Usually when I have some adventures with backing-up and restoring I don’t write a blog post about that. But this time it was bit special. I unintentionally repartitioned external drive where I kept all of my system backups and large media files. This made me rethink my backup/restore strategy.

The story

I will begin with the story of my adventures. Currently I’m running Windows 8.1. The other evening I decided I want to play old game from my school days. Since I couldn’t find it I decided to play newer version still relatively old – released in 2006. As usual with old games and current OSs it wouldn’t start. As it is normal for programmer I didn’t give up. First of all there was something with DirectX. It was complaining that I need newer version, which I of course had, but it was way too new for the game to understand. After fixing it game still wouldn’t start because of other problems. I have changed few files in system32. It still didn’t help. Then I decided on other approach – installing WinXP on virtual machine and run it there. I did it with VirtualBox and it didn’t work because of some other issues. Then I found Win7 virtual machine I used before for VMware, but that VM didn’t want to start.

At this point I decided to give up with that game. So to compensate I started looking for small game I played in university. Unfortunately the other game also didn’t want to start by freezing my PC. After reboot… ah… actually there was no reboot since my Windows made its mind not to boot any longer!

Now I had to restore. Thankfully my Dell laptop had recovery boot partition and I was able to quickly restore to previous point in time. Not sure why Windows didn’t boot if recovery wasn’t pain at all.

After that happened I decided that I need additional restoring power. So I ran program by Dell called “Backup and Recovery” to create yet another backup of the system. Program asked me for drive and I found one free on my external HDD where I keep system images. Unfortunately I didn’t pay attention to care about what that special backup might do. It created bootable partition and of course repartitioned entire drive. I pulled USB cable when I realized what it started to do!

I had to recover again, but now files on repartitioned drive. If you look online there are some good programs that allow you to restore your deleted files and even find lost partitions. One of such is EaseUS, but it costs money and I didn’t want to pay for one time. Thus I found one free called “Find And Mount” that allows to find lost partition and mount it as another drive so I can copy files over. That’s good but for some reason speed of recovery was only 512Kbit/s so you can imagine how much time it would take to recover 2TB of stuff. I proceeded with restoring only the most important stuff. Maybe in total restoring took like 30+ hours.

Bit more on this story. Since I needed to restore so much stuff I didn’t have space for it. My laptop is only 256Gb SSD and my wife’s laptop (formerly mine) also has only that much. But I had 512 HDD left aside. So I just bought HDD external drive case for some 13 EUR and thus got some additional space.

So that was end of story. Now I want to document what I do and want to start doing in addition to be on the safe side.

Backup strategy

What’s are the top most important files not to lose? – These are photos and other things that are strongly personal. I’m pretty sure if you have some work projects they are already under source control or handled by other parties and responsible people. So work stuff is therefor less critical.

My idea is that your most important things should be just spread as much as possible. This is true for photos I have. They are just on every hard drive I ever had. At least 5 in Ukraine and 4 here in Austria. Older photos are also on multiple DVDs and CDs. Some photos are in Picasa – I’m still running old offer from Google 20Gb just for 4$ per year. All phone photos are automatically uploaded to OneDrive with 8Gb there. Also I used to have 100Gb on DropBox but then I found it too expensive so stopped keeping photos there.

All my personal projects and things I created on my own are treated almost the same as photos, only they are not so public, often encrypted.

So roughly backup strategy:

  • Photos and personal – as many copies as possible and at as many physical places as possible, including cloud storages
  • System  and all other – System Images and bootable drive, including usage of “File History” feature in Windows 8.1

I started to think if I want to buy NAS and some more Cloud. For now will see if I can get myself into a trouble again and what it would cost if it happens.

On the image below Disk 0 is my laptop’s disk. Disk 1 is where I now have complete images of 2 laptops at home, complete copy of Disk 2 and also Media junk. Disk 2 is another drive with Windows installed, which will now be used regularly for backups and for “File History”.


Now some links and how-to info:

  1. Find and Mount application for restoring partitions
  2. EaseUS application with lots of recovery options, but costs money
  3. Enabling “File History” and creating System Image in Win8.1 can be done from here: Control PanelSystem and SecurityFile History
  4. External USB 3.0 HDD 2.5’’ Case I bought
  5. Total Commander has features to find duplicate files, synchronize dirs and many other which come handy when handling mess after spreading too many copies around

This was just a story to share with you but it emphasises one more time that backups are important.

P.S. I finally managed to play newer version of 2nd game :)

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