How to create an Image Backup to a USB Flash Drive
Use a Flash / Thumb drive to store your backup. It’s small, convenient and less expensive than purchasing an external USB disk drive. It is also provides a means of restoring Windows 7 or 8.1 if Windows 10 fails to upgrade your PC properly or the “Restore Previous Version” / Roll back feature in Windows 10 fails or is no longer available as you have exceeded the 30 day limit.
The limitation of using a flash drive is that you may only be able to store one or two full image backups before the flash drive is full.
Note: One of the 1st things you should do immediately after installing the image backup software is to create the software’s bootable recovery media. Then after you have created the image backup you should test (more on this later) the recovery media to verify that you can boot from the media (USB or DVD) and locate the image backup file.
Creating an image backup to a USB Flash Drive: I choose the 128GB size because they are reasonable inexpensive, $35.00 last time I looked on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/PNY-Turbo-128GB-Flash-Drive/dp/B00FE2N1WS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440891154&sr=8-1&keywords=pny+128gb+flash+drive
Whereas a 256GB Flash drive ($80.00) cost nearly as much or more than a 1TB external USB drive.
Since I had already purchased a Kingston Data Traveler G4 128GB (Decimal value) I used it as the basis for this article.
My disk drive has 124.7GB (Binary value) / 134GB (Decimal) of used space on my Windows disk drive. So how 134GB going to fit on a 128GB Flash drive?
The answer is data compression. Virtually all brands of Image Backup software have an option to select the compression level, Acronis True Image 2016 used in this example, vary from:
1) No compression - fastest time to complete the backup, Image file is nearly the same size as the used space on your disk. 2) Normal compression - good backup time, Image file is smaller than the used space on your disk. 3) High compression - longer time to complete the backup, Image file is measurably smaller than the used space on your disk. 4) Very high compression - longest time to complete the backup and requires a reasonably fast CPU, not recommended for laptop users. Image file may only be 5% smaller than the results when using the ‘High compression’ option.
The final size may also vary depending on the type of documents, photos and other data stored on your drive. Note that .zip files are already compressed so if your drive contains a larger number of zip files there is little or no reduction in file size during the backup.
Notes: 1) Screen shots of the backup process are included later in this article.
2) The first set of sample backup results are based on using a 1TB external USB drive to establish a set of baselines using various compression levels with the “Verification” of the Image backup file option enabled:
No compression: Time to complete = 56 minutes Image Backup file size = 134GB Normal compression: Time to complete = 61 minutes Image Backup file size = 112GB High compression: Time to complete = 64 minutes Image Backup file size = 110GB Very high compression: Time to complete = 71 minutes Image Backup file size = 109GB
The above results included a large number of .zip files (about 50GB) which are already compressed, more than most users would have on their system. As a result compression did not help all that much to reduce the size of the image file.
I ran another test, this time with more document files and fewer zip files. High compression: Time to complete = 47 minutes Image Backup file size = 93.5GB
The results now show that the size of the image backup file will fit on a 128GB (117GB Binary) Flash drive.
I also used EaseUS Todo Backup Home version 8.6 to see if there was any significant difference between these two products in the size of the image backup file and as the results show below there is virtually no difference in the time to complete a backup and the file size.
Medium Compression: Time to complete = 45 minutes Image Backup file size = 92.7GB High (Max) Compression: Time to complete = 46 minutes Image Backup file size = 92.3GB
For comparison purposes I have another computer (Windows 7) that has 52.4GB (Binary) of used space and results in an Acronis Image Backup file size of 32.9GB. So as you can see the compression results can vary significantly from one computer to the next.
Acronis using the Kingston 128GB Flash drive High compression: Time to complete = 1hour and 23 minutes Image Backup file size = 93.5GB High
Note that transfer speeds of USB Flash dives for different models or manufactures vary. As it turns out my Kingston 128GB Data Traveler G4 speed (50 Gb/sec) is about half the speed of some of my other (but smaller) Kingston flash drives and also about half the speed of my external USB drive. This explains why the backup took nearly twice as long (1 hour and 23 minutes versus 45 minutes) to complete.
A 32GB PNY Flash Drive I have bench marks in at 100Gb/s and assuming a 128GB model has the same speed rating would result in backup times nearly identical to my 1TB external USB drive.
Note: You need to create an Image Backup the whole drive and all partitions as installing Windows 10 may result in a non-functional Windows 7 recovery partition if you use the Roll Back feature and are successful (not everyone is) in restoring your previous version of Windows.
What if the Windows 7 Operating System, data files and other partitions such as a Recovery Partition will not fit on a 128GB Flash Drive?
You may be able to reduce the Image file size by running Windows ‘Disk Cleanup’ to remove any unnecessary temp files and reduced the number of system restore points to 1.
1) Reduce the amount of space allowed for system restore points: In Windows 7 on computers with hard drives over 64 GB, System Restore can take up to 5 percent of the disk or a maximum of 10 GB of the disk space, whichever is less. On computers with hard drives of 64 GB or less, System Restore can take at most 3 percent of the disk space.
My 640GB hard drive (450GB Windows partition) is set to 10GB, of which 1.47GB is used. To save space you can ‘Turn off system protection’ which will delete all restore points and then enable system protection by clicking on the ‘Restore system settings and previous versions of files’ option, click ‘Apply’ then ‘OK’ and then click on the ‘Create a restore point right now ’ button. The size of the new and only restore point will be about 100MB or less.
2) Run Disk Cleanup: Click Start and enter: Disk Cleanup in the box and press the Enter key and select Disk Cleanup or click Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup. Note that if you have more than one partition on the drive, only the Windows partition (C:) should be selected. Check all the boxes and then click on the “OK” button. When prompted click the “Delete Files” button.
Microsoft released a Disk Cleanup Wizard add on / plugin / hot fix (all three names are used in the KB article) that allows users to delete outdated Windows updates on computers running Windows 7 SP1. Note: You can check to see if this update is already installed by running Disk Cleanup and click on the ‘Clean up system files’ option.
If you see ‘Windows Update Cleanup ‘ at or near the bottom of the list place a check mark in the box and click the ‘OK’ button.