Software

How do I use a Windows 7 Virtual Hard Disk as a backup device?

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz shows you how to create and use a virtual hard disk (VHD) as a backup device.

As you know, using external hard disks as backup devices has become very popular recently due to the fact that they are now relatively inexpensive to purchase or build. I use several of them for backups on my home and test systems.

The other day I was experimenting with Windows XP Mode on my Microsoft Windows 7 test system and was backing up my Windows XP Mode virtual machine and the accompanying virtual hard disk (VHD), when it occurred to me that I could use a VHD as a backup device.

Once I began experimenting with this technique, I knew that it would be perfect complement to my overall backup strategy. I don't trust a single backup device and like to have multiple backups just in case. Using VHDs, I can easily back up my data and then just copy the VHD file to another external device.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to create and use a VHD as a backup device.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic Download and in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Getting started

Because the technology is built right into the Windows 7 operating system, you don't have to install Windows Virtual PC to create a VHD - you can do it right from the Disk Management Console or even from the command line with the Diskpart command. Let's take a look at the procedure using the Disk Management Console. (I'll go over the Diskpart command procedure at a later time.)

To get started, click the Start button and type Diskmgmt.msc in the Start Search box and then press [Enter]. When the Disk Management Console appears, as shown in Figure A, you're ready to create your VHD.

Figure A

You can create a VHD from the Disk Management Console.

Creating a VHD

Pull down the Action menu and select the Create a VHD command. When you do, you'll see the Create and Attach Virtual Hard Disk dialog box. You'll then need to specify a location and name by clicking the Browse button. You then will specify a size. The Size drop down will allow you to select the size of the VHD in MB, GB, and, TB. As you can see in Figure B, I set up a 40GB VHD called My VH Disk in the Documents folder.

Figure B

You'll then need to specify a location, name, and size for your VHD.

You can specify the format be either Dynamically expanding or Fixed size. The latter is the default and is the option I chose for my VHD. A fixed size VHD will create a file that is the same size as the virtual disk. For example, if you create fixed VHD that is 40GB in size, the system will create a host file approximately 40GB in size.

A dynamically expanding VHD will create a file that at any given time is as large as the actual data written to it plus the size of the header and footer. For example, if you create a virtual hard disk that is 40GB in size, the system will create a host file approximately 80MB in size. As more data is written, the file dynamically increases in size by allocating more disk space from the host hard disk.

For the purposes of creating a virtual Back up device, either format is fine.

When you click OK, the Disk Management Console will begin creating the VHD. Depending on the size that you selected, it may take a little while to create the VHD. You'll see a progress gauge at the bottom of the Disk Management Console window, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You'll see a progress gauge at the bottom of the Disk Management Console window.
Once the VHD is created, right click on its header panel on the left side and select the Initialize Disk command and you'll see the Initialize Disk dialog box, as shown in Figure D. You'll see that your new disk is already selected and since the GPT partition style is designed for 2TB disks or Itanium-based computers, just go with the default MBR partition style and click OK.

Figure D

When you select the command you'll see the Initialize Disk dialog box.

As you may know, MBR is the standard partitioning style that's been used on hard disks since the PC first came out. (Just FYI: MBR supports a maximum partition size of 2TB. GPT supports a maximum partition size of 256TB.)

Initializing the disk is a very quick operation. Once it is complete right click on right side and select the New Simple Volume command and you'll see the New Simple Volume Wizard, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

When you select the command and you'll see the New Simple Volume Wizard.
There are five steps in this wizard and you can just accept all the default settings and click through to the end. When you do, the disk will be formatted as an NTFS volume and an AutoPlay dialog box will appear and prompt you to open the new drive, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

When you complete the wizard, an AutoPlay dialog box will appear and prompt you to open the new drive.

Implementing the VHD backup strategy

To back up your data to the VHD, you can simply copy the files and folders from your hard disk to the VHD or you can use Windows 7's Backup and Restore to actually create its backup file on the VHD. You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive.

Figure G

You can locate and copy your VHD file to multiple locations.

If you want to have multiple copies of your backup, you can copy the VHD file to multiple locations.

What's your take?

Will you use and incorporate VHD files into your backup strategy? Are you using VHDs for data storage? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

68 comments
adammondy
adammondy

Resolve VHD data corruption related queries with advance VHD recovery software. Without facing any complication, user enable to repair & rescue Virtual file data by user-friendly algorithms of VHD recovery application. With 1000% safety and accuracy you can make the procedure to recover data from damaged Virtual PC in more convenient manner. http://www.vhd.recoverydeletedfiles.com/

afalzon
afalzon

I don't see why people are bagging this as a viable backup option.

I have a decent NAS + 3 PCs i wish to backup.

this would allow me to have the backup location on VHDs saved on my NAS.

it also helps when i am given laptops and PCs to fix i could take a snapshot without having to install any extra software.


My Issue is i cannot get it to work!!


i can create the VHD and it shows up as a HDD on my PC but windows backup still does not want to acknowledge that it exists.

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Zenith545
Zenith545

According to Figures E & F, the Free space on your C: drive doesn't change after you created the VHD. Very interesting, since you appear to only have one 500 GB drive in your system. Since you only have one drive in your system, you are backing up data onto that one drive, so you have a single point of failure. I see no advantage in this since you have to move the VHD off the drive in order to have a viable backup strategy. It takes more time & effort to create the VHD and move it to another device than to just copy the data to another device in the first place.

chinmoy1955
chinmoy1955

Your idea is more of an academic nature than a practical solution. Most of the posts have aptly pointed out this fact. A very practical and down to earth backup solution is a disk image by software like Acronis TrueImage. It is a simple matter to just create an image of the relevant partition, save it in a different partition OR in an external drive (CD,DVD,HDD etc.)and next time do an incremental backup. Creation of a disk image is normally very fast and the restoration is also very quick. I have recovered from many a disaster with this method. The latest versions of such software have many options for configuring the backup procedure, including automatic scheduling etc. making the whole process a breeze. There is only one drawback...you can not restore the image of a hard disk to the hard disk of another machine, unless the other machine also has the same hardware configuration as the original machine (that is in case of a backup of the Windows boot drive/partition). Any other non system partition can be safely restored onto any HDD, even to another machine.

sdthompson62448
sdthompson62448

Your virtual drive is on the same physical drive as C:. NOT A GOOD IDEA! Put it on another physical drive.

izharaazmi
izharaazmi

Good to see this topic at your blog. However I often store my personal data on a VHD as it can be shared easily from any PC/VPC and COPY - PASTE option is faster as compared to small chunks of files. But FOR BACKUP KIND OF THINGS.... I DONT THINK THIS TO BE ENOUGH... BACKUP MEANS PROTECTION AGAINST LOSS... WHAT IF DRIVE GOES WITH ALL VHD INSIDE ITSELF ONLY..... Anyways, Bravo Microsoft! for thinking such a great thing building right away in the OS. izhar_aazmi [at] yahoo.co.in

Rob C
Rob C

I have posted an alternative called Seagate DiscWizard. In that post I assumed you would like to back up the lot (OS including data). However, if the complex process you have described in your article, was only to facilitate backing up of some Data files, then I have an alternative suggestion, which is simpler, and more reliable. Get away from MS default storage locations. Much of your data is stored in Documents and Settings. I hate that folder with a vengeance. It is like a mineshaft that was dug by a rabid Wombat. Create folders on your drive like - C:\B_Data C:\B_Money C:\B_Health Or you can just have a folder called C:\B_ And then have sub folders under that. You can use any prefix you like, I chose B_ for backups You can then frequently copy those to a USB drive, or burn them to DVD.

malconcel
malconcel

Not practical. Having data backuped on the same system is not good. If the system completely crashes or the entirely drive is wiped out, then what? External drives has always been more practical. I know external drives can fail but then again, who knows. I guess it's all about user preference

Brady1408
Brady1408

Great job with this new approach and article. I hear a lot of negative feedback but I think it's important for us to remember that even if the advantages aren't immediately obvious that doesn't mean there aren't any. This technique is one more great idea that I will keep in mind when planning my next strategy. Like I said for most of us this will not be immediately useful but that doesn't meant we won't run across a situation where we remember we have this option and it might just be a perfect fit. Thanks for the creative idea I'll add it to my list of backup tools.

Chug
Chug

I've read through several of the posts, which seem to agree that this is pointless, and Gregs responses which basically just say "it's just another option" and "...you'll notice that I say in the article: 'You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive.'" Sure, it's another option, but usually presenting an option means there's some advantage to it. I just don't see any advantage here whatsoever, and much more work that there needs to be. Why not just create a subdirectory on the hard drive, run your backups to that subdirectory, then just copy that subdirectory to external drives. Creating a subdirectory is much less work than creating a VHD just for this purpose.

carmanhere
carmanhere

Will this make a clone of my hard drive? If my hard drive does go I would like to have a back up of it so I do not lose a single note. At least from the last backup or clone that I made. If this will not do it, what software will. Thanks

khransdell
khransdell

I think I'll stick with external drives.I mean why mess with the computers hard drive at all when externals are so cheap and reliable. The very thought of anytging "virtual" makes me nervous anyhow. Call me old fashioned, but I like my hardware hard. LOL ( pardon my pun ). khransdell@hotmail.com Kenny

orcsattheg8
orcsattheg8

Not really good or bad, just an alternative. You could create a vxd on a USB or eSata attached device, and then perform regular (hourly ?) data backups to that virtual machine. In the event of a machine failure, you could boot to the device and be back up and running in a matter of minutes. Just a thought.

jmdiazarg
jmdiazarg

Because... You allways will have to write your files to an external device, you could say that this is better for organization purposes, but... you allways can create a folder and put it all together there and have the same goal. The weak point in your strategy is the fact that if a single file gets corrupted, you can loose all that what you are willing to save. Another weak point is... having such device sizes you cannot use a DVD as external backup, you allways have to connect an external HD and write the file there, why not just copy there directly? A better approach will be to mount a writable iso DVD file and when it's full or at desired time burn it and presto! But i don't know if such piece of software already exists, maybe some developer here will take the glove, you can call that tool "Easy DVD backup" ;)

Rob C
Rob C

If you go to the Seagate web site, you can download their FREE Seagate DiscWizard. It is based on Acronis, but is simpler and easier to use. For it to be free, you must have a Seagate drive connected, so that the DiscWizard knows one is there (somewhere/anywhere). I would buy an external USB docking station. $25 Australian. I would buy an internal Seagate 3.5" drive (500GB is approx $60 Australain) Australia has always cost twice as much as US, so your prices could be much lower. After downloading the Seagate DiscWizard, you burn the ISO to a CD. You shove the 500GB drive vertically into your Docking thingy, and connect it via a usb cable. You boot your PC, and have the CD in the drawer, so that the PC boots into the Seagate screen (not into Windows). You then follow the instructions. If you are backing up the whole drive, you have two choices - - Sector by Sector, which is a 'bare metal' copy of the whole drive - Or, Backup the MBR, and all partitions (You only have to tick one checkbox to get all that) The Sector by sector, is a very large image, and takes a long time to run. I usually use the other, which is smaller, and quicker. If you wish to Restore it all later, to the same drive, it is a piece of cake. If you wish to restore to a different drive (say a new one), it is still a piece of cake. If you wish to restore to a different PC, it is possible, provided that you do not boot into the Restored drive. Instead you put in your Windows CD (not OEM), and do a Repair Install (Not Recovery Console). That allows Windows to scan the hardware, and and make corrections to your image. Then you can boot into Windows in the new PC. Before doing all of this, you should first go into your Windows XP (PRIOR TO ANY of the above), and uninstall IE7 and IE8. The Repair Install trick, cannot handle later versions of IE, as it does not know what they are. An added bonus is - you can browse within your image, and copy files from it. Rob PS I have found the above process extremely reliable, PROVIDED you do not mess around. Use the same docking thingy. Do not copy or move the images. If you are going to organize you 500GB drive, by say creating folders for your image, then do that prior to the image creation. Windows 7 Comment I was nervous that my version of the DiscWizard (May 2009) would not handle Win7, especially as Win7 appears to use a later version of NTFS. I downloaded the latest DiscWizard from Seagate, but it was a bit flaky. Perhaps because my PC is old ?. The 'flakiness' was enough to frighten me, and I went back to using my May 2009 version. It worked perfectly. I can understand the author being careful, and using multiple backup strategies. Why not do what I have done above, and then to be sure, replace the internal drive, with another, and restore the Seagate Backup image, to the new drive. If it works, you can sleep easy knowing the Restore works, and you can also pop one of the drives in a safe place.

vjsh
vjsh

Not seems to be a good approach for Bkp. It is time consuming. Is it possible to explore this VHD using any other OS(linux) or any applications ?

terreaultguy
terreaultguy

Greg I have read all the comments and they have a point I created the VHD directly on an external usb drive Now if I drag folders or files in the attached VHD on the external drive Now that is a backup. But I could have created a folder on that external drive and copy stuff to it. So creating the VHD seems a lost of time. The feature may be usefull for someone who need it for a virtual machine on an other PC. But even then those machines also can access my external drive. And windows 7 can attach to a VHD to see what's on it. Sorry could not see an advantage as a Backup solution. I also conneted the VHD to my virtual XP mode but I had to copy the file to an internal Hard disk it did not work from the external USB Hard drive. So more copying is time consuming. Guy

pipboy
pipboy

It's better to have a network drive on another device and schedule backup or write a bat file which will copy important files over the LAN. Schedule that at 1 am to for example external drive + network drive and you sorted. Once successfully configured all you have to do is check files next morning. Easy.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

You still have to dump that VHD file [even if there is only 1GB of data used, it's still 40GB] to a portable drive. Still prefer to use either of Microsoft's RichCopy or RoboCopy. Can be automated.

chrisrobins
chrisrobins

Created Virtual Disk OK and saved some data. Dare I turn my machine OFF? Will I lose the data on that Virtual Drive?

Jaqui
Jaqui

why would you want to? after all, if your windows 7 craps out you can't access that "virtual hard disk" to do a restore.

The Daleks
The Daleks

The point of backing up is to have a copy of your data on separate media in case the original drive fails or goes missing, or the data are deleted. So backing up to a VHD doesn't seem like a safe thing to do unless you do a "real" backup as well.

johnfr
johnfr

Why all the bother, just copy the files you want to backup to the external drive without all the other fuzz.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you ever considered using a virtual hard disk as a backup strategy? What do you see as the advantages? What are the drawbacks?

Rob C
Rob C

You can restore to another PC. See my post called - Seagate DiscWizard And if you use the Seagate DiscWizard, it is FREE (and is based on Acronis)

Michaelss
Michaelss

I have to add to my last post; while I don't think VHD is a good backup method, not bad, just extra work and the risk of file corruption killing all the files inside; I do think the concept is intriguing, and can lead to other VHD ideas. I did learn something; I didn't know Windows 7 hS built in VHD capability, thank you for that, Greg. As I mentioned before, beyond large data center storage use, I don't see VHD being usefull, but we shouldn't discard the idea altogether. How about we talk about other ways VHD's may be usefull, any ideas out there? Plenty of critics, how about some constructionists.

Rob C
Rob C

See my post called Seagate DiscWizard If you do not wish to create images (though I recommend that you do), you can use Seagate DiscWizrd to clone your drive directly to another hard drive

chris.jackson
chris.jackson

From my point of view we have to support (non-technical) people who are out on the road a lot and it is not their job to manage backups of their data. The good ones will for their own piece of mind but most need to get on with their job such as selling. This method can have auto-backups run and write to within the VHD and then when the staff are back on the corporate network the VHDs can be swept off - this isn't too disimilar to running DiskToDisk backups in something like BackupExec and then sweeping those files off onto tape. In disaster / non-boot situations their are tools to recover VHDs directly to a partition if necessary and tools (winImage) to convert them to other formats such as VMware formats for recovery to virtual environments. This method obviously wasn't suggested as a replacement for normal / standard backup strategies but is a handy way of handling certain situations.

pipboy
pipboy

Easier to use network drive or write a bat file that will copy everything to external drive + network drive.

sykandtyed
sykandtyed

Keep an external HD pluged in the e-sata usb and your good to go off line. All critical data is backed-up on the fly as it's generated. No need for virtual anything as most critical apps provide a backup in their menu. Beside drag and drop is just that easy. Open two Explorers, one for external drive root, second one as example, User>YourName>Documents on the C drive and drag it over to the external drive. Alternate, usb stick drives as the drop drive. HUH?

electricpower
electricpower

I tried it just for the heck of it. Later I had to reboot the pc. Now it is gone???

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Nope. The VHD is on your hard disk. THink of it like a VM from VMware or Virtual PC. It's a big file that resides on your hard disk.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...you'll notice that I say in the article: "You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive."

bobw
bobw

If you install Macrium Reflect you can take an image (while your PC is up and running) of your main drive or drives and put the image on a USB flash disk. If your PC goes bad just boot from the Linux CD that the product creates for you and put your image back where it belongs. Oh yeh. Macrium Reflect is totally FREE!!!!!!!!!! Bob

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...as I mention in the article: "You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive."

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...wrong with backup to an external drive. Using a VHD is just presenting another approach.

Michaelss
Michaelss

You keep repeating: "You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive." Why create extra steps to get the same result, but now your files are tucked inside a VHD file. Your doubling your backup time creating the VHD and then moving it. If you want to put all your files into a single file, use one of many backup programs or just zip them up, but in any case, do it all in ONE step to an external or other separate storage medium, and do it automated. Over all, I fail to see a great benefit to VHD's other than in large network storage environments. Running a VM has endless benefits, but a VHD, not so much, it's just another file, (made up of lots of other files), taking up space like any other file. :)

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...most of you think that using a VHD for a backup device isn't a good solution. However, I think that it is a innovative technique to have on hand and will continue use it as a supplementary backup procedure in addition to my regular daily RoboCopy backups to external drives: Create a custom backup tool with Vista's Robocopy (http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/window-on-windows/?p=777) That said, how about you guys tell all of us how you would make use of the VHD feature in Windows 7?

david.hunt
david.hunt

Used to backup a Virtual Machine. It makes a much quicker recovery if you have lost the whole VM if you can just drop the System Disk in a New VM and then apply the latest Full / Incremental backups. It saves having to build the VM. Even though you can do that from templates, there are always customisations, specific installed apps and "undocumented changes" that can be captured very easily by using a simple file copy (to a network drive) of the VHD used for the System Drive of the VM. Needless to say, this is done on the ESX or VMware Server console, not within the VM. I don't bother with Data disks, as these are taken care of with normal backup and it doesn't take much effort to create a new empty VHD. There are also products around that can do this on the fly without much fuss. As always, you need to understand that when you backup databases that are open without a backup solution that can tell the DB Engine to co-operate by preparing for the backup, you will often be restoring an inconsistent database, and have to resolve that separately. In the Windows 7 scenario presented, there's no point. Others have said it all, so I won't say it again.

paul_soares
paul_soares

Yes, it's cool that you can make a VHD and I do it all the time for testing purposes (which is the real strength of a VM) but there are far better backup solutions, including these freebies: Macrium Reflect CloneZilla DriveImageXML Paragon Backup Genie Timeline EASUS ToDo

joseph_mcmanus
joseph_mcmanus

OK, I get the idea that you are trying to get across, such as a place to keep a copy of your My Docs files (etc.) in case the fertilizer hits the fan and you need a copy of the doc you just deleted, etc. And yes, I did get your point that "you can copy it to another drive" but the other guys have a point also. It's a great idea that you have proposed, and it may well have some uses for some people (I admit it, it's most certainly is an idea that I had NEVER thought of) under specialized circumstances, BUT as a practical backup schema, I just don't know about it. I'll give you 4 stars for ingenuity and resourcefulness, keep up with the brainstorming, as I said before, I (and the other folks) might not see the ready advantages, BUT, this COULD help someone out in a pinch, like NOT having a backup drive available locally, having a slow network and plenty of space on a network drive: do the V disk, get one file and x-fer it to the server or other machine on your network, quick backup, while working on a sick machine and you don?t have backup drive, great. Keep up the GREAT work!

Realvdude
Realvdude

First off, I think everyone is taking backup to mean "everything". Most of the time, I only backup what I want to protect by virtue of having a copy. Yes, I do sometimes backup "everything", but very infrequently. I could see using this as a means to simplify network storage of user backups, since the location of the virtual disk is not limited to physically attached drives. One thing that comes to mind though, is that it would seem to be sure that the virtual drive does not change state while copying, it would have to be taken offline or dettached all together.

sykandtyed
sykandtyed

It's much easier to drag and drop to a usb stick. The purpose of a backup is in the case of a HDD failure you'll have a backup off the HDD.

brianbarry
brianbarry

Why would this even be a consideration?

ian3880
ian3880

Seems to me you are trying VERY hard to justify (OK I'll be kind) defend your article to make your article appear to be useful. It clearly isn't. Advantages? Zero Zilch. Zip IMHO Disadvantages? Many. There is no speed advantage - it is still the same relatively slow read/write as your HDD (setting up a VHD in RAM or a SSHDD is something else again). Saving ANYTHING IMPORTANT/CRITICAL to the main HDD is a waste of time, as the HDD is arguably the least reliable part of a computer these days. I've had my share of HDD failures. Total images+incremental have saved my arse each time. Yeah, yeah - you DO say to copy this VHD image/files out to external storage. BUT why go to all that bother? Anyone with a Mac and reading your article, would be rolling around splitting their sides with laughter. As I understand it it's called 'Time Machine' wifi-ing seamlessly to a NAS device. Built in to OSX. Zero set-up by the owner. Back-up every 5 mins if you wanted to. Plus, plus, plus ... But back in PC-world ... There are heaps of programs out there that do a similar job as 'Time Machine' and provide a better and automated way of creating complete images and incremental back-ups. (I use O&O Disk Image on XP - works for me) If my laptop had eSata, I'd be using that, but until I get another laptop, I'm stuck with USB2. I run Disk Image overnight, so it's not a problem. Desktops don't need external HDD's - just add another one internally - and that's the neatest and fastest solution. Why bother with a VHD?. Create a bootable image onto this added HDD then do incremental backups. Set your programs to use this extra HDD as a 'temp" drive/folder. It's that simple. BTW, this only protects against HDD failure, but not fire or theft. I use an external HDD that is same type as my internal laptop HDD (2.5" SATA). The ONLY reason I use an external HDD with image+incrementals is so I don't lose everything if my laptop is stolen. Using a VHD seems to me to be a complete waste of time and an un-neccessary added layer of complexity in this case. IMHO I'd file your idea of a VHD under DoBUTIA ("Don't Bring Up That Idea Again") if I were you .... :-)

tmfk
tmfk

The idea of a backup is to preserve data in case the hard disk fails. In this example, the VHD would be lost if the hard drive failed. Just back up straight to your alternate media, be it removable disc, flash drive, or server. The only time I would suggest to "backup" to the same hard disc is in the case of certain files or databases that force a backup at inconvenient times. In that case, back up to an alternate folder and then include that folder during your regularly scheduled backup.

lplpaca
lplpaca

I can see the advantage that it can backup anywhere / anytime - you don't need to be attached to network storage or carry an extra exrternal hdd or need an internet connection for vpn - however, if you don't get the vhd off the internal hard drive and onto external storage, as they say above, your stuffed. Personally - I use whs - it backs up overnight, waking up machines as and when and is an incremental backup so you can back over time for multiple copies of files. Once the initial backup is done, you can vpn into your own network to run the backup from anywhere as it is only an incremental it doesnt take too long. Much simpler!

brian
brian

Every time I think of something I realize there's a much better way to do it without a VHD. For a second I was thinking "oh you could put multiple VHDs from different systems on a single backup volume, all set to expand dynamically" But even that makes no sense. You could just back up to folders like normal and the backup would probably be even smaller. Doesn't a VHD have to store "overhead" for the virtual filesystem that it's storing within the actual filesystem? You'd be wasting disk space and CPU load on the virtualization. It doesn't even save effort if you're trying for multiple backups. Under normal circumstances, a fresh backup in one location would only have to sync the updated files to the secondary backup location. With a VHD you have to copy the whole huge file every time. That transfer can be interrupted or fail or have errors, not an unlikely scenario copying a single 500GB file over any transport layer. If it fails or has to be re-copied, you'd have to restart the whole 500GB from scratch, repeat until it succeeds then compare hashes to be sure. Backing up to folders, if a transfer stops and the software has to start over, it can easily skip identical files and essentially resume from where it left off. Sync software would make that even more efficient. Whether you're scripting a solution or using pre-packaged backup software, seems to me like the VHD just adds a slow proprietary layer with added overhead and failure potential, no granularity for manipulating the backup afterwards, and no significant benefits vs. the same solution without the VHD. You're guaranteed to waste disk space, anywhere between "significant" and "a whole lot" depending how you set up the VHD. (Dynamically expanding VHDs expand, but do not contract if you delete.) Even if you set a statically sized VHD to exactly the size of your files, you waste the overhead for a whole second formatted filesystem within the formatted filesystem on which the VHD resides. So yeah, I brainstormed, but came up blank... Doesn't sound like something I'll use.

The Pro from Dover
The Pro from Dover

You keep repeating the same mantra about "copying your VHD to an external disk or to a network drive." Repeating the same stupid idea expecting positive responses, complies with the definition of insanity. It doesn't get any smarter if you repeat it an infinite number of times. If you're going to make a true backup, it needs to be on a separate piece of hardware FROM THE BEGINNING!!! If you're merely making a copy of files for version control, why go through the exercise of creating a VHD rather than copying the files and directory structure to a new folder (essentially what you've done by putting it somewherre else on the same HDD).

Jaqui
Jaqui

the problem of a new install or different system not reading the file. MS has a nasty habit of making things like this work for one system, and one install only.

Jaqui
Jaqui

my GNU/Linux systems I can make a disk image of each partition [ / /usr /var /home /opt ] put them anywhere I want and write them back any time needed. and only /hom and /var are really subject to regular change, / /opt and /usr are the system partitions.

mloucel
mloucel

I know many like this types of backup while windows is working, somehow, someday the terror will come and you won't be able to recover your backup, then we can always go to Good Old Bare metal bones backup, while windows is not working, like the one that safe my A-- after Shadows came down my backup.

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

I have used Macrium Reflect for a while now and have found it to be very quick at creating and restoring its images. It has save my a-- several times now. But remember, it is an image of a drive at a specific point in time, only. You still must be religious with your personal incremental backup strategy. I usually create a base image of a machine after installing the OS and any specific software required by the user. I also create separate partitions on a separate drive for the users files. That way I can backup the separate drive every night and recreate the system image every few months just to be sure it is up to date. Note : I will keep the original image forever, backup to the backup. I can always get back to that point if something really horrible were to happen.

Zenith545
Zenith545

Don't know where you guys come up with this stuff. Innovation is defined as introducing something NEW. Since virtual drive technology has been around for many, many years, I seriously doubt your idea of copying data to a virtual drive is new.

terreaultguy
terreaultguy

I like trying new OS like Linux Ubuntu or any other system. before I would install in a tripel boot Vista, XP pro and Ubuntu. But that was always a configurating nightmare. Now I have 3 PCs and one OS on each. And I use virtual machins for experimenting. So for testing a Second VHD for a virtual system is usefull. And yes I do backup these Virtual OS. But the main windows 7 installed on PCs I backup to an external HD or a network Drive. Have you seen the price of a 1.5 TB HD these days. Its almost a lost of time to make DVDs anymore. And when the solid state HD get big enought and there price goes down, that is what I will use for backups. Internal and External.

Hagai
Hagai

You could've saved some words there.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...as I say in the article: "You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive."

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

is not a backup really - just a version control.

DJMorais
DJMorais

Not much left to add here, I like it! I don't see that much advantage of a VHD on the same disc!

rasilon
rasilon

I still don't see what it is getting me... If I have to copy it somewhere else, why not just backup directly to the external hard drive or network drive? Hank Arnold (MVP)

Zenith545
Zenith545

You are just duplicating your efforts. Takes more time to create a VHD and transfer data to it and then copy all that to another device, then to just copy the data to another device in the first place.

budly
budly

I agree with The 'G-Man'. . . if the drive fails, kiss your backup goodbye too.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...I say in the article: "You can then locate the actual VHD file, as shown in Figure G, and copy it to an external hard disk or to a network drive."

Editor's Picks