Sometimes software upgrades are not a good idea

The computers of today have come a long way from what I was using back in 1976.  Almost 40 years ago, the personal computer was mostly a toy and a novelty.  Today, I would find it hard to live without the use of my computer and my connection to the Internet.

There is one fact that is as true today as it was nearly 40 years ago.  Computer systems are not 100% reliable.  They sometimes fail and, if there is not a proper backup scheme in place, important data can be lost.  My computer in 1976 used an audio cassette recorder as a storage medium.  I frequently lost data because the magnetic tape in the audio cassette was easily corrupted.

The backup scheme I employ today is much more complex.  I learned, after several hard drive failures and data corruption, that having a reliable backup was an absolute necessity.  Since all of my finances are managed on my computer, the loss of that data would be catastrophic.  The best way to ensure the data is not lost is to have more than one copy of the data.  The copies should include an image of all data on the computer’s main hard drive.  After suffering from a computer crash about 10 years ago, which resulted in the loss of a significant amount of my data, I adopted the following backup routine.  Each day, before I shut down my computer, I make a backup image of the main hard drive.  Throughout the day, I have a second program making periodic backups of important data, such as from my financial program.  I have 3 external hard drives, one is for the continual backups of data throughout the day, and the other 2 are used to save images of my main hard drive. When one of the image backup drives fills, I switch to the second.  When the second fills, the first is wiped clean and the process begins again.  At any given time, I have nearly a month of backups.

This process was invaluable about 5 years ago when I experienced my first complete failure of the main hard drive.  I purchased a replacement hard drive, installed it, and my computer was back up, having only lost what work I had done since turning on the computer in the morning.  I considered myself to be very lucky.  It wasn’t really luck, it was planning.

Last week, Windows 10 was released to the general public.  I had read good reviews about this newest Windows operating system.  I decided to give it a spin, especially since I have such a reliable backup system in place.  If I decided Windows 10 wasn’t for me, it would be simple to revert back to the computer’s hard drive image from before the operating system upgrade.

For many years, my backup software of choice has been from Acronis.  Each year, Acronis would send a notice out for an upgraded version of their backup software True Image.  At the end of last year, I was given a chance to upgrade to the latest version, True Image 2015.  In general, using the most recent version of computer software is a best practice.  My upgrade to True Image 2015 reminded me that using the most recent software version is not always the best practice.

Two years ago, I used my external hard drive image of my computer’s main hard drive to replace a still functioning hard drive.  Hard drives in my computer get a lot of use.  Other than the microprocessor cooling fan, the hard drive is the only mechanical part of the computer that wears out because of how much it is used.  It seemed logical to periodically replace the hard drive, even though it might still be functioning properly.  I decided that, with the upgrade to Windows 10, this would be a good time to install a fresh hard drive.

I made a backup of my system right before activating the Windows 10 upgrade.  The upgrade was surprisingly smooth.  The Windows 10 upgrade was the easiest Microsoft upgrade I’ve ever experienced.  All of my Windows 7 settings, programs, desktop, wallpaper, etc, were there when Windows 10 came alive on my computer.  It wasn’t long before I decided that I was good to go with Windows 10 and said goodbye to Windows 7.

My next task was to install the new hard drive.  I started Acronis True Image 2015 from the DVD recovery disc.  Within 10 minutes of the hard disk restoration, the program halted and reported that the restoration had failed.  This is not a good sign when one is dealing with hard disk restoration.  I checked the program’s log and it reported that my backup was corrupted.  Also not a good sign.  I reconnected the original hard drive and made another back.  Some of my backups have been what are known as incremental backups.  This is when only changed data on the hard drive is archived, which saves time and disk space.  The backup I made this time was a full backup.

When the backup was complete, I installed the new hard drive and initiated True Image 2015 from the DVD.  Once again, after less than 10 minutes, the program halted and reported that the restoration had failed.  I checked the program’s log and the same error was there, the backup was reported as being corrupted.

Google is a wonderful tool.  Whenever I have a computer-related issue, or just about any other kind of issue, I do a search on Google and can usually find a resolution.  I was shocked when I searched for this error when using True Image 2015.  Apparently the error I was receiving was not uncommon.  In fact, on the Acronis web site, they have a troubleshooting matrix, which suggests that an internal hard drive should be used if a corruption error is received while using an external drive.  Why is True Image 2015 not able to restore from an image on an external drive when previous versions of True Image did not have this problem.  As I read further about issues with True Image 2015, I noted that several users were advocating going back to previous versions of the software because of the major changes that were implemented in the 2015 version.

This created a real problem for me.  Thank goodness it was only during a routine swap of main hard drives.  I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I had experienced a hard drive failure and tried to restore from my backups.  I have a second hard drive in my computer, but it is used for data storage and there was not sufficient space available for me to save an image of the main hard drive on this secondary hard drive.  In the end, I had to transfer enough data off the internal secondary drive to make room for a main drive image.

I went back to my original main hard drive, instructed True Image 2015 to save an image of the main drive on the secondary internal drive.  When I ran the True Image 2015 DVD to restore to the new main hard drive, the process was successful.  My computer was now running as before, but with a brand new main hard drive.

The articles I read online suggested that True Image 2015 was a major mistake by Acronis.  The overwhelming advice was to revert back to a previous version.  Unfortunately, I had not saved any of the installation files for previous versions of True Image.  I did a quick search on Amazon and found True Image 2014 for $30.  I immediately ordered it.  Once I receive the 2014 version, I’ll do a test restore using my external backups.  If the backups are successful, it looks as though I will just stay with the 2014 version.  Not that it will make any difference to Acronis, but I sent them feedback telling how they had lost a loyal customer.  I’m pretty flexible with most things, but having reliable backups of my computer data is no place for flexibility.  Reliability is the key.

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