This is a lengthy (but simple) guide on how I get files ready for a clean install of Windows, backup and restore Windows (C Drive and associated hidden Windows partitions) using Acronis True Image 2020).
Backup and Restore Windows Prerequisites
- You will need to buy a licence of Acronis True Image 2020 to..
- Backup Windows
- Restore Windows
- You will need a second hard disk larger than your Windows drive (to backup to).
- Backup to Three Places.
- Two of the media need to be different
- One of the backups need to be offsite
Even though I use Back blaze software to automate backup of all files on my PC for $6.60 (AUD) a month. I pay an extra $2 (AUD) a month Backblaze will retain all of my files for up to 1 year. I also back up data to Backblaze Bucket(s) with Duplicati.
With all the horror stories of Windows updates killing machine’s it’s time to return to using Acronis True Image (not a paid endorsement) to start backing up the drive my Windows is on (all partitions)
I remember using Acronis True Image 8 in 2004 and loved it. Time to buy the new version. I loaded https://acronis.com/ (Australia Region) and noticed a cloud backup in the marketing information. I hope they still do local backups line in 2004.
I loaded the Acronis True Image 2020 link from the downtown menu (Australian link).
$69.99 seems fair,
Darn, $69.99 is a yearly subscription. I don’t like subscriptions if I can get away with it.
I clicked Buy under standard licence.
$83.99 is a bit high
Saving a dollar
TIP: Make sure you install the Honey Extension (from joinhoney.com) and use the Google Chrome Web Browser before purchasing to get a discount on Acronis True Image 2020.
The Honey extension applied the coupon so fast I could not get a screenshot it(so here is a screenshot with American Currency from a different web browser)
Now back to my purchase (and country), $33.60 is a nice saving.
I am paying for this because 16+ years ago I used an older version of Acronis True Image and the free version backed up OK but when I tried to restore from a boot CD I needed to pay?
Honey saved me $33.80
I am happy to pay $50.33 for Acronis True Image 2020.
After I purchased Acronis True Image 2020 I was presented with links to download the related files to use the software and to restore.
I downloaded the main Windows Acronis True Image Application for Windows and the Universal Restore program.
The files were about 900MB in total.
While the downloads were downloading I created an Acronis account
I added my purchased licence to my Account.
I was shown a welcome to Acronis page after creating an account.
The downloads finished and I started the AcronisTrueImage2020.exe setup file
I clicked Install
After the setup completed I was directed to a Quick Start Guide
Starting Acronis True Image 2020
When I loaded Acronis True Image 2020 for the fits time I had to agree to the Licence Agreement
A pasted in my just purchased Licence key
I already had an account (created minutes earlier in a web browser) so I clicked Sign In.
Sign In Screen
I was presented with a help wizard on startup.
Now I am ready to create my first backup.
Creating a Backup
Acronis True Image 2020 wanted me to back up all of my PC but it is 8TB, I don’t have an 8TB drive handy to back up to. For the life of Me I could not see how much 8TB would cost per month to backup.
I clicked on my computer name (“ZENIGMA”) and selected “Disks and partitions“
I un-ticked all system drives and partitions that were not my C Drive disk. I have installed Windows 10 onto a Corsair MP600 M.2 PCIE 1TB SSD and I want to back it up. The M.2 SSD connects to my main board.
I selected this drive to backup.
Oh dang, I don’t have enough space free on any drive to backup the C Drive to., Time to move some files.
I have 8 partitions (drive letters) on 5 SATA hard rives and 2 M.2 SSD’s. I think I can move some data and free some space for this backup.
File Musical Chair’s
I used WinDirStat from https://windirstat.net/ to scan my U drive (my newest hard drive) for files to move.
WinDirStat shows a nice graph of files on my U Drive. WinDirStat colour codes file types by colour and also sizes squared by actual file size.
I could see 240GB of music that could be moved. My wife and I have converted all CD’s that we have purchased since the 1990’s to live alongside out Apple iTunes collection.
I used the Windows feature to right click on the Music folder and move it the folder to another drive.
Windows confirmed hat I wanted to move this folder.
It took 2 hours to move my Music folder to a smaller slower drive.
Now that I have 800GB free I can backup up my C:\ Disk
I re opened Acronis True image and resumed from Backup point where I left off and made sure I was backing up my C Drive (Corsair MP600 SSD)
Acronis showed the Windows drive to web backed up.
I clicked “Select destination“.
I clicked “Browse“
I selected “U:\AcronisBackup” as the target to backup C drive to
I was prompted for a encryption password (nice)
Now the backup is ready to start.
I clicked Back up now
Backup in Progress
The Backup was going to take about 40 minutes. I could see My C and U drive were busy in Task Manager
After the backup is complete Acronis verifies the Backup
After the backup finished I could see that Acronis managed to backup C drive (570GB) to a 329GB file on a different drive
Now I need to restore the backup to confirm it works.
Only a working backup is of value.
Creating Rescue (Recovery) DVD Media?
Now that I have a backup of Windows I need to create a boot media that will allow me to restore the backup image in case Windows dies.
I clicked in the 4th icon from the top in Acronis True Image 2020 then Rescue Media Builder
I clicked Simple
First I created a DVD boot disc.
I selected my DVD Dive (it had a blank DVD in it)
The Rescue Media needs a 800MB CD or DVD.
I clicked Proceed to burn the rescue media to the blank DVD
The Rescue Media DVD was burnt to a blank DVD, a few tips on using the Media were presented
I labelled the DVD Rescue Media and put it in a safe place.
Creating Rescue (Recovery) USB Media?
Now I will create a USB rescue Media Key.
I opened Acronis, Click the Tools Icon (same as the DVD method above), then Rescue Media Builder, click Simple and select your Empty USB key.
TIP: Make sure it is the correct Key as they key will be deleted first.
As with the DVD method above the Rescue Media files to be copied were about 800MB.
When the UBS key is prepared you will receive the same success screen as the DVD method above.
Restoring a backup from the DVD Rescue Media
I inserted the Rescue DVD into my DVD drive, I rebooted my PC and pressed F2 to enter my BIOS (your key may be different).
I navigated to the section in my BIOS where I could choose my Boot device and made the DVD drive boot first, this will allow my Rescue DVD to boot before Windows.
I rebooted my PC and I pressed a key when prompted to boot from the Rescue DVD
The DVD buzzed away for a minute and then I was prompted with Back Up or Recover menu. I clicked U:\Blog\Acronis True Image\DVD Restore.
I navigated to the U Drive (SFEARABY) Drive and selected the Backup I had taken earlier.
FYI: The Drive letters did not match in Windows and the Rescue Media. Take note of tour drive names. My U:\ Was listed as E:\.
I entered the password that I used to encrypt the backup.
I selected the backup of my C Drive to restore. I assume you can choose multiple, drives if you had backed up multiple drives.
I selected Recover whole disk and partitions.
I was asked to select the date to backup from (I assume this is for when you have multiple backup events over many days).
I was again asked to select partitions to recover.
A summary of the restore was presented and I clicked Proceed.
The Recovery was underway, It took about 8 minutes to restore over 500GB.
I restarted my PC and removed the Rescue DVD.
Windows was all restored to it’s earlier state.
Restoring a backup from the USB Rescue Media
Restoring is exactly the same as the DVD method.
- Reboot and Enter your BIOS
- Set the Boos Order to allow the USB key to boot first
- Reboot (no need to press a key to boot from USB)
- Backup and restore (as needed)
I was able to restore the backup no problems,
FYI: I had the same slowness in the UI in the same spots as the DVD, nothing that breaks the process.
The USB and DVD Recovery offers a backup and restore options.
The Recovery media also allows you to clone a disk and setup a secure hidden partition for backups.
Acronis True Image 2020 also protects backup locations and prevents access to them. I had to Allow Windows to be able to delete a backup.
Once I allowed Windows to be able to access the backup I was able to delete it.
Acronis True Image 2020 allows you to set Backup Schedules.
I do not have enough disk space to setup anything other than one full backup at a time
I still have Backblaze automatically backing up my files from within windows and this is my 2nd later of defence.
Backblaze will backup the 300+ GB backup.
Acronis True Image 2020 has built in Active Protection to watch processes for ransomware or cryptographic. Read more here: https://www.acronis.com/en-au/active-protection/
I have had one false positive upgrading Java but ill leave it enabled.
A nice log is available of all events and whitelisted apps.
I have had to exclude apps but this has settles down.
A notification appears on blocked or whitelisted events 🙂
I can simply block or allow to deal with each exception.
Thus is a nice feature.
I am now using any Cloud backup features in Acronis, ill let Back blaze handle that.
Archive large or old files
The Archive large files or old files is a bit basic for me to use.
I will keep using CCCleaner and WinDirStats for this job.
Even the Windows default Disk Cleanup is good.
I do not use Cloud Sync, I would but I can’t find a price on the Acronis site at all.
I noticed that on the DVD and USB recovery boot I can restore a windows from a Acronis cloud backup (nice).
- Clone disk (like EASE US?)
- Universal restore?
- Try and Decide
- System Clean Up (backup First)
- Acronis Secure Zone
- Drive Cleanser
- Third Party Tools
Acronis True Image (Conclusion)
I am being picky here as I loved using Acronis 10 years ago and I have rose coloured glasses.
- It works
- You can backup Windows while Windows is open
- DVD and USB Rescue Media creation is easy
- Backup Schedules
- Notifications of disk space and operational state
- Exclusions of non essential files
- Backup Validation (at time of creation and schedule)
- Ability to call pre and post backup commands
- Choice of Incremental, Full or differential backups schemes
- Cleanup of older incremental versions (and full version frequency)
- Simple single version backup (single file, overwrites each time)
- It works.
- Some Buttons in the GUI are slow to respond
- The DVD an USB Rescue Media is little unresponsive at times during the restore (but it works)
- The DVD and USB Rescue Media GUI can use a bit of design love (I am sure it was better 10 years ago (basic and clean))
- When I restored I had no Idea what C:\ Drive was listed as H:\ (loads of confusion on the internet)
I am not paid by Acronis to say this, this is just my guide for my friends. I paid with my own cash. I take no responsibility if this does not work for you. Good luck though.
DVD Rescue Media
The DVD/USB Rescue Media is a bit laggy. At one point in the recovery I has a white screen for over a minute. I waited and the screen came good
Also the Menu in the DVD/USB toolbar does seem a bit squashed.
Bonus: Windows System Restore
There may be a time when you have created a full Operating system backup but the restore does not work (e.g hardware has failed (and been changed)). Acronis True Image 2020 will allow you to restore files from a backup image (and not the whole partition or disk).
Make sure System Protection is enabled for your C Drive
Create a System Restore Image
If you have Windows 10 it is a good idea to create a System Restore point ever few months just in-case Windows goes bad.
Click Your Start Button then type “Create a restore point“
Click your C Drive and click “Create“
The restore point will be created
Restoring a restore point
At any time you feel that Windows is sick (and still working) you can restore and old system restore.
Click the the desired restore point then click Next
You will be able to restore the old system snapshot.
Bonus: Clean Windows 10 Install
TBA: Blog post coming soon
Bonus: How I prepare all files needed for a clean install
Before you do a clean install of Windows 10 you may need to document what software you have installed so you have a change to reinstall them after you reinstall Windows.
This is possibly the most boring job but the one with the most reward. The hardest party is knowing what software you have an need.
Finding Installed Software with SUMo
I use a free program called SUMo from KC Software (not a plug) to list all installed programs and to see what software is out of date.
SUMo informed me that I have 256 software products installed.
- 7 were really out of date
- 62 products had recent updates
I took this list and downloaded and installed new copies of the apps I had installed (as newer version’s of apps can be more secure) and I also saved the installer files to a folder away from C Drive (e.g B:\Installs).
I am a bit OSD and I have created 10 folders under the B:\Installs folder that contain installs from Essential Drivers to non essential apps that I can use in the event of a clean install of Windows
In the Installs folder I have these sub folders
\100 Drivers\ \200 Essential Apps\ \300 Productivity Apps\ \400 Development Apps\ \500 Utils\ \600 Games\ \700 Virtual Machine OS Installs\ \800 Virtual Machine Apps\ \900 Learning\
When reinstalling Windows I start by installing all apps in each group (starting with “100 Drivers”), The larger the parent folders’ number is the less important the files are int hat folder.
I have a Legend.txt with a summary of the contents of each folder
Install Folders Legend 100+ ~ 199 Drivers - Mainboard ASUS RUF X570 (WIFI) - AMD Chipset Drivers - Nvidia Video Card - Etc 201+ ~ 299 Essential Apps - Printer Drives - 1Pasword - Antivrus - Backblaze - VPN - Acronis - Etc 300+ ~ 399 Productivity Apps - Microsoft Office - Microsoft Visio - Etc 400+ ~ 499 Development Apps - Visual Studio - Arduino IDE - Fritrzing - Microsoft SQL Developer - MySQL - Python - PHP Storm - Etc 500+ ~ 599 Utils - CPU-Z - Core Temp - Acrbat Reader - Etc 600+ ~ 699 Games - Steam Installer - Origin Installer - Etc 700+ ~ 799 Virtual Machine OS Installs - Windows 3.11 - Windows 95 - Etc 800+ ~ 899 Virtual Machine Apps - Office 95 - Office XP - Etc 900+ ~ 909 Learning - Python Books - Etc
You can create whatever numbering scheme you want.
I also have a cached folder of my Development Software (Visual Studio) Install cache at “B:\Installs\vscache“
Under my drivers folder I have all the drivers I need to reinstall windows
An under my “500 Utils” folder is all the utilities I install (many).
The main thing is I have all the files and installers needed to do a clean setup of Windows 10 if need be.
v1.1 Added “Backup and Restore Windows Prerequisites”