The only difference between that and the RE series is the RAID firmware (or so my information says). You might see a little speed boost over the Reds because of the higher spindle speed but I don't think it'll be that much. Naturally they'll be a little pricier but since this is backup and not a RAID array, either drive should suit you just fine.

Awesome, thanks for the advice.