Backing Up Your Data

Here’s a simple question: do you have backups of the data held on your Windows PC or your Mac?

Apparently, the answer from most people (if they’ve ever even thought about the question) is a resounding “no”. That’s the conclusion that Microsoft has reached. In a post on the Building Windows 8 blog, they state:

Our telemetry shows that less than 5% of consumer PCs use Windows Backup and even adding up all the third party tools in use, it is clear nowhere near half of consumer PCs are backed up. This leaves user’s personal data and digital memories quite vulnerable as any accident can lead to data loss.

Windows has had data backup tools included in it for years, but the fact is that very few people actually use them. Microsoft is introducing a totally new backup method in Windows 8 called File History. It comes with a user interface that is designed to be attractive and easy to use.

Now there’s a lot to like about the Windows 8 File History feature, but it focuses on the user’s personal data. It will only backup data held in the user’s Libraries, Desktop, Contacts and Favourites. It will completely ignore applications that have their own databases, e.g. Adobe’s Lightroom. For some time, Microsoft has been telling developers to store application data in locations contained in the C:\ProgramData folder, and now the File History feature will totally ignore such files. Also, user data that is not document-based is supposed to be held in locations contained in the C:\Users\Username\AppData folder. That is also ignored by the File History feature. It turns out that Microsoft’s own Windows 8 Mail App stores mail messages in the AppData folder, so File History will not backup your mail messages. Microsoft seems to be assuming that we store our mail in the Cloud, e.g. in their Hotmail service. I’ve got news for them – we don’t all do this.

I’ve got used to the elegant and simple-to-use client PC Backup function of Windows Home Server (which covers all files and provides a bare-metal restore). Moving to Windows 8 on my current hardware will mean that I will continue to use WHS for backup.

However, because WHS does not support backup/restore of client PCs that use EFI/GPT technology, that will mean that I will have to use a combination of File History and some other method of backing up application data, if I invest in new hardware (a PC or a Tablet). Modern PCs use EFI/GPT.

[Update 4 March 2013: Microsoft has at last issued a Hotfix to add backup support for UEFI-based computers to back up to servers that are running Windows Home Server 2011]

Frankly, that makes it sound a bit of a kludge, instead of the current “set it and forget it” method of WHS.

Peter Bright has a good analysis of the new File History feature, and a comparison with the older methods of data backup in Windows here. I rather like one of the comments on his analysis:

So basically, they killed Windows Home Server but still don’t have an effective product to replace its backup mechanism. Got it.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
This entry was posted in Computers and Internet and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Backing Up Your Data

  1. Pingback: What’s Not To Like In Windows 8? | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  2. Spike says:

    I just discovered this very issue wrt the AppData and ProgramData folders.
    While the old way to backup still exists under “Windows 7 File Recovery”, it’s not the way forward, and the two (old way and File History) are mutually exclusive.

    Have you come across a way to keep using File History for backup?
    Only thing I can come up with is custom libraries but that seems dumb…

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      I think custom libraries is the only way to do it, but it is a bit of a kludge…

      I’m not currently using File History at all – I rely on my WHS to backup all our PCs (none of them use GPT formatted drives, so we’re OK for the moment).

      There’s been a hint from Microsoft that it’s possible that support for GPT drives will appear in a future update to WHS 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s