Hello fellow Community members,
First, I want to welcome everyone to the Norton community. Many of you will probably recognize me as a long time member and one who posts heavily here in the Other Products Forum. For those who don't recognize me, a little background.
I am a long time user of various Symantec products, including Ghost, Norton Systemworks (NSW), Norton Utilities, Norton Anti-Virus (NAV), Norton Internet Security (NIS) and Norton 360. In this post I am going to concentrate on Norton Ghost. I started my experience with Norton Ghost version 9 and have worked up through all versions since then, including version 9, 10, 12, 14 and finally 15. What I want to concentrate on here is to outline the differences between File and Folder Backups vs Image backup (or Backup My Computer) with Norton Ghost.
About File and Folder Backups:
When many people think about backing up important day to day documents they think about file and folder backups. It seems very straight forward. In a generic sense this works just fine in most cases.
Some do file and folder backups exclusively and this is great if all you care about is personal documents. However, if you care about restoring your system drive (which contains your OS) this is never enough. You will not be able to restore your OS through this method. If your system drive crashed and all you have is file and folder backups, you will be forced to reinstall your OS and ALL applications after which you can restore your personal documents. If this is not a big deal to you then you are all set, otherwise you need to do more (explained below).
Some believe that if you do an image backup on your system drive you must also do a file and folder backup. This is NOT true and is completely redundant.
Some believe that you should do an image backup on your system (OS) drive and a file and folder backup on everything else. Though this works, there is another alternative which is to do an image backup on all drives.
Now to outline some of the pros and cons of Image backups (Backup My Computer) vs File and Folder Backups.
Pros of File and Folder Backup:
- Most people understand the concept
- Takes less time for a backup
- Takes somewhat less space compared to an image backup
Cons of File and Folder Backups:
- Browsing your file backups is very slow. First when you select "Recover My Files" it is very slow to bring up the next window. Then when you do the search you must wait again for a very long time.
- You must do complicated searches so that your file list is no more than 10,0001 files.
- If you want to restore to an alternate location there is no easy way to maintain the relative directory structure. In some cases it is impossible.
- The Ghost catalog database tends to get out of sync at times, forcing you to re-import your backup location to recreate the catalog.
- Backup files are not straight forward as they are named with cryptic filenames ending with .fbf.
- If you want to delete some versions of files you must do so through the Ghost interface which can be quite time consuming. You cannot do so (safely) through Windows Explorer since the filenames are cryptic.
Pros of Image Backups (Backup My Computer):
- Image backups back up the entire partition (including the OS, if the system drive).
- Image backups automatically include everything you can possibly care about.
- Restoring the entire image backup to a partition on the same or new drive is pretty straight foward, though care must be taken to select the correct options for a proper restoral. Knowledge of partition layout of the original source drive is advised.
- Restoring individual files is actually easier than it is with File and Folder backup. Yes, you read this correctly, it is easier.
- You can mount the backup image which then appears as a drive letter which you can use with Windows Explorer to restore individual files if you desire. Otherwise restoring files through Ghost interface is very easy.
- You see REAL filenames when you browse the files comprising your backup image.
- Maintaining relative directory structure when restoring to an alternate location is automatic.
- Loading your backup image to the recovery point browser to view the files comprising your backup image is very fast compared to file and folder backups.
Cons of Image Backups (Backup My Computer):
- It takes somewhat more space compared to file and folder backups.
- Periodic full backups are advised. E.g., you don't want to do incrementals forever.
- You cannot delete individual files from the backup image.
As you can see from the list above, image backups performed with Ghost have far more pros than cons and once you get used to the concept of image backups it is actually much more straight forward than file and folder backups with Ghost.
FYI: I perform exclusively image backups on all 3 of my internal hard drives. The only time I use file and folder backup is for testing purposes to assist on the forums here.
I hope this information will be of use and please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on anything.
Thanks very much for reading through my long post!