What Are Disk Level Backups?

December 14, 2023

[avatar user="Jamie Poindexter" size="thumbnail" align="left" link="attachment" /]by Jamie Poindexter | Oct 13, 2020 | Jamie's Tech Corner, Our blogIf you remember my post of setting up Windows backup for backing up files and folders or even One Drive back up setup you are already familiar with file level backups. As the name implies a file level backup is software or process of backing up only the files or folders on a drive whether it be on the system drive, external drive or even in the cloud. They are great for most people but when it comes to a disaster such as fire or hardware failure, they only allow you to get the files you need back and not the operating system or the programs installed on it.Disk level backups on the other hand look at the entire disk or partition and back the entire thing up keeping the same structure as before and storing it in an archive or proprietary format. Programs like Shadow Protect or Acronis can be setup for any number of schedules that run automatically and backup whats changed since the last backup. If the hard drive were to fail you could then install a new drive and restore the latest backup and the PC would be in the same state as when that back up was taken. No reinstalling Windows or getting the programs and settings just right.In this example I am using Acronis as it’s the most user friendly and well know backup software. Here we can see the software is setup to take a incremental backup every day at 1:10 when the computer is not being used.

Incremental backups only back up what changed since the last backup was taken so they are typically small unless a lot of changes have occurred.

Its also a good idea to occasionally do additional full backups just in case something happens in one of the incremental backups you have a full backup to fall back on. Acronis also allows automatically deleting old backups as the drive is filled up or as the number of incrementals increases.Validating the backups is also important because having a backup is no good if you cant restore it. Validation can be done on a schedule or every time a backup is made. All disk backup programs allow storing the backup locally but some also have the option of storing a copy in the cloud. This is a additional layer of protection for a fee. Like a file level back up if you need to access just a couple files or folders this is still possible with the disk backups. Mounting the archive is as easy as double clicking on it or using the recovery option in the program.

This will give you the full file structure from that backup and you can then copy files from the backup to the live system.

If you need an older version of the file simply choose a older backup.Same thing goes for restoring the entire system. This can be done in 2 ways, the fastest is using the bootable CD/USB that comes with the software. You boot into a virtual environment that allows you to access the backups and restore the entire backup to the disk of your choosing. The other way is from within the live environment. This only works though if the OS is working normally and you can access the software. So, if hardware failure is the cause or even a virus you might have to go with option 1. But if a certain piece of software refuses to work and you want to roll back a couple of days the 2nd option would work fine.