1. SSDs and even regular hard drives can crash. SSDs however give no warning. Many of us now have Windows booting off an SSD for the speed it gives and due to the relatively small size of them.

    But what happens if it crashes? Normally you have to reinstall Windows. All those system settings, application settings, and utilities are now gone. You can backup files by copying, but it's not the same as drive cloning. Drive cloning clones the volume, including the boot sector. If something happens, you can load the volume image onto another partition and be on your way. Windows will be none the wiser that it's now running on a new partition on another drive.

    With this guide I'll show you how to schedule regular backups so you don't have to do anything else and you'll always have a fresh backup on another drive.

    Here's a typical storage drive configuration:
    C: 120GiB SSD
    E: 2TiB HDD

    Let's say C: has 65 GiB in use. In this case the backup will be 65 GiB in size. You can also compress the backups with 2 levels: slow and fast. The fast option is not much slower and will shave off about 30% of the size of the backup. Slow will be much more but it takes several times longer to backup. 65 GiB will usually take about 25 minutes uncompressed. The good thing is we can do this in the background while still using the PC.

    Let's get started

    This guide is for Windows users who don't have a RAID configuration that's already doing this. On Linux/BSD distros you'll have the dd utility so just create a shell script and a cron job. Macs use some sort of strange magic since they apparently aren't PCs. I'm sure you can call Apple.

    First, download DriveImage XML here. This program is free for private use. It has a user interface, but It also works from the command shell which is important for our purpose. Install it. You can run the UI and create your first backup, it's fairly self explanatory.

    Next, create a directory for the backup on the drive and partition you wish to keep the boot drive backed up on. I use H:\BACKUPS

    Time to schedule a task

    Open up the START MENU and in the search bar type Task Scheduler. Once it appears, right click it and select Run as Administrator.

    On the far right of the window click on Create Basic Task. (we will configure advanced options later).

    Follow what the images show:

    Just something so you can remember. It does not affect the task.

    Set how often you want this to run (to backup). If you select weekly you can further configure it in the next screen if you want this to run biweekly.

    Here is where you pick a time and day of the week it will run. You can also have it run X number of weeks.

    Start program.

    This is where you input the program that is to run and arguments (I'll cover that in a minute.) Go to the directory where you installed DriveImage XML and select the dixml.exe file.

    Now we need some arguments.

    I'll explain this part the best I can so that those unfamiliar with sending commands over a command line interface (CLI) can understand what's going on and how to configure this for themselves.

    Since this is ran from the command line, you will have to give the executable some arguments as to what to do. If you're unfamiliar with CLIs, don't worry it's simple. An argument is just a forward slash "/" followed by a shorthand identifier and sometimes a value. It's the exact same thing as checking a check box in a graphical interface, but it's done by text.

    Here is a list of arguments from the developer:

    /bx Backup drive x, e.g. /bc
    /tx Write backup files to x, e.g. /td:\backups\drive_c
    /r Raw mode, e.g. /r or /r-
    /s Split image, e.g. /s or /s-
    /c Compression (fast), e.g. /c or /c-
    /c1 Compression (fast), e.g. /c1
    /c2 Compression (good, but slow), e.g. /c2
    /v Try VSS first, e.g. /v, do not use with /l
    /l Try locking first, e.g. /l, do not use with /v

    /b and /t are the most important. /b tells DriveImage what drive you want to clone and /t tells it where to put it. /c and /c2 selects fast or slow compression (like a RAR file).

    Since Windows designates the primary (boot) partition as the C: drive, that's likely the drive you want to backup unless you're using a boot loader for another OS or installation of Windows.

    So the first argument will be /bc (if you're backing up the F: drive then it would be /bf)

    Now we tell it where to put the cloned drive image files. In my example I used H:\BACKUPS. DriveImage also wants to know the name of the output (destination) image file minus the file extension. We'll use the given example of drive_c. You can change that part to whatever you want.

    Second argument is /th:\BACKUPS\drive_c
    As you can see, it's just h:\BACKUPS\drive_c with a /t in front of it to tell the program what the former string represents.

    Additionally, decide if you want the backup broken into many small files or one large file. Since my boot drive is only 70 GiB in size, I opted to not split them up. You can later use 7zip or WinRar to do that if you wish such as transferring backups to jump drives or SD cards smaller than the total size. By default DriveImage will split them up. So if you don't want this, use the argument /s-. Otherwise you don't have to do anything.

    So for this example the arguments are:
    /bc /s- /th:\BACKUPS\drive_c

    As mentioned before, you can put /c or /c2 in there for the compression options.

    Keep in mind:
    If your output directory or desired output filename has a space in it, you need to place your file path inside quotations like this: /t"h:\BACKUPS\Drive C Kingston V300" otherwise the spaces will confuse the program and you'll end up with an output path of H:\BACKUPS\Drive and 3 bad arguments.

    Now we have arguments. We have told DriveImage what to do.

    Click NEXT, review, and then click FINISH.

    Some OPTIONAL advanced options:

    In the Task Scheduler main interface you will see a list of scheduled tasks. To configure advanced options, you can highlight the task you created and then right click it to bring up the context menu. Select PROPERTIES.

    There are many options but I will mention a few worth noting. If you need an explanation of any of the ones I did not cover, then you can hit F1 for details on an option.

    The bottom half of this window is important for some users. If you tell Windows to not store your password, then it will rely on a session token and be limited to the machine that Windows is installed on. For our purpose this is fine. If you're always logged in when you boot up, then you can leave this on the default setting to run only when user is logged on.

    Under the CONDITIONS tab you can set the task to bring the PC out of sleep mode. I use this option. It is not default.


    There you go. Every week, 2 weeks, or month you will have a backup without having to think about it. If the drive fails then you can extract the image onto a partition that is the same size or larger than the backup. Make it a boot partition and you are ready to go.
  2. Doesn't Windows 7 have a backup thing that's similar?
  3. That one bugs out for me a lot. It doesn't even show my drives properly.

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