More convenient use in Windows Explorer


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William D Burt
William D Burt
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I am a new user who was driven into the arms of Macrium Reflect by the bug in Acronis True Image that intermittently obstructs computer shutdown.  I used Acronis True Image 2015 for two months.  I also use Seagate Dashboard, which comes free with Seagate hard drives.

This is to suggest that Macrium take a look at certain enviable features in Dashboard.  Presently, I am keeping Dashboard active to run daily file and folder backups to an external hard drive and also have Reflect set up to run daily file and folder backups to the same drive, among other things.  Implementing the suggestion below would allow me to discontinue using Dashboard.

Dashboard runs a full backup when it the plan is first created, then performs incremental backups until the plan is deleted.  There is no provision to periodically run a full backup in order to limit the length of backup chains and the associated risk that a corrupted backup will render all subsequent backups inaccessible.  Nor is there provision for automatic cleanup of the oldest backups.  But consider what it will do, which, so far as I can tell, Reflect will not.  Dashboard permits the user to click on an incremental backup in Windows Explorer and view and work with it directly.  The incremental backup includes only those files that were saved because they were new or different from the previous incremental backup.  These files can be viewed and recovered (copied) like any other file in Explorer.  If all you want to do is find a file and copy it, this convenience cannot be beat.  First, you do not need to wade through the whole file tree; if you work with the same file day after day, there may only one or two files present in the incremental backup.  Second, there is no need to "mount" a virtual backup of the drive, nor any need to open Reflect to "detach" it--which feature, by the way, is somewhat hard to find.  The latter approach makes it difficult to go through backups looking for the last good copy of a given file.

Dashboard also includes a Restore feature that merges the original full backup and all incremental backups to a user-specified date.  This, to me, is the right set of options: Direct access to files and folders in Explorer, plus the ability to re-create the full backup as of a certain date from within the software.

Surprisingly to me, at least, incremental backups created by Dashboard can be viewed and copied in Explorer even if a previous incremental backup has been deleted (or, presumably, corrupted).  Restore also works.  Restored files reflect whatever is present in the surviving backups.  This appears to minimize the risks of a long chain of incremental backups, but I don't trust it because I don't understand how they pull it off.  So I have Dashboard and Reflect running side by side, doing essentially the same thing.

I'll note that even Acronis allows the user to click on the incremental backup and open it within Windows Explorer, without creating a virtual drive that must be assigned a letter and then later detached.


 








Edited 20 March 2015 6:23 PM by William D Burt
Drac144
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If you create an incremental backup process in Reflect.  You do NOT need to create a full backup. The first time the incremental process runs it will see you do not have a full backup and will automatically create one.  From then on it will create incremental backups.  At any time you can delete (or move) the whole set of backup files (full+incrementals) and Reflect will start the process again.

If you have a backup set (full +incrementals) you can pick any incremental backup (not just the last one) and restore up to that date. 

Generally file/folder backups is NOT the best mode.  Backing up a full partition is normally the best backup method to allow a FULL recovery of your system. Certainly file/folder backups are good for saving specific data (pictures, emails, etc.).  The process you are describing for Dashboard is more like a ZIP backup were the actual data is saved and can easily be worked with on Explorer.  However this is not an efficient way to save data. If one cluster of a file changes, the whole (possibly very large) file would need to be saved, while Reflect only saves the changed cluster not the whole file.  So, no, you cannot use just the incremental to view the file in Explorer but the Reflect method will result in much less disk space used.  You might as well use a ZIP program to do your backups instead of Dashboard. 

It is unlikely that you will ever see Reflect emulate that Dashboard file save format for the reasons mentioned above.  I have no problem mounting a volume in Explorer as long as the computer I am using has Reflect (even a copy of the free version) installed on it.  If you do not want to see all the files in that volume, then Reflect is not going to work for your needs.


William D Burt
William D Burt
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OK, I get it.  My priorities are not your priorities.

"Efficiency" in terms of how much [cheap] disk capacity is used must be weighed against convenience.

You wrongly assume that I aiming at FULL recovery of the system when in fact I am separately performing disk images to do that.

By the way, I did not say that you need to create a full backup to get incremental backups in Reflect.  You're arguing with yourself there.

Edited 20 March 2015 11:12 PM by William D Burt
Drac144
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I wasn't arguing with anyone. Possibly I did not understand your comment:
"Dashboard runs a full backup when it the plan is first created, then performs incremental backups until the plan is deleted."

I was saying that Reflect can do the same.

Also, your comment:
"Dashboard also includes a Restore feature that merges the original full backup and all incremental backups to a user-specified date.  This, to me, is the right set of options: Direct access to files and folders in Explorer, plus the ability to re-create the full backup as of a certain date from within the software."

Again, I was saying that Reflect does the same (Access in Explorer when a drive is mounted using Reflect).

Dashboard and Reflect use VERY different paradigms for creating backups.  I was saying that there are pros and cons to each.  There is an old saying, "you pays your money and you takes your choice".

I am not a mind reader, so if you do not indicate in your post that you make image backups as well as file/folder backups I do not assume that you do.

 


Edited 21 March 2015 10:43 PM by Drac144
William D Burt
William D Burt
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#1:  You say:  "Again, I was saying that Reflect does the same (Access in Explorer when a drive is mounted using Reflect)." 
Reply: It is not the same, as I thought I explained.  Dashboard permits the file to be opened and copied without "mounting an image."  Reflect requires mounting an image not only of the specific file but the complete file tree, assigning a virtual drive letter, and then opening Reflect to find the option that allows you to "detach" the virtual drive.  This PITA process is basically incompatible with flipping through incremental backups to find the last good copy of a file.  As I said in my first post.

#2: You say: "Dashboard and Reflect use VERY different paradigms for creating backups.  I was saying that there are pros and cons to each."
Reply:  It would be helpful if you could knowledgeably explain the difference in paradigms.

Drac144
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Reflect works with clusters - not files or folders.  So it saves changes at the cluster level.  Apparently Dashboard will save the ENTIRE file if only one byte is actually changed.  The advantage to Dashboard is that you always have a copy of the entire file every time a change (whether major or minor) is made to the file.  With Reflect you only have the changed cluster(s) so you need the full backup and previous incremental backups to reconstruct the new file. 

Those are very different methodologies. You seem to think storage is cheap - so why not save a copy of every file, every day - not just those that are changed?  I imagine (yes, I am "mind reading" here) that you might respond that it is a waste to do that.  I would say it is a waste to save the whole file when only a small part of it has changes.  Of course if the file is small, then the difference is moot since the file would fit in a single cluster and the same amount of space would be used by either program (actually Reflect might use MORE in that case).

You are correct that the Reflect Paradigm requires you to "move through" multiple folders to get to the ones you want.  But that assumes you use Explorer (which you say you do).  There are WAY better file managers available (Directory Opus, Xplorer 2, Total Commander to name a few) that will allow you to go right to your files without having to navigate as required when using Explorer.  If you want ease of use, Explorer is NOT your best option.  But that is another product and not a subject for this forum.


William D Burt
William D Burt
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First of all, it is no answer to tell the Macrium customer that he must replace Windows Explorer with something else to obtain ease of use.  He didn't have an issue before he installed Macrium, and now you tell him that Macrium is great if only he will get rid of Windows Explorer.  Honestly, guy, you are right out of Marketing 101 "how not to do it."

As to the rest: Thank you, I learned something--that Macrium does not save the entire file that was changed somewhere during the day.  Instead it saves only the changed cluster, making it necessary to combine the stuff that was saved from today's work with the changes from one or more previous days to reconstruct the up-to-date file (hence the farting around and delay with image-mounting).  It does this to save precious storage space.

So let's envision this scenario, which happens to be typical with me.  A user is writing a book.  Each day he rewrites and edits, making modest changes most days.  One day, he wants to go a back a few versions (he has to guess how many and explore the incremental backups to find the right one) to retrieve a chunk of text from an old version.  In order to save the disk space occupied by this one file (!!!), Macrium makes him create and mount a complete virtual backup to inspect each version, then reopen the program to "detach" it.  Dashboard allows him to flip through the incremental backups one by one until he comes to the right one.  Each one is complete in and of itself.  He can save it and copy from it immediately.

Do not pretend that this need is unusual.

I renew my appeal to the designers to provide this functionality.  I appreciate your explanation but you, sir, have done nothing more than obstruct a legitimate request by a customer in, of all places, a section of the forum entitled "Wish List."

Edited 22 March 2015 11:58 PM by William D Burt
Richard V.
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William D Burt (3/22/2015)
So let's envision this scenario, which happens to be typical with me.  A user is writing a book.  Each day he rewrites and edits, making modest changes most days.

I think what you may perhaps be looking for is revision control software in which case your wish would require a quite drastic change in Reflect's current operational methods and backup image management structure.  That is not to say, of course, that your request shouldn't be given due consideration.  However, it does seem unlikely to be consistent with the software's underlying purpose and acceptance as currently conceived.  Even assuming no undesirable impacts on primary functionality (a very questionable assumption), I would doubt that most other Reflect users (myself included) would be willing to underwrite the developmental and other cost considerations that would be involved.

P.S.: Amongst many revision control possibilities, if that is in fact what you're looking for, the free open source Git system might be worth your consideration.  It's quite well documented on that linked web site.


Regards, Richard V. ("Arvy")
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Edited 23 March 2015 4:00 AM by Arvy
William D Burt
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Arvy: Thanks for the input.  I have the option, which is costless (having paid for Macrium), to continue doing what I am doing, running Dashboard and Macrium side by side. 

The kind of thing I am suggesting would give the Macrium customer the option to view either the whole file tree as of a certain date (as currently is the case) or just the files that were changed since the last backup.  That seems to me to be an option that would be useful to a wide variety of Macrium customers, both current and potential.

In addition, I think your comment reflects unwarranted assumptions about who bears development costs.  If the company is a rational investor, it will invest in development only if the incremental revenues exceed the incremental expense.  In other words, the new revenue would pay for development.  It is not as if current customers are supporting some sort of charity.

Macrium, moreover, does not exist in a vacuum.  Seagate Dashboard already offers the ability, from within the software, to view the complete file tree as of a selected date.  Perhaps some customer will email them suggesting that they enhance Dashboard by making that possible from within Windows Explorer, as an option in addition to the option that already exists to view only those files that change with each incremental backup.  That customer might also suggest that Dashboard add the ability to image selected drives.  With those two changes Seagate could nullify the incentive that some, perhaps many, customers have to buy backup software like Reflect, and it could sell more Seagate drives in the process.



Edited 23 March 2015 12:53 PM by William D Burt
Richard V.
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Well, if you can arrange somehow for the additional functionality to be developed and provided at no extra cost and without any adverse impact on the product's primary backup functionality that attracted its existing customer base, I guess that's okay with me.  You'll forgive me, however, if I remain somewhat doubtful of seeing that actually happen.

Regards, Richard V. ("Arvy")
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