Clouds

Which Cloud Backup Service Is Best for Travelers?

In Stay Safe and Secure by Dave Dean16 Comments

Last updated 16 November 2017, to reflect the removal of Carbonite’s Android file backup feature.

Until recently, it was easy for travelers to choose a cloud backup service. Crashplan Home offered the best combination of features and price, and I’ve been using and recommending it to travelers for years.

Last week, however, the company dropped a bombshell. Effective immediately, it was switching focus to the more-lucrative business market. Depending on how long was left on their subscription, Home customers had between two and fourteen months to find an alternative.

After that? Their data would be deleted off the company’s servers, and in October next year, the app will stop working entirely.

The company is offering a sweetener to entice customers to switch to a Small Business plan, knocking 75% off the price for a year after their current subscription runs out. After that, though, or for new users? It’s ten bucks a month, per device. That’s expensive, especially since for most individual customers, there’s nothing extra in the Small Business plan that benefits them.

With competing products as little as half the cost, are the benefits of Crashplan worth paying $10/month for? Is there a more affordable service out there that fits the needs of travelers just as well?

I did some digging, ultimately settling on three other contenders. I discounted other services that were too limited or expensive, or offered fewer features for the money than the competition.

Comparing features is one thing — and I do that below — but I needed to properly test the services as well. To that end, I created a set of roughly 20,000 photos, videos, documents and other files, totaling around 10GB in size, and used each of the apps to upload them to its company’s servers.

In each case, I measured how long it took for the backup to complete, as well as the system resources consumed in the process. I then selected a 1.7GB subset of approximately 1000 files from the backup, and measured how long they took to restore.

While doing so, I also tracked how easy the software was to sign up for, download, install, and use, on both desktop (Windows 10) and mobile (an Android phone).

My Internet connection was about what you’d expect to find in a decent hotel while traveling — at 13Mbps download / 4Mbps upload, the speeds were acceptable, but not high. Similarly, my laptop is approaching three years old, so it runs fine, but isn’t the latest and greatest. I wanted real-world rather than best-case tests, so these suited my needs perfectly.

So, here’s how they all compared. If you’re just after the recommendations, you can skip to the end.

Backblaze vs Mozy vs Carbonite vs Crashplan

We all use backup software in different ways, and the needs of a professional travel videographer are very different to those of someone who takes a few photos on vacation each year. Features that are vital for one person, may be irrelevant for someone else.

So, to start with, I put together a matrix of the aspects that matter to at least some travelers, to see how each service fared against the others. It’s a little complicated, but I guess that’s the nature of these kind of products.

 BackblazeMozyCarbonite Basic / Plus (1)Crashplan for Small Business
Cost (monthly)$5 per device$5.99 / $9.99 (2)-$10 per device
Cost (annually)$50 per device$65.89 / $109.89 (2)$59.99 / $99.99$120 per device
Free/trial version?15 day trialFree, with 2GB cloud storage15 day trial30 day trial
Storage spaceUnlimited50GB / 125GBUnlimitedUnlimited
Backup platformsWindows, MacWindows, Mac, LinuxWindows, Mac, Android (photos only)Windows, Mac, Linux
Restore platformsWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, browserWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, browser
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, browserWindows, Mac, Linux, browser, iOS, Android
Backup FROM external drivesYesYes, with minor exceptionsNo / Yes (single drive)Yes
Backup TO external drivesNoYes (Windows only)Partial (just operating system and apps, Windows only)Yes
Multiple file versionsYes, kept for up to 30 daysYes, kept for up to three monthsYes, kept for up to 90 days (Windows only)Yes, unlimited
Deleted files auto-removedAfter 30 daysAfter three monthsAfter 30 daysNever unless user-specified
Could current files get removed?Yes, if on external drive disconnected for 30+ days, or after six months of no backupsNoYes, if on external drive disconnected for 30+ daysNo
EncryptionAES 128AES 256 or Blowfish 448Blowfish128AES 256
Backup frequencyContinuous (but can be slow to pick up changes)Varies by operating system10 minutes to 24 hoursContinuous
Multiple backup setsNoYes, 1 cloud + 1 external driveNoYes
Can manually control resource usage (CPU, bandwidth, etc)?YesYesNoYes
Can send you a drive for faster restore?Yes. Paid service, but reimbursed if drive returned.Yes. Paid service, and depends on data center location.NoNo
Can receive a drive for faster initial backup ("seeding")?NoYes. Paid serviceNoNo
Other commentsIncludes 'locate my computer' serviceOnly backs up certain file types by default

(1) Carbonite also has a “Prime” plan, but the extra feature (sending you a hard drive to speed up large restores) isn’t worth the $150 annual cost for most travelers.

(2) Mozy has two options — a 50GB storage limit for 1 device, or 125GB for three devices. Extra space is $2/month per 20GB, extra devices are $2/month each.


Backblaze

Backblaze logo

Backblaze has long been one of the more popular cloud backup services, offering useful features at affordable prices. It seemed like it should be a strong candidate, and so it turned out to be.

Setup

The signup process was about as simple as it gets. I entered my email and a password, and the app started downloading automatically. Fire it up, and if you’re happy with the automatic backup settings, you’re good to go immediately.

By default, Backblaze finds and backs up all of what it classifies as ‘personal data’ anywhere on the system. That excludes things like operating system and executable files, although it’s easy enough to add them if you want to. It also ignores ‘transient’ files that can be easily recreated again, including things like podcasts in iTunes.

Excluding a few folders wasn’t a big deal, but adding some files to the backup, and removing others, took a bit of time. Still, for many people, there’ll be little to nothing to configure here. If you’re mainly looking to back up your irreplaceable data (music, videos, documents), you likely won’t need to change a thing.

Backup

My backup took almost exactly 8.5 hours to complete. Memory usage was reasonable, peaking at 183MB, and averaging around 100MB. It worked away silently in the background the entire time.

The app won’t win many design awards, but it did the job fine. Note that Backblaze only backs up Windows or Mac machines — if you’re running Linux or something else on your laptop, you’re out of luck.

It also can’t save your files to a portable drive — Backblaze is cloud backup only. Since slow or non-existent Internet makes timely backups and restores from the cloud difficult for travelers, I always recommend backing up to an external drive as well. To do so, you’ll need to use a (free) tool like Time Machine on Mac, or File History / Backup and Restore on Windows.

Restore

Although it worked well enough, the online restore process wasn’t as straightforward as it could be. Clicking the ‘restore’ button in the app simply took me to the Backblaze website, to select the files I wanted to bring back. After that, I needed to wait for an email to tell me it was ready, which arrived ten minutes later.

After clicking the email link, I was able to download a zip file containing all the files and folders I’d asked for. In this case it took a further 14 minutes to download, for a total restore time of 24 minutes.

When selecting files to restore, I couldn’t select a file to see which previous backups existed of it. Instead, I had to change the overall date selector to somewhere in the last 30 days, and then pick the file(s) I wanted an earlier version of. Like the rest of the restore process, it worked, but it was clunky.

You can only go back 30 days to retrieve deleted files, or older versions of existing files. That’s the shortest of any of the services I tested.

App

Backblaze’s Android app was simple and effective, as far as it went. Like most other services, it only lets you restore files previously backed up from a computer, and doesn’t back up the phone or tablet itself.

Still, it was easy to find and download a particular file to restore, and as long as I had an appropriate app on my phone, to then view, edit or share it once it had downloaded.

Verdict

Backblaze is a good, no-fuss backup solution. Features like unlimited storage space for five bucks or less a month, “free” shipping of a USB stick or hard drive to speed up restores, and a handy “find my computer” service, aren’t offered by the competition.

That, coupled with a simple install process and a straightforward interface, make it an appealing option — but it’s not perfect.

As well as the limitations mentioned earlier, Backblaze is problematic for photographers or videographers with more data than fits on their laptop. While it will happily back up external drives to the cloud, it’ll automatically delete its copy of that drive if it’s disconnected for 30 days or more.

If you take your laptop on a month-long trip, but leave one or more external drives at home, you’ll be re-uploading hundreds or thousands of gigabytes of data when you get back. Eurgh.

The company’s only solution? Pause your backups, or shut down your computer with the drive(s) still connected, and don’t start things back up again until you return. If you’re traveling with your laptop and keeping new files backed up as you should, that’s not much of a solution.

Despite those shortcomings, though, Backblaze’s price and ease of use make it a solid option for most travelers.

Download Backblaze


Mozy

Mozy logo

Once upon a time, Mozy was a feisty little startup, offering unlimited cloud backup plans for $5/month. Those days are long gone, however — it’s now owned by Dell, with price hikes and storage restrictions that limit its value.

Setup

Signing up for a Mozy trial was easy, requiring just an email address and password, along with country and zip/postcode. The app, too, was solid and easy to use. After a quick scan of my drive, it offered several groups of files to select from, or a familiar file manager interface for more granular choices.

Backup

Mozy lets you select one or more external drives to back up to the cloud, and also includes a ‘2x Protect’ system that copies files from a Windows laptop to a portable drive.

The app was one of the better ones, slick and easy to use. Its memory usage was fine, peaking at 110MB, and averaging around half that.

At nearly 13 hours, however, transferring my sample backup set took noticeably longer than the other services. My connection’s maximum upload speed hadn’t changed when running the test, so the slowdown was happening somewhere else.

The elephant in the room, of course, is those cloud storage limits. In a market where most other companies offer unlimited storage, it’s hard to get excited about a service that doesn’t.

Restore

Restoring files with Mozy was just like backing them up — an easy-to-use interface, let down by slow transfer speeds. While the other services took half an hour or less to restore my data set, Mozy took 47 minutes to do the same thing.

App

The mobile app is a little better than most. It was fast and responsive, and worked more like a normal file browser than others. Default groups (images, videos, etc) were shown on the main screen, making it faster to find what you’re after.

There was smart use of thumbnails, too — when browsing images, for example, I could swipe left and right to see low-resolution versions before committing to downloading them. Downloaded files lived in their own separate part of the app.

Verdict

There’s a lot to like about Mozy. The desktop and mobile apps were solid and easy to use. It’s one of the few services that works on Linux, and that (for Windows users at least) includes backups both to and from external drives.

It’ll never delete current files from those drives, even if you disconnect them for months, and it retains deleted and old versions of files for three months.

There is, unfortunately, a big thing not to like about Mozy as well. Its storage limits.

Unless you’re a Linux user, paying six bucks a month for a paltry 50GB of space for one device is unnecessary. Cheaper services like Backblaze have no such limits, and with the ever-increasing file sizes of photos and videos, it’s much easier to hit that threshold than you’d think.

Paying $10/month for 125GB across three devices might make sense for a multi-computer family with limited backup needs, but hardly anyone else.

Those transfer speeds are a concern, too. Internet connections are glacial enough while traveling as it is, without your backup service slowing things down even further.

Download Mozy


Carbonite

Carbonite logo

Billed as one of the easiest cloud backup services to use, Carbonite is the company Crashplan has suggested its home users switch to. Unfortunately, this simplicity is both a blessing and a curse.

Setup

Like Backblaze, signing up and installing the app couldn’t have been easier. After entering my email address and a password, the app started downloading automatically. Installation was equally straightforward — but only to a point.

If you’re happy to stick with the default backup settings, Carbonite is a breeze. It looks in the usual locations for documents, photos, music etc, and starts backing them up automatically.

For those who want to pick other locations, however — or expand beyond Carbonite’s default file types — things get messy. The app doesn’t really want you backing up other types of files, so deliberately makes the process difficult. It’s similar in some ways to Backblaze’s approach, but more annoying in practice.

It excludes any file it doesn’t like, and you need to either add that file type yourself, or individually select each non-standard file and add it to the backup list. Even so, certain folders and types of files are still excluded, and can’t be backed up with Carbonite no matter what you do. Video isn’t backed up by default on the cheapest plan, and any file over 4GB has to be selected manually regardless.

For some travelers, none of that will be an issue. For others looking to make a more comprehensive backups, however, it’ll be a show-stopper.

Backup

After (painfully) selecting the files for my backup test, I waited 90 minutes for Carbonite to switch from ‘Preparing to Back Up’ to actually starting the backup, before giving up and restarting my computer. That did the trick, and it then took nine hours to complete.

Memory usage was very good throughout, with a peak of 40MB, and typically just 10-20MB.

My testing was done on a Windows laptop. If you’re using a Mac, your options are more limited. In that case, Carbonite doesn’t save multiple versions of each file — if it gets corrupted, or you realise you’d hit save when you didn’t mean to, you’re out of luck.

Also, while the Windows version can back up the operating system and apps to a portable drive, the Mac version can’t. As with Backblaze, you’ll need to use Time Machine or similar instead.

The “Plus” version of Carbonite lets you back up from a (single) external drive as well, a feature missing from the “Basic” plan.

Restore

Restoring files is done in one of two ways. Restoring “a few” files (defined as up to 5000 files or 10GB of data) is done via the Carbonite site, while getting most or all of your files back is done via the app.

Since I was only pulling back around 1000 files, I did it via the site. It was easy enough to select what I wanted, as long as it was all within one folder or sub-folder. After clicking ‘Download’, it took a few seconds for a zip file to be created, and 16 minutes for it to download. That’s the fastest restore speed of any of the services I tested.

Older versions of files are kept for 90 days, and were easy to track down, either through the Carbonite app, or Windows file explorer . As mentioned, the feature isn’t available for Macs.

App

The Android app isn’t the fastest I’ve ever used, especially when retrieving lists of files, but it worked well enough. Like Mozy, files were sorted into default groups like pictures and documents, although it was easy enough to browse the full list as well. It was fast to swipe left and right to see low-res versions of images, and to tap and hold to save them to my phone.

Verdict

Overall, Carbonite was the simplest service I tested — but that didn’t make it the best.

Even the basic version is more expensive than Backblaze’s offering, and if you want to back up from a portable drive as well, you’ll pay twice as much. After the trial version expires, you also have to pay for a full year upfront — there’s no monthly option.

While the app works very well if you stick to the defaults, it was very frustrating to use once I started trying to back up extra files. Like Backblaze, you’ll lose the files from your external drive if you don’t connect it for 30 days.

Mac users are treated as second-class citizens, paying the same price for a service that doesn’t include keeping older versions of files, or backing up the operating system and apps to a portable drive. For them, there’s no real reason to favour it over the alternatives.

Even with the extra features, though, it’s hard to recommend for most Windows users either. Backblaze covers most traveler’s requirements at a lower cost than Carbonite’s Basic plan, while Crashplan offers a lot more than Carbonite’s Plus plan, at the same price.

Download Carbonite

 

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Crashplan for Small Business

Crashplan for Small Business logo

With Crashplan’s Home plan going the way of the dodo, its cheapest option is now a Small Business subscription. Despite clearly not wishing to cater to individuals any longer, the service still has plenty to offer to certain types of traveler despite the price hike.

Setup

Signing up for the Crashplan for Small Business trial was remarkably difficult. It wanted a lot more personal information from me than the other services, and was the only one that required payment details beforehand.

Even then, I kept getting error messages during signup, and my account showed as unregistered in the app until I went through the payment authorisation process a second time. Frankly, it was a mess, and if I wasn’t committed to including Crashplan in this article, I’d likely have given up in disgust.

Once it was finally working, though, selecting which files I wanted included in the backup was simple and straightforward. It helped, of course, that the backup and restore parts of the app were the same as the Home version I’ve been using for years.

Backup

Crashplan took just over nine hours to finish backing up, in line with the other services.

Unlike the other apps, though, memory usage was excessive. I’ve noticed this in the past with the Home app, but assumed it was due to having a relatively large (400+ GB) backup set. Apparently not.

Even with just 10GB of files selected, the Crashplan backup service used around 450MB of RAM on average, peaking at 517MB. Even when it had finished backing up, memory use barely dropped below 400MB. That’s 3-10x more than any of the other apps I tested, and is frankly unacceptable, especially on older or low-spec machines.

Crashplan has more backup options than the competition, placing no restrictions on the number of portable drives you can back up from or to, and you can choose different sets of files for each. It also won’t remove files automatically, even if they’ve been deleted from the source. Similarly, it keeps unlimited file versions available forever.

Restore

Restoring files with Crashplan was a breeze, and can be done entirely from the app, including deleted or old versions of files. I simply selected the files I wanted to restore, where I wanted them to go, and that was that. The files finished downloading 31 minutes later.

App

Crashplan’s Android app was a little unreliable, repeatedly saying Error connecting to server when I tried to browse files from a previous backup. It worked after switching from Wi-fi to cellular data and back again, and was simple to use from then on.

Downloaded files were listed in a separate section of the app, and could be viewed and managed from there. The app was nothing special, but it performed its limited tasks well enough.

Verdict

There’s little doubt that Crashplan beats the competition when it comes to features. It works on Linux, as well as Mac and Windows, and places no limits on portable drives, storage space, or retention of old or deleted versions of files.

The interface, while uninspiring, works well, and transfer speeds are in line with the competition. Restores are as simple as backups — that’s not always the case with other services.

At five bucks a month, it was easily the best pick for any traveler, despite the excessive memory use. At double that, though, I can’t recommend it to everyone.

When it comes to keeping the files safe on the road, many (but not all) travelers will be served almost as well by Backblaze, and they’ll only need to spend $50/year to do it. Only those with specific needs — especially around backing up portable drives, or restoring any file they’ve ever backed up — need to splash out on the expensive new Crashplan plans.

Download Crashplan


Recommendations

Crashplan lifestyle

So, which cloud backup service should you use?

None of the products I tested came without flaws, but for most travelers, the answer is Backblaze. While it has frustrating limits around automatic removal of deleted, ‘missing’ and older versions of files, there’s also plenty to like.

At $5/month or $50/year for unlimited storage, it’s a cost-effective way of keeping your files safely backed up in the cloud. The app works well, unobtrusively backing up files without using all your system resources to do it. The restoration process, while undoubtedly clunkier than it needs to be, is equally speedy and works just fine.

Just don’t forget to configure Time Machine or one of the inbuilt Windows backup tools to back your files up to a portable drive as well, especially if Internet connections are slow or infrequent when you travel.

For certain situations, however, Crashplan remains the better choice despite its price hike.

For those running Linux, it’s clearly the best of a limited bunch. If you’ve got one or more external drives that also need backing up, and could potentially travel without them for a month or more, go for Crashplan as well — the extra cost is easier to stomach than re-uploading terabytes of files. Likewise, if you need to be able to restore any version of any file you’ve ever backed up or deleted, it’s your best bet.

If you’re going with Crashplan, though, make sure your computer has plenty of spare memory. The app is a total resource hog, and the company has shown little interest in doing anything about it so far. On older machines, you’ll definitely notice the difference.

While Carbonite is sleek and simple to use for basic requirements, it’s frustrating to configure for anything else. Worse, the default settings make it all too easy to leave you thinking you’re backing up an important file when you’re not, and in any case, it’s too expensive for what you get.

Likewise, Mozy has solid apps and useful features, but it’s impossible to recommend given how much you need to pay for its relatively small storage limits.

Final note: If you were a Crashplan Home customer prior to last week, and the company’s change of focus hasn’t left too much of a bad taste in your mouth, you may as well take advantage of the discounted small business version.

$2.50/month is cheaper than any of the alternatives, and gives you an extra year to finish moving your data to a different service. That’s what I’ll be grudgingly doing myself.

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We compare Backblaze, Mozy, Carbonite and Crashplan to find out which is the best cloud backup service for travelers.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 20 years and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Hi Dave,

    Have you considered iDrive? It goes for as little as $4 and change per month for 1TB of storage. (There’s a promo on now, too, to make it even cheaper.) Multiple devices. Apps for iOS, Android and Windows. Unlimited retention of deleted files. They’ll ship a drive (extra).

    I’ve been using it for about 6 months and it seems good. Caveat: I’ve never had to restore, so can’t comment on that all-important side to it.

    Seems to be a lot to like about iDrive.

    1. Author

      Hi Eric,

      I considered including iDrive, and if I was going to add a fifth product into the mix, that would be it. The pricing is good, and while it’s not unlimited data, at least 1TB is a lot better than (eg) Mozy’s limits. It also supports Linux, which is unusual, and you can send a drive to them once a year for free rather than uploading everything yourself.

      In the end, though, there were a few things that put me off other than the storage limit. You can’t back up to standard portable drives, and backups from portable drives only run on a schedule (daily or less), not continually. There’s no time limit on file versions, but it’ll only keep 10 copies — which isn’t super-useful on a document you’re working on and saving every few minutes.

      The way it handles restoring of deleted or moved files is apparently a mess, too. It seems to keep a copy of every file you’ve ever had, anywhere you’ve ever had it, even when you delete or move it — if you do a full system restore, you could spend a long time cleaning up old versions afterwards. If you run iDrive’s inbuilt cleanup process, it just gets rid of every deleted or moved file from the backup instead!

      Based on the feature set and price, it’s not a bad service by any means — it was just the combination of a bunch of little things that kept it off the list for me. I’ll be keeping this post updated, though, so will keep an eye on iDrive, and may well put it through the review process and into the post in the future.

  2. I’m like you…crash plan user since 2012. What are you thoughts about just using Google and their GDrive or whatever?

    1. Author

      I wouldn’t have considered the old Google Drive option, but the new Backup and Sync tool apparently can backup any folders you select. It’s the same storage space pricing as before — free up to 15GB (although that includes data in Gmail and other Google services as well), $2/month up to 100GB, $10/month up to 1TB. It’ll also automatically deal with photos and videos from your phone.

      It’s more limited than ‘real’ backup services, though — there’s no Linux support or backup to portable drives, for instance, and as far as I can tell, files are only encrypted in transit, not on Google’s servers. That said, I believe old versions of files are kept for 30 days (like Backblaze etc), and you can choose whether files you remove from your computer/phone are also removed from Google’s servers, so it’s not all bad.

      So, all in all, I’d say it’s now a good option if you’ve got less than 15GB of data to back up, and a reasonable one if you’ve got less than 100GB. Above that, at $10/month, you’re much better off with a dedicated service like Crashplan.

  3. It’s like you timed this article especially for me! I’m looking for somewhere to store about 12GB (to back up an external drive) and I was thinking of just shifting stuff to Dropbox. What a rookie mistake that would have been 🙂 This post is so useful, thank you.

  4. Dave,

    Thanks for all the useful work you do in presenting these topics to us

    Ray

    1. Author

      My view is that they’re a worse option than Google Backup and Sync (mentioned above) — which is itself only an ok-ish option. The reason I say this is that both Dropbox and OneDrive only let you sync one folder from your computer to the cloud, plus photos from your phone/tablet. Additionally, Dropbox only offers 2GB of storage on its free tier, while OneDrive gives 5GB before you start paying.

      I think they’re useful tools for certain things, especially sharing documents with other people, but they’re not a replacement for the backup services mentioned in the post.

  5. I too was (and I guess technically still am) a user of Crashplan. I /just/ upgraded to a new laptop when I received their email about abandoning home users. So now I’m testing out Arq backup. It requires a bit more technical knowhow in that you have to setup your own cloud storage provider, but it supports all the big ones. So far it seems okay, the software is certainly better than Crashplan (which isn’t exactly saying much tbh!). Prior to Crashplan I had used Backblaze but since I ran into issues when I needed to restore data, I won’t go back to using them if I can avoid it. I’d be curious if anyone else has heard of Arq and if they have any experiences good or bad?

    1. Author

      I considered including Arq (perhaps with Amazon S3) in the review, but as you say, it requires more technical know-how, and I was looking for solutions appropriate for as many travelers as possible. No personal experience with it, though.

  6. I was going over Crashplan’s offerings the other day too (I don’t use it or any of these yet), and was kind of confused about a term.

    By “per device” they are talking about a computer/tablet/mobile? Is an external drive considered its own device?

    I could not figure out what exactly they mean, and it makes a difference when I have 5 external drives with different things backed up.

    1. Author

      Since Crashplan doesn’t back up mobile devices, in this case it’s a Windows, Mac or Linux laptop. An external drive attached to a laptop (wired or wirelessly) doesn’t count.

  7. Thanks for the detailed write-up!

    I did scan through, but didn’t see if any offer a bootable service where you could download a ‘mirror’ or ‘clone’ of your computer (Windows) then restore the who system to a previous backup point?

    So if I lost my PC, bought a new one, then had a bootable USB I could let run and restore my entire device, settings and all, from a previous backup point.

    Or would that be a different type of service?

    Thanks,
    Joe

    1. Author

      That’d be a different kind of service. On Windows, the inbuilt System Image Backup tool does what the name suggests, but you also need to create bootable recovery media on a USB stick or drive as well, ideally ahead of time — although it’s possible to do it later, it’s definitely more hassle. You boot from the recovery media, then tell it you want to restore a system image, and go from there.

      It’d be nice if Microsoft would let you create an all-in-one bootable system image that you can restore, but alas it doesn’t. There are third party tools that will let you mirror the drive as well, but since Windows won’t let you boot from a USB drive, they’re only a better option if you’re happy to pull your computer apart and replace the original drive with the mirror copy. Most people aren’t. 🙂

  8. Thanks for this information. Can you comment at all if the photo resolution or file format is altered in any way during the backup and restore? If I had to rely on the backup it would be good to know if the backup service has any impact on photo quality?

    1. Author

      There’s no impact on resolution or file format with any of these services — photos stay the same quality on your machine and when you restore them. The file itself might be compressed and encrypted when it’s send to the cloud, but it’s returned to its original format when it’s restored.

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