Question Help and advice needed please with OS backups & system images

euphoria4949

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Hi everyone, I need some help and advice regarding OS backups and images, but please (ELI5) explain like I'm 5yo as my knowledge is very poor on this subject. I'm a little embarrassed to say that after more than 2 decades of being a techy PC nerd/enthusiast, I've never actually done any OS backups, imaging, or even learned much about it.

Questions:
  1. Is restoring from a backup image the same as doing a completely fresh install, effectively a total wipe of the broken/corrupt OS and a new fresh OS is installed, all issues are gone for good? Or is it more of patching over the cracks, the broken/corrupt OS files are still there but covered up with the restored OS? Is there any performance penalty; like the old broken OS is still technically there and the restore has been pasted over it so the system might lose a bit of performance?
  2. To create a full comprehensive system backup/image, is Windows built-in thingy good enough or should I really be using a third-party app, free or paid, if I want it done properly?
  3. Do backups/images always work? - If my OS gets completely Fubar'ed, will a restore definitely fix the corrupt/missing OS files, or does a backup sometimes not resolve the issues if it's serious, so a format and fresh install are required?
  4. I currently have my OS drive with drivers and frequently used apps, but all games, personal files, media, some other apps, and everything else on separate drives. If I have to restore the OS from a backup, would I have to redownload and reinstall everything on the non-OS drives like it was a fresh install?
  5. What are the best practises for OS backups and images, anything I should know at all, advice from experiences on things to watch out for?
That's all the questions I have, I'll get to Googling and watching some newbie videos on it, but any and all info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
 

USAFRet

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I don't use Restore points or the built in Windows system images.

Macrium Reflect has done me well. The free version is just fine.
I have the paid on my main system, Free on all the others.

Read through here:
 
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wpgwpg

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I agree with USAFRet. I've been using the free version of Macrium Reflect for years without problems. Just remember that if you want support for it, you'll need to purchase the paid version.

Re your questions:

1) Restoring from a backup restores you to the point where you created the backup, different from a clean install.

2) Don't use the built-in backup program in Windows - it's been unsupported for a good while.

3) Restoring from backups has always worked for me, but if you have corrupt files when you make a backup, you'll still have those corrupt files when you restore.

4) If you have Windows and some apps/data on separate drives, you can back both drives up at the same time, then restore both if needed.

5) You can make restore points if you wish, but when major updates come along, they get cleared out. Make backups with something like Macrium Reflect to an external hard drives for anything you don't want to lose.
 
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euphoria4949

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Thank you both, that's extremely helpful. I will have a good read of that Backup Solution thread you linked when I'm home.
It seems that Macrium is most peoples' choice as every single person I've asked and spoken to on multiple forums has recommended it, so I will give that a try.

If I may ask two more questions please just for clarification. If I only make an image and backup of the OS drive with all apps/games on that c:drive and I have other separate drives with apps/games installed on them, when I restore my OS from my backup everything on the other drives will still be there but they will not work until they are reinstalled as those apps/games will see the restored OS as new.
Is that correct or have I misunderstood?

And lastly, as a restore from an image/backup is effectively rolling back/copying over and not deleting the old OS, can this hurt the performance of the system like it's got two OS installed, two lots of scripts, registry, drivers... etc?
Or in the event of the OS completely pooping the bed, could the broken, corrupt, and/or infected files from the original OS effect and cause issue with the restored OS as it's copied over the top?
Again, to use my decorating analogy; if it's like plastering over the cracks to restore everything back to looking nice, could those cracks (broken OS) start showing through and causing issues the new freshly restored plaster (OS)?

Thanks again to both of you, I really appreciate the help.
 

USAFRet

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1. Restore OS drive, and applications/games on a different drive.
If the games and applications were installed at the same time when the Image was made, they should work. However, any changes that happened since the Image was created would not be reflected in that Image. Some things might not work quite right.

2. Incorrect. Restoring would be wiping out the existing thing, and completely replacing it with the contents of the Image, from whenever the image was created.
Unless you choose to do it otherwise. But why would you?
 
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USAFRet

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As a real world example, one of my SSDs died.
Secondary drive, no OS.
960GB SanDisk, 605GB of irreplaceable pics on it, among other things.

Died literally suddenly. Was working, power off the PC. 10 minutes later, power up.
{hey, where's the Sandisk?}

It was simply...gone. Nothing I tried would make it come back to life. Cables, USB dock, different system, etc, etc.
It was dead.

Dig up a 1TB drive, connect....click click in Macrium.
All 605GB recovered, exactly as it was at 4AM that morning, when that drive ran its nightly Incremental backup.
100%.
 

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