6 Sep 2009

Windows 7 Annoyances & Backups

Up until now Windows 7 was just running on my laptop, a non-critical machine I use to run presentations on. Now that the final code is available to developers and my shiny new Intel SSD “G2” drive has arrived I thought it was a perfect opportunity to upgrade my main desktop PC to Windows 7.

It was a fresh install using the new SSD drive. It took 4 attempts before I had a stable install; the installer hung once, after one successful install the drive refused to boot up, the “repair Windows” option failed, yadda yadaa. 24 hours after it all appears to be working my fingers are still crossed.

Now, onto the issue of this post. When I shut down my PC at night I want to carry on working where I left off the following day – at least I want all the folders to be open up at the same place. Therefore, on XP I had both these options checked in Tools/Folder Options: “Restore previous folder windows at login” and “remember each folder’s view settings”. Windows XP obeyed this command like a faithful dog, but Windows 7 doesn’t play ball. On rebooting it opens all my previous windows on top of each other, in a pile. What a mess! I then spend a minute rearranging them all, dragging them to their correct position and resizing them to how they should be. What a pain!

Furthermore, Windows 7 forgets they layout options for each window. The option “remember each folder’s view settings” that was in XP is missing in 7! A couple of my windows list files that I frequently access so I don’t want to see the navigation pane, just the file list. I use another window for managing files so I always want the navigation pane displayed. XP obliges by 7 is so stupid it can only remember 1 folder setting and applies it to all of them, so on reboot the windows are either all with navigation panes or without, not the customised mixture that XP used to respect.

For those reasons I find Windows 7 very frustrating. Someone suggested using hibernate or suspend instead of shutting down. That may be okay if Windows doesn’t refuse to recover from hibernation, but it shows an error on resume and reboots.

Remembering folder views and locations is a very, very simple function for an OS but Windows 7 has taken a huge leap backwards here. It does not compute. Windows 7 has been given the memory of a goldfish.

Backups – Aargh!

I want to back up my C (boot) drive which is 80GB onto an external 200GB drive. No, it can’t do that because Windows has decided that the backup has to include my D drive which is a massive 1TB internal drive. What? I can’t back up my boot drive because Windows insists that the D drive is also included? How stupid is that. I do not want to back up my entire 1TB “D” drive, just the critical C drive.

Admittedly I have installed non-essential apps onto the D drive such as Firefox, Visio and Dreamweaver, plus I changed the location of My Documents from the C drive to the D drives to save disk space on the precious 80GB SSD. But those files aren’t critical to restoring Windows should the need arrise.

I’m now testing out other backup options. My key requirements are:

  • Volume Shadow Copy – so open files can be backed up like Outlook’s .pst files
  • Back up specific files from any of my drives without having to backup the entire drive
  • Option to back up files into zip files so the backups are completely independent and not proprietary files formats.
  • Additionally create an image backup of a drive (to quickly restore my boot drive onto another drive should it die)
  • Incremental backups so only changes are backed up on a daily basis
  • Windows 7 bit-bit compatible

Cobian Backup has always been perfect for file backups (it’s a brilliant free app) but sadly it’s only a 32 bit app which means it can’t do volume shadow copies on a 64 bit OS – which is what I’m now running to utilise the full 4 GB of ram in my PC.

So I will now evaluate the following free or cheap alternatives:

  1. Acronis True Image Home 2009 (commercial, £40/$60, or half price here)
  2. GFI Backup Home Edition (free)
  3. Macrium Reflect Free Edition (free)
  4. Macrium Reflect (commercial, £20/$30)

Acronis is not yet fully Windows 7 compatible which is a shame as it has some very powerful features. GFI Backup sounds great as a file-only backup solution (it doesn’t do drive imaging, same as Cobian Backup). Macrium Reflect (commercial) does both file and disk imaging but backs up to its own proprietary file format.

I think I may use two apps for a separate disk imaging and file backup strategy.


  1. Maybe you just didn't read the screens as well as you think you did.

    I use hibernate and have done so since beta2... on 5 different laptops... The only issue I had once with hibernate was an non-updated version of SQL Server, so applied the SP's and all was well.

    As for backup you just click on 'setup backup', then select where your files are to go then select 'let me choose' and select what folders you want to backup. Nice and simple, you can select multiple files from multiple folders.

    You can also use the Microsoft sync toy for backup if you want a little more...

  2. Yes, you are right in that Windows 7 does file backups, but using the method you described doesn't provide a "system backup" that would restore the OS if my C drive failed. It won't show the "Windows" directory for me to select and add to the backup.

    A "system backup" is the only way to do that with Win7 which leads back to square one. i.e. it attempts to backup the entire D drive too which is 1TB even though Windows itself is not on that drive.

  3. I've used GFI BackUp and it worked like a charm for me. Really simple, no hassles. Obviously being free has its own charms I guess :)

  4. Thanks for your comment. Kate. I've grown to really like GFI Backup too, especially since they fixed the Windows 7 scheduling problem. I also schedule an incremental image copy of my C drive using Macrium Reflect. You can't have too many backups if your computer stores anything that's remotely precious to you!

  5. Maybe this post is a little outdated? The windows back up did let me select different partitions and or files/folders to backup.

  6. You are quite right, Mr Anonymous. I have amended my post accordingly. I've found a new limitation with Windows Backup. It appears to only let me schedule 1 backup at a time. I want to backup a different set of files at a different time, but computer says no. It doesn't matter as I've found GFI Backup and Macrium Reflect far superior for backing up Windows 7.