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Backing up your sim!

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Every so often, we see posts from people who say they have had to reinstall their Windows 10 OS and their flight sim from scratch due to either crashes or choice and bemoaning the hours it takes to do that process.   I myself have been through this process recently but that was due to the release of W10 Creator’s Update earlier in the year after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update last year so was by choice rather than any specific issues.

 

However, I am amazed at how many people don’t seem to have any backups of their system and flight sim installations.  So I wanted to write this post in the hope it may save many of you an awful lot of hours in the future.

 

For about 5 years now I have used a simply awesome program called Macrium Reflect Free Edition.  It is a disk and partition application that takes up very little footprint on your hard drive but offers an excellent solution to backing up your system.  Now, most people will have large secondary hard drives installed or external USB drives that are used for storage and somewhere that disk\partition images of their systems can be backed up on.

 

In my situation, I have a 256GB Samsung Evo Pro M.2 Sata card on my motherboard that I have partitioned into a 50GB C: Drive for my W10 OS and a 188GB D: Drive for my Steam archive, mainly just GTA V.  I then have another 256GB Samsung Evo Pro M.2 Sata card which I designate X: drive which contains my FSX\P3D installs. (I run both).  I then have two 2TB SATA HDD’s which are used for storing all my data, pictures, videos, games, applications disk images,  etc. and they are exact copies so that if one dies, I still have the second.  I also have a third copy of all this on a 2TB external portable USB Drive.  Bit of overkill, I know, but I had the drives spare so used them!

 

But to return to Macrium Reflect….When I start with a clean install of W10 including the latest updates, I then install all the programs and utilities I like to use and configure it how I like it to look etc.  I then use Macrium Reflect to take a snapshot of the C: drive partition and back it up to the 2TB drives.  The process takes about 5 mins, my OS partition use is about 28GB out of that 50GB and with high compression, the image is about 13-14GB.  I then take a snapshot of my D: Drive with the steam installation of GTA V and create a second image, this is about 70GB (GTA V is huge!), takes about 15mins.  So that’s my base system backed up.

 

I then install my FSX and P3D and take snapshot images as I go.  So for example, I will install FSX, some minor add ons such as FSUIPC, Joystick drivers, TrackIR etc but no major scenery add ons or Planes such as PMDG.  I configure FSX settings and use Nvidia Control Panel to configure the graphics and AA etc.  This is my ‘base ’ FSX image’.  I snapshot the C: drive, then the X: drive and also copy the FSX.cfg file at that point.  I also create a small Notepad file in the folder detailing what I’ve installed so far for FSX.  So in my backup folder on the 2TB drive I have for example four files relating to this base image, called 01 FSX C Drive.img, 01 FSX X drive.img, 01 FSX.cfg and 01 FSX.txt.

 

I then start installing my add ons.  Next I will install stuff like AS2016 + ASCA + REX Essentials.  I will configure each program and start up FSX and check all is working.  If it is, I will then do the snapshot process again, calling the images 02 etc and updating the new 02 text file with what I’ve installed.

Then I install my ORBX products, snapshot as 03.  Then install PMDG planes, snapshot as 04.   It doesn’t really matter which order you install your add ons, it just makes it easier to go back to a particular point before a particular add on if you have issues.

 

I appreciate this process does take some initial time but if I need or want to restore my system, even to a clean W10 install prior to FSX\P3D, I can do it in 10 mins.  I can restore a snapshot from the FSX\P3D X: drive images in about 20-30 mins for a full add on image, less for one of the early stages.  For example, I wanted to go back to an image prior to PMDG as they were due to release new installers this week.   Took me 18 mins from start to finish to restore my C: drive and X: drive to the point before I had PMDG installed.

 

I have six stages of snapshot images of my system at this point.  The total size of them is approx. 250GB.  It may seem a lot but with hard drive sizes being in TB’s and the cost of them quite cheap compared to some of the add ons we buy, plus the fact that Macrium Reflect  offers a free version that is very powerful and all you need, it’s a no-brainer for me and has saved me countless hours of reinstall time over the years.

 

Hope this helps some of you out there save time so you can spend more time flying!

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I tried the Reflect application for a few months and decided it's not something I want to use; this is nothing against your decision to use it and nothing against the quality of the product.  The problem I have is that my configuration is constantly changing, I just added Orbx So America today and so it goes.  The P3Dv4 addon method that separates all that data from the P3D core means that essentially all we need to do is backup userlocaldata, appdata and programdata folders (done automatically by Windows Backup)  to easily restore any configuration as long as the addons are added to the Windows Backup.  This is more in line with my philosophy to keep it simple.

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I love Reflect, and have used it to produce a Clone of my main drive for several years.  I use a Clone so that if there is a problem with my primary drive I can resume software testing without any delay.  I have a second drive for download files and it is cloned to a forth drive.

Dan is correct, and this was how it was supposed to be. However there is some controversy now among a few developers, and in LM's V4 narrative sent to devs sometime ago they asked that addons be installed to the EcoSystem folder.  We already have different devs doing things differently, and their and pluses and minuses to each way.  Since I have two inter-operational drives and both are cloned to stand-by drives, I'm good no matter what.  I also like this better than Raid as I want to control when the data in backed up - given the ever present possibility that a new installer from a dev might well muck things up.

 

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I quite like AOEMI Backupper.  It is free, works well, and can take incremental snapshots of an initial image, as well as syncing files or backing up in a more traditional way.

Cheers,

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