Do you prefer incremental or differential backups?

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  1.    03 Jan 2019 #1

    Do you prefer incremental or differential backups?


    Would like to get an idea of other user's backup strategy preference. Do you prefer to do differential or incremental image backups to compliment your full images? Or are there some that do both or maybe neither (full image backups only)...

    Interested to hear what you guys do and why...
    Last edited by KabyBlue; 03 Jan 2019 at 19:49.
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  2. f14tomcat's Avatar
    Posts : 39,346
    Triple boot - Win 10 Pro, Win 10 Pro Insider (2) - (and a sprinkling of VMs)
       03 Jan 2019 #2

    Many, many opinions on this one. I'm assuming you are referring to Macrium, or similar software. Personally, I do full backups, with the occasional incremental. Why? I have the space for lots of fulls going back 2 months, on seperate drives. I do them daily. About 17-18 GB each here. Reason for the incrementals...... I don't use Restore Points since I do not trust them and they are not a full picture at that point in time. Also, restoring from one is a toss of the dice. I use an incremental to quickly capture changes and the current picture after app installs, making more than minor tweaks, that sort of thing. Quick...30 seconds or so, and usually < 1GB. I can restore to any state in less than 3 minutes, with a Restore Point I was never sure if it would restore or not, many failed. Far as I know, the Restore Points must be on same drive as OS, lots of space taken, and you do not have anywhere near the control you do with Macrium or similar. MR fulls and incrementals are on a separate detachable drive.

    That's about it, could go on, but that's the reasoning. Don't even ask about Windows Built-In Backup, not worth the trouble, and is deprecated (not yet removed) anyhow.
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  3.    03 Jan 2019 #3

    Restoring a differential backup requires 2 files., whereas restoring an incremental backup requires you have n files where n is as many as there are to date.

    Maintaining space on the image destination should then be easier with differential backups. Imagine you have base image, diff1, diff2, diff3 and you want to create diff4 but your disk is getting a bit full. So you can delete diff 1- no problem.

    With incrementals, I seem to recall noting you can consolidate a set of incrementals. So that wouldn't be so obvious.

    Macrium R requires you purchase a license to get incremental imaging. Differential is free.

    Just a couple of angles on the topic- you need to work out a backup regime you personally are comfortable with.
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  4. Caledon Ken's Avatar
    Posts : 12,776
    Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 1809
       03 Jan 2019 #4

    I think the amount of data has to play into the discussion. 1 TB full backups with verify is going to take a long time. 3TB even longer. So you need a mix, full and something.

    Now to the something, differentials take longer the further away in time you get from the full but if you plan to run fulls monthly and differentials weekly this may not be an issue.

    Incrementals should be faster and maybe the solution for a large data set.

    I think F14tomcat's solution with incremental also brings in the question why am I doing the backups. He is protecting against a failed change with the ability to apply what he needs and not the whole "Differential". For data you just might want a complete copy.

    There is also the element of where are you going to keep backups. If offsite and you plan to transmit them daily to the cloud Incrementals could be faster and cheaper although with the downside of lots of pieces to restore.

    I store my data backups offsite. My system can always be rebuilt. I do full backups of my system monthly and before and major changes.
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  5.    03 Jan 2019 #5

    As a rule, I do full backups but sometimes I am aware I am doing sonething slightly risky, and I do an incremental backup so I can quickly wind back if any issues. In effect I use it like an "instant restore point".

    If things work fine, I delete the incremental. TBH using it like this makes little difference if incremental or differential as I rarely set up a chain of incrementals.
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  6. f14tomcat's Avatar
    Posts : 39,346
    Triple boot - Win 10 Pro, Win 10 Pro Insider (2) - (and a sprinkling of VMs)
       03 Jan 2019 #6

    cereberus said: View Post
    As a rule, I do full backups but sometimes I am aware I am doing sonething slightly risky, and I do an incremental backup so I can quickly wind back if any issues. In effect I use it like an "instant restore point".

    If things work fine, I delete the incremental. TBH using it like this makes little difference if incremental or differential as I rarely set up a chain of incrementals.
    Should have added that to my original. Do use them like restore points.
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  7. storageman's Avatar
    Posts : 542
    Windows 10 Pro 1809 17763.316
       03 Jan 2019 #7

    For a simple explanation on "incremental vs differential Backups", I always do incremental. Why, much Faster (elapsed time). Down side is longer restore process. However I do limit the number of incremental backups (never to exceed 8). This is quite manageable using reflect.

    Overall backup strategy depends on what is important ? Necessary data needs at minimum daily backups. Disaster Recovery's depend on your risks. If you think your system/location is at a high risk of being unavailable, you better have daily system wide backups at a offsite location. You setup your backup procedures based on your needs. For example @Cerebures risks are the SYSTEM. He is testing things that could render his system inert. So he needs full backups of his system for emergency recovery. Everybody's needs are different.
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  8. f14tomcat's Avatar
    Posts : 39,346
    Triple boot - Win 10 Pro, Win 10 Pro Insider (2) - (and a sprinkling of VMs)
       03 Jan 2019 #8

    storageman said: View Post
    For a simple explanation on "incremental vs differential Backups", I always do incremental. Why, much Faster (elapsed time). Down side is longer restore process. However I do limit the number of incremental backups (never to exceed 8). This is quite manageable using reflect.

    Overall backup strategy depends on what is important ? Necessary data needs at minimum daily backups. Disaster Recovery's depend on your risks. If you think your system/location is at a high risk of being unavailable, you better have daily system wide backups at a offsite location. You setup your backup procedures based on your needs. For example @Cerebures risks are the SYSTEM. He is testing things that could render his system inert. So he needs full backups of his system for emergency recovery. Everybody's needs are different.
    Just to add, with Rapid Delta Restore, even with 4-5 incrementals, restore time is fast. 18GB OS (compressed, actual ~32GB) restored in 3-4 minutes.
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  9. Compumind's Avatar
    Posts : 576
    Windows 7 Pro, 10 Pro, Various Linux Builds, Internet Security
       03 Jan 2019 #9

    IMHO -

    Storage is so inexpensive now, that it's just easier to create a full System Backup Image and extract what you need.
    Incrementals can be a PITA when W10 (for example) or certain applications have updates.

    If your system and backup medium is fast, then no worries.

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  10.    04 Jan 2019 #10

    I schedule a monthly full backup and weekly differential backups. When the backup disk is over 75% full, I manually prune the oldest backups although you can configure deletion of old backups too in Reflect.

    I also run File History every 3 hours but have never needed to recover a file from it.
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