The Dangers of Windows Backup and the Best Backup Software You Can Use Instead

Question:

How to prevent data loss from Windows Backup and what are the best alternatives?

I wanted to create a system image backup of my computer using Windows Backup, but it erased all the data on my HDD data drive before I even started the backup process. I was able to recover most of the data, but some important files were lost. I have already ordered a used 4TB hard drive to restore the backup, as the program advised me not to use the original drive. I am wondering why this happened and how I can avoid it in the future. I am also looking for recommendations on other backup software that are more reliable and user-friendly than Windows Backup.

Answer:

Windows Backup is a built-in feature of Windows that allows you to create backups of your files, folders, and system settings. However, some users have reported that Windows Backup can sometimes delete or overwrite the data on the drive that is selected as the backup destination, even before the backup process begins. This can result in losing important data that may not be recoverable.

This article will explain why this happens, how to avoid it, and what are some of the best alternatives to Windows Backup that you can use to protect your data.

Why does Windows Backup delete data?

One of the possible reasons why Windows Backup deletes data is that it uses the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to create snapshots of the files that are being backed up. VSS is a Windows service that allows applications to access files that are in use by other programs, without causing conflicts or errors. However, VSS also has a limit on how much disk space it can use for the snapshots, and it will automatically delete the oldest snapshots when the limit is reached.

If you select a drive that already has data on it as the backup destination, Windows Backup will create a snapshot of the entire drive, including the existing data. This snapshot will consume a large amount of disk space, and may trigger VSS to delete older snapshots, which may include the data that you want to keep. This can happen even before the backup process starts, as Windows Backup will first check the available disk space and create the snapshot.

How to avoid data loss from Windows Backup?

To prevent Windows Backup from deleting your data, you should follow these steps:

  • Do not use a drive that has data on it as the backup destination. Use a dedicated drive that is empty or has enough free space for the backup. You can also use an external drive, such as a USB flash drive or a hard disk drive, that you can disconnect when the backup is done.
  • Format the backup destination drive as NTFS. NTFS is the file system that Windows uses, and it supports VSS. If you use a drive that is formatted as FAT32 or exFAT, Windows Backup will not be able to create snapshots, and will instead copy the files directly to the drive. This can overwrite the existing data on the drive, or cause errors if the drive is full or has a smaller cluster size than the source drive.
  • Check the VSS settings and disk space before running Windows Backup. You can use the command prompt or the Disk Management tool to check the VSS settings and the available disk space on the backup destination drive. You can also use the VSSAdmin tool to delete any unwanted snapshots or change the disk space limit for VSS. For more details, you can refer to this [Microsoft article](https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/administration/windows-commands/vssadmin).
  • What are the best alternatives to Windows Backup?

    If you are looking for a more reliable and user-friendly backup software, you can try some of these alternatives:

  • Acronis True Image. Acronis True Image is a popular backup software that offers a variety of features, such as full, incremental, and differential backups, disk cloning, cloud backup, ransomware protection, and more. You can also create bootable media and restore your system in case of a disaster. Acronis True Image is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. You can get a free trial or a paid subscription from the [official website](https://www.acronis.com/en-us/personal/computer-backup/).
  • EaseUS Todo Backup. EaseUS Todo Backup is another backup software that provides full, incremental, and differential backups, disk cloning, system backup and restore, file sync, and more. You can also schedule backups, encrypt backups, and create bootable media. EaseUS Todo Backup supports Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. You can download a free version or a paid version from the [official website](https://www.easeus.com/backup-software/).
  • Macrium Reflect. Macrium Reflect is a backup software that specializes in disk imaging and cloning. You can create backups of your entire disk or partitions, and restore them to the same or different hardware. You can also create bootable media and access your backups from Windows Explorer. Macrium Reflect supports Windows devices. You can download a free version or a paid version from the [official website](https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree).
  • Conclusion

    Windows

Backup is a convenient feature of Windows that can help you create backups of your data and system. However, it can also cause data loss if you use a drive that has data on it as the backup destination, or if the VSS settings are not configured properly. To avoid this, you should use a dedicated drive that is formatted as NTFS, and check the VSS settings and disk space before running Windows Backup. Alternatively, you can use other backup software that are more reliable and user-friendly, such as Acronis True Image, EaseUS Todo Backup, or Macrium Reflect.

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