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Windows 7 C-drive Backup/Clone

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Perhaps this belongs in vintage computing. ;)

My desktop PC is a DIY based on components bought from MicroCenter in Cleveland, OH circa 2015.  Its hard drives are all Samsung SSD of different ages.  A 500GB RAID1 drive is partitioned into D and E.  E is empty, and I have a question about deleting that partition, not that I need the space.  It has less than 30 GB on it.  The C-drive is a 256GB and is a little less than half full.  Awhile back I bought a matching SSD for the C-drive and planned to clone it periodically as backup.  My Acronis 2015 True Image 2015 software allows that, but warns about doing it with the system drive, if that drive is mounted.  I recently got a Samsung 500GB external drive with USB3.

My main question pertains to what to do with the System drive:
Would cloning it to the external drive periodically be inadvisable?  My plan would be to do the clone at fairly long intervals (months), as I save very few data files on it and use the internal, as yet unmounted drive, for incremental backups.  The external drive would be saved for recovery in case of a real disaster. eMails are by far the only data on that drive.

A secondary question is about deleting the partition on the RAID 1 drive.  Can I do the following:
Make a backup of the RAID D-drive to a new drive.  Then format the entire RAID drive and eliminate the partition.  Finally restore the empty RAID  drive from the backup.   Is there an easier way?


If I followed the drives/config correctly, then:

1. use backup tools with imaging capability, and just image the "C" (ssd?) drive. This is usually better than cloning, especially with 7 y.o. software. modern backup/imaging tools can be free or paid, depending on their features and your choices.

2. backup the "D" and "E" partitions' data, wipe the partitions out (per the rules of your raid software/hardware), reconfigure, and restore the data.

I tend to avoid the complexity of raiding, and just rely on backups (3-2-1 rule) to recover from a failed (ssd) drive ... some unknown raid complexity always reared it's ugly head when I wasn't looking (or hadn't done a backup). Translate this to a possible config of unraid'ing the drives, get them back into shape as single drives, single partitions, and just use one of them as the target for imaging and backups.

Creating a mirror of the entire drive or partition is fine. Be aware that you need to clone both partitions, the small ~100MB bootloader one and the "C" one. Possibly also a recovery one, any other partition is irrelvant unles you want to keep the data.

You can do this with Macrium Reflect, very simple, stable and no-nonse software. Will copy any drive, even mounted, through shadowcopy.
It will also do incrementals/differentials to be done quickly when all you do is change a few files, so no waiting for the full thing to copy over.
My experience with acronis is limited, but I bought a pack of licences back in the day, it was very poor and it's just a carrier to sell you "the new version". I considered it a waste of money and have been using macrium for years.

Whatever you plan to do with raid is unclear. Deleting unused partitions should be trivial in diskmanagement.

By far the biggest risk to a Windows 7 install is malware, raid will not help you in this case, raid is not a backup. Your external disk is.

Thanks for the advice.  For the external drive, I think I will go the clone route as it would be simple to set BIOS to use USB for booting.  Is that correct?

Checked Macrium, and for single user, the price is quite reasonable for a real license ($69.95), not a subscription.  I had "funny" feelings about Acronis from the start and have never seriously used it, except to make a boot disk.  Its constant reminders to use Acronis this or that made me worry that I would be dead in the water if it failed to boot.  On the other hand, a real clone as it seems Macrium provides would be plug and play.   

The partitioned RAID drive is a legacy from my working days when I used 2 computers.  The one for work was never connected to the Internet, except when I needed to register something.  After I retired and hopefully deleted everything confidential on it, I saved the remainder to the E partition.  (The original drive from the work computer was destroyed.)  As time went on, I saved anything useful off that drive onto either my C (system) or D-partition.  The E partition has been empty for quite awhile, so it is just a question of simplifying it.

Everytime I boot up, I worry about my C-drive, so I intend to do these changes soon.  But other opinions are still wanted.


I use Acronis True Image for most of my partition- or disk-level backups on Windows 7.

A full disk image restored to a new drive works fine. Actually my current install of Windows 7 on my main workstation dates back to 2010 and has survived many drives, motherboards and CPU upgrades with just cloning. Never had to reinstall it and the machine that it runs on at the moment has nothing to do with the initial machine it was installed on, apart maybe from the DVD drive.


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