[mswindowsxp] Backups - was Removable HD.

  • From: Jim Betz <jimbetz@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: mswindowsxp@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 09:10:14 -0700


  There are "two or more parts" to the Recycle Bin.  The 'directory'
for it is on the C-drive and is what you see if you go searching the
C-drive and find a file labeled "recycle bin" (sic).  But there is 
also a "link" to the other drives.  And a file labeled "recycle bin"
on each of those.  And the files themselves don't move when they are
put in the recycle bin - they are just 'marked' for the recycle bin
and then their space is 'recovered' by the operating system in the
order of oldest is reused first.  If you think of the "recycle bin"
as just a "directory" of all of the files you have deleted you are
pretty close to the way it actually works. 
  You may not be using the correct 'view' to see truly all of the
files on your drive when you look at it.  A lot of files ("system"
files) may be 'hidden' from you.  One such file that might be using
up a lot of space would be a swap/page file.  WinXP will "extend" the
swap to just about any drive it thinks it should.  Sometimes it 
does that even when the swapfile on the C-drive is no where near
full and the C-drive is also no where near full.  

  Although you can get SOME information looking at the directories
the way you have been - the easiest way to figure out if the drive is
actually full or not is to use the DETAILS option for View in 
My Computer.  This will show you the total actual space and free
space for your drives.  Due to "file system overhead" the amount
of space you can actually use on a hard drive is always less than
the reported amount when it has no files on it.  This is due to the
fact that nearly every sector (the Physical units of storage on your
drives) will have some unused space in it due to the mismatch between
file and sector size.  Files are Logical, Sectors are Physical.  The
higher the percentage of small files you have on a drive the larger
the number of mismatches.  A small percentage of the files in your 
system actually span a sector.  And a small percentage of sectors
will get filled with two or more files.  Bottom line - there is
considerable "lost space".  No, it shouldn't be 12GB of lost space.     
  And don't get too hung up on the 40GB number - that's a sort of
"marketing measurement".  What I'm saying here is that not all 40GB
hard drives are the same size.  But they are all 'somewhere pretty
close' to 40GB.  Since the next smaller common size drive is 36GB
you can pretty much depend upon the fact that your particular drive
is actually 38GB or larger.  It's unlikely that it is more than
41GB of actual space.  Sometimes the manufacturers will market the
drives based upon unformatted space and not take into account the
reduction of space caused by formatting the drive.  This can make
a significant difference in the amount of actual space since when
you format it (you're actually creating the sectors) it has to 'fit'
the sectors onto the tracks.  It is not uncommon for a drive's
usable size to be 2%-5% less than the amount claimed on the box. 
In my experience it is rare that I see a 40GB drive that actually
has a full 40GB of usuable space on it after it is formatted.

  As to how you might have 'lost' 12GB.  The first thing I would
check is whether or not DETAILS reports the drive's capacity as
something near to 40GB.  If it does not then the drive wasn't
formatted to it's complete capacity and the only ways to fix that
are 1) to save what you want to keep off of it and reformat it 
or 2) purchase a copy of Partition Magic by PowerQuest (about $40
on eBay) and use it to "recover" the 'lost' space.  
  If DETAILS shows the total size to be somewhere near 40GB then
you need to 'go hunting' for the files/folders that are using up
space.  But you have already done that so you may not be able to
find anything that will help.

  No matter what - it sounds like you should run SCANDISK against
the drive to see if it has a lot of "lost files/sectors" - if it
does you need to review your procedures for taking the drive out
of the system.  The best and safest way is to do a power off 
shutdown.  You can use the "stop" command and it works.  I'm just
overly cautious before I ever remove any piece of hardware - 
especially a hard drive.
  When running SCANDISK it will ask you some questions (I forget
the exact order).  When it asks "do you want to fix these 
problems?(sic)" say YES.  When it asks "do you want to save the
recovered stuff as files (sic)?" say NO (you won't be able to use 
them anyway).  When it asks do you want to create an "undo (sic)?" 
say "NO". 

  Although your removable hard drive works fine it really isn't
the best way to do backups.  Backing up the entire system is
not really a good idea and doesn't really help.  I've done many,
many 'system recoveries'.  Rarely did it make sense to try to
'recreate the SYSTEM exactly as it was the last time a backup
was taken'.  A much better method than using a removable hard
drive is to backup your FILES using a CD burner.  (Yes, always
it makes sense to 'recreate the DATA exactly as it was the last
time a backup was taken'.)  

  Here're my TRIED and TRUE Methods:

  1) Organize all of "your stuff" into a special folder.  Do NOT
     use My Documents for anything (viruses will look here first
     for stuff they want to delete/damage).  Call it something 
     like TEDSTUFF.  Within that folder put sub-folders that make 
     sense to you and organize your data the way you want them.
     If you are "into" golf have a folder called GOLF.  If you
     do a lot of work with Word but it is all personal files that
     seem to have no particular sub-categories then create a
     sub-folder called WORD.  If you have a lot of "Clients"
     then create a folder called CLIENTS and in that have a
     sub-folder for each client.  You get the idea.
       I'm not talking about applications here.  I'm talking 
     about the files that the applications use.
  2) Set the default folders for your applications to point to
     the correct folder in TEDSTUFF (Word to WORD, Excel to EXCEL,
     etc.)   Some applications don't allow this - such as Quicken -
     most of those applications have their own backup process -
     point those backups at a special folder in TEDSTUFF.
  3) Backup the TEDSTUFF folder using a CD-R.  This has significant
     advantages over a removable hard drive.  First, it can be "used
     in any PC".  Second, it can't be "erased" by magnetism (or
     have a head crash or get damaged by being dropped or have a
     circuit board failure, etc.).  Third, it is "permanent" - the
     files on a burned CD are said to be good for "100 years" -
     I doubt we will have devices in our computers that will read
     them even 2 decades from now - but for the useful future of
     a backup they have more than adequate longevity.  Fourth, the  
     media is truly cheap (under 35 cents per CD the last time I
     bought ... and seems to continue to be dropping).  Fifth, they
     are small and easy to carry around, mail, put in a fireproof 
     safe, or whatever else you want to do with them.
  4) If the TEDSTUFF folder gets too big to put on a single CD
     then move the "static" stuff in it to "TEDSTUFF_ARCHIVE"
     and copy from that folder to CD's.  Trust me, if you organize
     your files well you will find that all of the stuff you ever
     really need that you yourself created and need to keep will
     fit on usually one and always 2 or 3 CD's.
  5) Yes, you can use burnable DVD's to get more capacity.  If you
     haven't "tapped out" on CD-R yet you don't need it.
       If you are "into" music or digital video then maybe a DVD
     burner is the way to go - certainly with digital video.
  6) If you have to "rebuild" the system you WILL need to reinstall
     all of your applications with this backup methodology.  That is 
     actually so highly likely anyway that having a 2nd hard drive 
     for a "complete system image" type of backup is really a form of 
     overkill and should only be used by someone who really needs
     it (see below).
  7) Do periodic backups to CD-R.  The time between backups does
     not have to be fixed - but most do.  The best way to decide
     if it is time to do a backup is to ask yourself "how much
     time would it take me to recreate what I've done since the
     last backup?" and balance that against the time it will take
     you to burn a CD.
       That said - the most common error in most backup schemes is
     that they Don't Get Done! (often enough).  It is very easy to
     fall into the trap of saying to yourself "I'll do that tomorrow."
     and then not really getting it done tomorrow.  At first it will
     creep out a week or so, then it will creep out a month or more
     longer than you should, then you be one of the guys who is
     "working without a net" who hasn't done a backup in 6 months.
     It is AMAZING how many of those get caught by a drive failure.
  8) NEVER reuse a CD that you burned a prior backup to.  They make
     really nice 48 CD softcases.  Buy one.  Buy a 50-disk pack of
     blanks.  Back up TEDSTUFF once a week.  Write the date on the
     CD with a Sharpie or other permanent marker.  Put it into the
     softcase.  Repeat next week.  This gives you a backup for your
     screw-ups - when you "accidentally" delete a file you need
     later - with a new backup CD of TEDSTUFF every week you can
     always go back and find it on some prior CD.  With a removable
     hard drive you usually don't have "generations" of backup.    
  9) If this is a "business system" - especially a server - then
     you may need an entirely different form of backup scheme and all
     of the above is not for you.  But you implied you had recently
     switched from an Amiga to Windoze ... so I figure you have a
     pretty standard 'single system, home usage, at most a small
     business' kind of environment.  In which case all of the above
     is the usual way to go.
  PLEASE NOTE - the backup system above does NOT cover eMail and/or
browser favorites.  You need to find out which files/folders you
need to backup for those applications by also burning those to a CD.
Many people find that their saved eMails get really large over the
years and are 'critical' to them.  If you are one of those you need
to carefully work thru how you will backup eMail so you don't loose
stuff like your address book, emails, favs, etc.

> I was backing up some files yesterday and an error window appeared saying my
> Removable HD disk was full. I have added up all the files on it and the
> total is only 28 gigabytes. I have lost 12 gigs somewhere. I deleted some of
> the folders, but the amount deleted didn't restore the same amount of free
> space on the HD. Also, emptying the "Recycle Bin" restored some space. How
> does this happen as the "Recycle Bin"  is installed on my C drive.

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