Deciding how often to back up
Disk and partition backups
Let’s first discuss backing up your system disk. Since it is impossible to know when it may crash, you must create the first system disk backup as soon as possible. Then you can decide how often to “refresh” that backup. You may also want to add new backups without deleting the old one, if you have available space on the storage device used for backups. Having several backups increases the chances of recovering your system in case of a disaster. A single backup may turn out to be corrupted and system recovery will be impossible.
The timing of subsequent system disk backups depends on how often you install new applications, updates, etc. In many cases it is sufficient to schedule a new system backup once a month. You may first try to schedule incremental backups and then have a look at the incremental backup size after the next backup runs. If the size is comparable to that of the initial full backup, it makes sense to create only full backups. Recovery from a full backup takes less time than from a backup chain that includes a full backup and several incremental ones. Furthermore, corruption of an incremental backup in a chain renders the later backups in the chain useless. For more detailed information see Full, incremental and differential backups.
In Windows Vista and Windows 7 incremental or differential backups may become large because these operating systems by default perform such background tasks as defragmentation, indexing, etc. Those tasks change file locations on the disk. Incremental backups reflect the changes as they include the sectors changed since the previous backup.
If you like trying new applications, games and utilities, it is advisable to have a backup of your “clean” system. It is made after installing only Windows and “must have” applications, e.g. Microsoft Office, an antivirus product, favorite utilities, etc. Thereafter you will always be able to recover this clean system with the clean registry after you finish experimenting with new software.
Scheduling the system disk backups does not prevent you from adding unscheduled backups when needed. The new user interface allows you to accomplish this task very easily. You just need to select the system disk backup box in the main program window and then click Back up now. This may be useful, for instance, before installing a major Windows update or Service Pack.
The current version of Acronis True Image Home 2011 allows you to protect individual folders with Acronis Nonstop Backup. Thus you can continuously protect your personal data. As you protect only data files, the backup size in many cases will not be excessively large. You will be able to keep the history of your file changes over a long period.
Of course, you can also run your file backups manually or on a schedule, if you do not want to use Acronis Nonstop Backup. In this case the frequency of backups will depend on how often you make changes in the files being backed up or add new files. For instance, when you are working on a project day after day, you will likely need to schedule a backup of your daily work results at the end of every day.
For additional safety you can back up your most important files on a remote storage using Acronis Online Backup. Such backups can run on a schedule too, for instance, every night when you do not use the computer.
Music files (mp3, ogg, etc.) and photos (jpg, jpeg, etc.) are already compressed, so backing them up as tib files will not result in a significant saving of disk space. You may want to back up such files in their native format by copying them using Windows Explorer. If those files are important to you, Acronis True Image Home 2011 has the Reserve backup copy feature. It can back up the same data files both in tib format and in native format to two different backup locations. You can schedule such backups as needed, for instance, on weekly basis if you regularly download new music files.
The current Acronis True Image Home 2011 version has predefined backups schemes for both disk and file backup types. To manage your backups, in many cases you can just select a desired backup scheme and the program will do all the rest. For more information see Backup schemes.