Category Archives: Backup/Restore

Windows 11 Restore Point Pros&Cons

I’ve got to admit it: I’m of two minds about restore points in modern Windows versions — especially Windows 11. I found myself chewing over Windows 11 restore point pros&cons this morning, as I used WizTree to check my boot/system drive on some test PCs. Let me explain…

Exploring Windows 11 Restore Point Pros&Cons

Let’s start with a basic definition courtesy of Gavin Wright/TechTarget:

A system restore point is a backup copy of important Windows operating system (OS) files and settings that can be used to recover the system to an earlier point of time in the event of system failure or instability. It is a part of Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, 11 and Windows Server. They are created automatically or manually. System restore points only affect OS and application files, but not user data.

I confess: up through and including versions of Windows 8, I used to use Restore Points a LOT. But since the introduction of Windows 10 in 2014/2015 — quite some time now — I’ve been using daily or weekly image backups on my production and test PCs almost exclusively. These protect user preferences, settings, and data as well as the “important OS files” mentioned in the preceding definition. For me, it’s also faster and easier to restore an image backup than it is to do likewise with a restore point (and with less certain results). FWIW, I still use Macrium Reflect Free as my primary backup and restore tool. (I use the paid-for version on production PCs.)

Restore Point Pros

If, as shown in the lead-in graphic, you have restore points turned on, Windows will make them for you automatically or manually. They’re created automatically when you apply Windows updates. Likewise, many application installers are built to make a restore point early on in their operation, so they can roll back to a point in time prior to their actions in case something goes wrong. Also, you can create a manual store point by clicking the “Create” button shown at the lower right in the lead-in graphic. If you do choose to use restore points, I also recommend grabbing and trying out Nic Bedford’s System Restore Explorer as well. IMO, it’s easier to use and more comprehensive than the built-in Windows facility.

Restore points are easy, somewhat automated and cover many OS or runtime issues. This makes them easy and convenient to use, especially for less savvy and sophisticated Windows users. In a nutshell, those are the pros for restore points.

Restore Point Cons

In using WizTree to explore a couple of my test machines this morning, I was reminded of one of the cons for restore points — namely, they can soak up a fair amount of disk space. When I use the “Delete all restore points…” option on one of my Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga PCs this morning, here’s what WizTree showed as deleted immediately afterward:

Windows 11 Restore Point Pros Cons.WizTree

All in all I recovered almost 6 GB of disk space by deleting all restore points.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

The impact of restore points can be up to the size limit you set aside for such use. As shown in the lead-in graphic, that’s 19.05 GB for my “other” X380 Yoga test PC. If you’re making image backups and restore points, it’s a good idea to allocate no more than 1% or 10GB (whichever is less) for such use.

Besides space issues, I’ve observed that restore points don’t protect you from unwanted registry changes (including preferences, settings, use of tweak tools and so forth). Nor do they restore user or application data files and such, either. In general, I favor image files because they include absolutely everything that might get changed — or go wrong.

That said, if you use an image restore, you will lose any new files or changes you’ve made since the time at which that image was captured. Thus, it may be necessary for you to run a “mini-backup” to save that stuff to a flash drive or other external media before restoring the most recent image so you lose less (or nothing). Because Reflect lets me mount an image as a virtual drive, I often make another image of my broken system just in case I need something from that set-up after I revert to my most recent saved image.

What’s Your Preference?

On your Windows PCs, you can do as you like with backups and restores (including restore points). I don’t use them anymore because they don’t bail me out of all the trouble I often get myself into. If your usage patterns are less experimental or extreme, restore points may indeed meet all your needs. Even so, I’d still recommend periodic image backups just in case they don’t work to get you of some of the jams you may occasionally get into. But again: that’s up to you!


Windows 11 Beta Shows OneDrive Holdings

OK, then. Here’s a minor –but nice — addition to Windows 11 that shows up in Build 22631.1825. That’s right, Windows 11 Beta shows OneDrive Holdings, as you can see in the lead-in graphic. Start → Settings → Accounts takes you where you need to go. It’s right up top, under a heading named “Microsoft storage” as shown in the image.

If Windows 11 Beta Shows OneDrive Holdings, Then What?

I’ve been wary of using OneDrive as a shared file store across multiple PCs. Why? Mostly because things sometimes show up in OneDrive without my specific knowledge or intent. I’ve learned, for example, to explicitly target screencaps in the Pictures folder under my user account folder hierarchy rather than defaulting to the Pictures folder in OneDrive. I shoot tens to hundreds of MB of screencaps monthly (mostly to write about them). I don’t necessarily want them to follow me around to all of my PCs. Ditto for other common Windows File Explorer library folders (Documents, Downloads, Videos, etc.).

But now, I may have to rethink how and when I use OneDrive. It’s now much easier to see when things grow (or worse, mushroom out of control) in that shared store. It occurs to me, for example, when updating apps across my mini-fleet (about a dozen PCs) it might just be easier to download once, stick it in OneDrive, then use it where needed. Just a thought…

Managing OneDrive … Carefully

Searching Google for “OneDrive Manager,” I see numerous third-party tools — and lots of tutorials — aimed at keeping this unruly beast tamed. Methinks I need to spend some time digging, learning, and thinking. I already use Google Drive, Box, and DropBox to good effect (particularly with legal clients). I believe I can and now, should, learn to do likewise with OneDrive. Stay tuned!


Reboot Releases Macrium Backup Volumes

If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you know I experienced a drive crash earlier this week (see “Bye-Bye Seagate…” for details). In the wake of that failure, I had to recover the very data volume that failed from a Macrium Reflect backup. That went off without a hitch. But I hit a snag when I attempted to unmount the volume, which normally requires only right-click menu navigation. Eventually I figured out — and confirmed — that a Windows reboot releases Macrium backup volumes.

An example of a mounted backed-up volume appears above; the normal menus below.

Normally, a two-step cascade provides easy access to unmount a Macrium backup volume. Not that time!
[Click Image for Full-Sized View.]

I’m Glad Reboot Releases Macrium Backup Volumes

After I’d finished grabbing the two folders I really needed from that backup I tried to unmount the volume and drive letter Reflect created to grant me access to its contents. No dice. When I right-clicked the Macrium Reflect entry, the all-important next-level “Unmount Macrium image” item shown above did not appear.

Geek that I am, I attempted to unmount it at the command line. But I couldn’t get PowerShell or Command Prompt to give me the details I needed to make that happen. (I simply couldn’t figure out how to get a GUID or other key drive ID details.)

I reasoned to myself: “Because Reflect mounted the volume, it must surely get unmounted if I reboot the PC.” And indeed, that’s exactly what happened. When I rebooted the PC, the volume that Reflect had mounted appeared no more.

As you can see from the preceding screenshots, it was just a momentary glitch. I mounted a different volume to shoot those images. This time, the right-click menu worked perfectly to dismount from the second image what shows up mounted (boxed in red) in the first image. Go figure!


Unscheduled Restore Drill Ends Well

Oh boy! I found myself fighting several interesting Windows issues yesterday. Long story shot: my unscheduled restore drill ends well at the final conclusion. But first: I have to rebuild my boot configuration data and create new Macrium Rescue Media before I can actually boot into the restore environment. It’s always something, right? Let me tell you what that meant yesterday…

After Initial Obstacles, Unscheduled Restore Drill Ends Well

First, a benediction:  I remain grateful that I take a scheduled backup at 9AM every morning, 365 days a year. If it weren’t for that backup, I would have been in real trouble. Indeed, I tried an in-place upgrade repair install during my recovery sequence. That’s when I observed that while it fixes OS files perfectly, it does not fix self-inflicted file system or Registry issues.

My first hint of difficulty came when I tried to restore my 9 AM backup. The timestamp on that file is actually 9:52 so that tells you how long it took to complete as a background task. Turns out my Macrium Rescue Disk wouldn’t or couldn’t boot successfully. It would simply get as far as the bootloader, spinning balls against a black screen, and never get any further. Yikes!

BCD Complications

Next, I unthinkingly added a Macrium Rescue Media element to the boot menu. This did neither harm nor good. But alas, it extended the time it takes to reboot by a good 2 minutes. In a situation where I was rebooting a LOT, that really didn’t help things much. Sigh.

Note: when I did eventually restore the 9AM backup it perforce rewrote the whole boot/system disk, so that little BCD change got undone. Yay! I really don’t need it anyway…

Restore Requires Working, Bootable Rescue Media

Eventually, I turned to the excellent Macrium user forums to find insight on my hung restore. I switched from a faster, bigger NVMe drive in a USB enclosure, to an older, slower, and smaller USB flash drive. That ultimately did the trick.

For some reason, I had to build the rescue disk twice to get it to work. I may have forgotten to check the “Check for devices missing drivers on boot” checkbox the first time around. I was sure to check it on the second try (see lead-in screencap: it’s unchecked by default). After that, the Macrium restore operation proceeded automatically and the process ground through to its lengthy conclusion.

It had been long enough since I did a restore that the time required came as a quasi-revelation. All told, it took about 70 minutes from firing off the restore inside the damaged Windows 10 installation to return to the desktop inside the 9AM image snapshot. That’s quite a bit longer than the 14 minutes or so it takes to backup in single task mode (52 minutes as a background task).

But wow, was I relieved to get over that hump! And now, I have working proof that my backup/restore regime produces its intended outcome. It was an interesting ride in the meantime…


SSDs Versus HDDs Revisited

I just saw some pretty amazing sales prices on external 2TB SSDs at Neowin. I’m talking something in the neighborhood of US$120 -140 for something rated at 800 – 1,000 MBps. This has me thinking about SSDs versus HDDs revisited. Why? Because over the past 6 years, I’ve been moving steadily away from HDDs to increasingly fast and affordable SSDs. These prices kind of put a cap on the whole phenom, IMO.

SSDs Versus HDDs Revisited: Late 2022

I realized the value of compact, portable 2.5″ external drives in the first decade of this millenium, when laptops really took over business computing. I carried my first luggables far back as 1988. But compact, usable external storage for field use really didn’t catch on until small, USB-attached drives became practical in the wake of USB 2.0’s introduction in 2000.

Right now, I’ve still got 4 2.0 TB USB 3 HDDs (which I hardly use anymore: Seagate Firecudas purchased in 2016/2017). I’ve also got 2 5.0 TB Seagate BarraCudas purchased in 2018/2019. Those I still use. But the fact is, those drives all cost me more when I bought them than what you’ll pay for a 2TB Crucial X8 NVMe SSD on sale right now (pictured above). That shows the immense increase in storage density, and decrease in power needed to drive such storage in the recent past.

What Now, Storage Wise?

I’m getting ready to gift off all of my older 2 TB 2.5″ drives to the nice folks at Goodwill (my old friend, Ken Starks, has retired and shut down Except for very big 3.5″ drives (12 TB+) I don’t plan on buying any more HDDs, ever.

In fact, I’ve already moved onto NVMe-based USB drives, with USB 3.1/3.2 as my baseline, and USB4/ThunderBolt4 as my “stretch target.” The latter are still kinda expensive. I think it’s more than the current performance bump is worth, but that will change substantially in the next 12-18 months.

For the Record: The Speed Hierarchy

The following data is enough to convince me that portable USB-based NVMe storage is the right way to go nowadays. How ’bout you?

Type     Drive              Fastest R/W
HDD      FireCuda 2TB       ~61/71    MBps
HDD      BarraCuda 5TB     ~137/131   MBps
mSATA    Samsung 1TB       ~455/400   MBps
NVMe-3   Samsung 950 1TB   ~1060/1040 MBps
NVMe-4   Sabrent R4 1 TB   ~2820/1290 MBps

I just took all these measurements using CrystalDiskMark’s highest large-block read/write values (version I know where I want to be on this performance ladder, especially for image backups (one of my primary reasons for using and carrying portable storage on the road). Again: how ’bout you?

Notes on the Test Rig

I ran the external drives via a Lenovo ThinkPad Universal Dock Pro (TB4-capable) through a TB4 connection into a Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Hybrid Tablet. FWIW, the NVMe-4 results are the best I’ve ever seen from an external drive. Nifty!


Macrium Announces Reflect Free EOL

Dang! I always hate it when this happens, but I do understand why it does. Macrium, maker of the excellent Reflect backup, restore and imaging software has just announced end-of-life for its free Version 8 of that package. As Macrium announces Reflect Free EOL, I realize I’ll have to start planning a different strategy for my test PCs and VMs going forward.

Details: Macrium Announces Reflect Free EOL

The announcement comes with plenty of warning. The company plans to provide security patches for the Free version until January 1, 2024 (more than a year from today). Users who want to keep using the package after the EOL data may do so, but will go unsupported thereafter. This also means that Windows version 11 22H2 is the most recent version of Windows that Reflect 8 Free will support.

What Else Is There?

Rest assured, I’ll be finding out. I came to Macrium Reflect Free (MRF, for short) thanks to the folks at and, my favorite online Windows communities. I’ll be watching to see what those people recommend. I also plan to dig into the elements presented in this recent (updated November 24) TechRadar story: Best free backup software of 2022. I’ll even be returning to MiniTool ShadowMaker and scanning over the MajorGeeks “Back Up” category.

But sigh: I wish this wasn’t necessary. MRF is a great, great tool. I’ll be sorry to see it go.


USB4 Delivers Consistent NVMe Performance

OK, then. I finally laid hands on my second USB4 NVMe SSD enclosure yesterday. I deliberately sought out the cheapest one I could find so I could compare it to a more expensive alternative already on hand. When I say that USB4 delivers consistent NVMe performance here’s what that means:

1. The same SSD, cable, and host PC are used for comparison. Both drives have the “cache tweak” applied (this Oct 14 post has deets). Same tests performed, too (CrystalDiskMark and a Macrium Reflect backup).
2. The only thing that changes is the enclosure itself.

In short, I wanted to see if spending more on hardware returned a noticeable performance advantage (I’ll talk more about this below). Long story short: it doesn’t seem to make much, if any, difference. Let me explain…

Why Say: USB4 Delivers Consistent NVMe Performance?

The lead-in graphic shows the results from the cheap enclosure on the left, and the more expensive one on the right. The average difference in CrystalDiskMark performance shows 2 wins for el cheapo, 5 wins for the higher priced item, and 1 tie. On first blush, that gives the more expensive device an advantage. So the next question is: how much advantage?

This is where a little delta analysis can help. I calculate that the average performance difference between devices varies from a high of 6.2% to a low of 0.03% (not including the tie). That said, the average performance difference across all cells is merely 1.54%. (Calculated by taking absolute value for each delta, then dividing by the number of cells.) That’s not much difference, especially given the prices of the two devices: $128.82 and $140.71. That delta is 8.4% (~5.5 times the average performance delta).

I will also argue that comparing CystalDiskMark results is interesting, but not much of a real-world metric. Thus, I’ll compare completion times for a Macrium Reflect image backup on the same PC, same OS image. The expensive device took 2:25, the cheap one 2:44. That’s an 11.5% difference, greater than the price delta but not amazingly so.

Deciding What’s Worthwhile

I can actually see some differences between the two enclosures I bought. One thing to ponder is that NVMe drives tend to heat up when run full out for any length of time (as when handling large data sets, making backups, and so forth). I’ve seen temps (as reported in CrystalDiskInfo, reading SMART data) go as high as 60° C while M.2 SSDs are busy in these enclosures. At idle, they usually run at around 28° C. The more expensive NVMe enclosures tend to offer more surface area to radiate heat while active, so that’s worth factoring into the analysis.

But here’s the deal: I can buy a decent USB3.1 NVMe enclosure for around US$33 right now. The cheapest USB4 NVMe enclosure I could find cost almost US$96 more. That’s a multiplier of just under 4X in price for a device that delivers less than 2X in improved performance. Let me also observe that there are several such enclosures that cost US$160 and up also on the market. I still have trouble justifying the added expense for everyday use, including backup.

There will be some high-end users — especially those working with huge datasets — who might be able to justify the incremental cost because of their workloads and the incremental value of higher throughput. But for most business users, especially SOHO types like me, the ouch factor exceeds the wow value too much to make it worthwhile. ‘Nuff said.


HDDs Still Have Their Uses

Hmmmm. Just saw a fascinating story at It provides links to some low-cost deals for hard disk drives (HDDs) that range in size from 3 to 14 TB, with prices from US$60 (3TB) to US$210 (14 TB). I’m not endorsing the brand (WD) or the deals (listed from Amazon and — in some instances — Newegg). But I am amazed at just how cheap conventional hard disks can be today. And because HDDs still have their uses — particularly for archiving and spare backups — buying may make sense.

Economics Also Verify That HDDs Still Have Their Uses

I’m struck by the contrast between HDD and NVMe prices, especially for 4 and 8 TB devices. Looking at Amazon, I see that 4TB NVMe drives go for US$460 and up, with most top-end devices just below or over US$600. When you can find them (not easy), 8TB devices cost from just under US$1,200 to around US$1,500 or so.

The comparison to HDD is pretty stark. The Neowin story cites prices of US$70 for 4, and US$130 for 8 TB. Do the math to figure out the ratios. The 4TB NVMes cost between 6.57 and 8.57 times as much as their HDD counterparts. 8TB models run between 9.23 and 11.53 times as much.

Of course, denser solid-state devices are much more expensive to make. Though higher-capacity HDDs have more platters, achieving denser storage doesn’t magnify costs anywhere near as much. In fact, the HDD cost increment for going from 8TB to 10TB is US$30, and from 8TB to 14TB US$80. That clearly shows the incremental cost of storage is much, much cheaper for HDDs than SSDs.

But given the mind-blowing costs for higher capacity NVMe devices, they’re not going to replace HDDs completely any time soon. They simply cost too much to justify wholesale switchovers. Nobody’s going to use HDDs for serious, real-time workloads any more. They have no place as system drives, either. But for other applications where high capacity trumps I/O performance, they still have a vital role to play. And that explains why I still have over 40TB of spinning storage myself, much of it idle as “backups for my backups.”


Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds

OK, then. I’m starting to dig into the capabilities of my new loaner SFF Lenovo P360 Ultra PC. It’s a beast, especially for such a small package (3.4 x 8.7 x 7.9″, 87 x 223 x 202 mm, weight 4.4lb/2.0 kg). Right now I’m giving the front USB-C ports a workout, and exploring TB4/USB4 backup speeds. They’re amazing.

Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds.f&rview

About the preceding graphic. It shows a front and rear view of the P360 chassis. Here’s what those numbered items convey:

1. Power switch (on/off)
2. Audio/headphone jack
3. USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A port
4. 2 x Thunderbolt4/USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C ports
5. Wi-Fi antenna mount
6. 2.5 GbE wired network (RJ-45)
7. 1.0 GbE wired network (RJ-45)
8. 4 x miniDP GPU (connects to Nvidia GPU)
9.  Chassis latch release
10. 3 x full-size DP GPU (connects to on-chip Intel GPU)
11. 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A ports
12.  Optional PCIe card slot/port
13. Power in from 300W power brick

What Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds Says

First things first: I ran comparatives using CrystalDiskMark on a set of different NVMe enclosures with their own drives, as follows:

Enclosure                NVMe SSD              Price (Date)
======================   ==================    ==============
Sabrent NVMe PCIe x1.3   ADATA XPG 256GB       US$ 60  (2019)
Puhui USB 3.1 USB-C      Samsung OEM 512GB     US$ 30  (2022)
Konyead M.2 TB4/USB4     Rocket 4 Plus 1TB     US$162  (2022)

I didn’t get a lot of useful data out of that comparison, though the numbers for all three devices increase their readings down the preceding list. The final item shows most readings between 2x and 3x those for the first item. However, I decided to compare backup results for all three setups, working through a brand-new Belkin Pro Thunderbolt 4 Dock.

The results turn out to be a bit of a good new/bad news scenario.  New TB4/USB4 NVMe enclosures are still punishingly expensive. Performance results from backup show them not yet worth the $132 differential vis-a-vis a cheap0 USB 3 3.1 Gen2 version. About the only thing they can do right now, as far as I can tell, is bring up the “USB 4.0 SSD” label in the Thunderbolt Control Center, as shown in the lead-in graphic.

Big Price Diffs Don’t Translate to Performance

Here’s a table of backup times from Macrium Reflect Free to the three drives, listed by Enclosure name (consult previous table for more info on innards):

Enclosure                Backup (times)
======================   ==============
Sabrent NVMe PCIe x1.3     162 (2:42)
Puhui USB 3.1 USB-C        131 (2:11)
Konyead M.2 TB4/USB4       132 (2:12)

While there’s a 31/32 second difference (about 20%) between the older Sabrent enclosure and the two newer ones, there’s so little difference (1 second) between the other two that I’m sure that falls in the margin of measurement error one would expect.

What’s interesting here is that these backup speeds — even on the slowest/oldest device — are about twice as fast as on my other, similarly loaded test machines (which top out at USB 3.1 Gen 2). That tells me for those who do a lot of backing up, video editing, or other data intensive stuff there’s some real benefit to be gained from investing in TB4/USB4 ports and devices.

Lessons Learned

What lessons do I draw from this experiment? Glad you asked! Here’s a list:

  • It’s definitely worth adding an interface to older desktops to support TB4/USB4 for the speed bump it provides.
  • This new technology provides a “speed reason” to consider buying in on a newer laptop or PC.
  • Newer, more expensive TB4/USB4 NVMe enclosures may not be worth the added cost as compared to USB 3.1 Gen 2/TB3 counterparts.
  • From what I’m reading, it’s a good idea to use as short a USB4/TB4 rated cable as possible.
  • It’s also best to hook the NVMe enclosure directly to the PC if you can (going through the dock reduced performance by about 5% overall)

A terrific experiment, and a  great learning lesson, too. Thanks to the nice folks at Belkin and Lenovo who made their gear available to me.


Thunderbolt Turns Up NVMe IO Speeds

This is too cool. I’m finally starting to make sense of how to get the best performance out of external NVMe-based storage devices. As far as I can tell, bus speed is key. In fact, Thunderbolt turns up NVMe IO speeds. I apparently have only one laptop that’s new enough to show off the difference, but those results speak for themselves.

It also took me a while to lay hands on an NVMe enclosure that could deliver the performance goods. If you look at the lead-in graphic above, you’ll see two sets of CrystalDiskMark results from the same storage device and PC. The left-hand set comes from a USB-C port (USB 3.2, according to the Lenovo Yoga 7i specs). The right-hand set comes via a Belkin Thunderbolt 3 dock with the NVMe enclosure snuggled into one of its two available USB-C ports.

Showing That Thunderbolt Turns Up NVMe IO Speeds

The graphic speaks for itself. It shows speed boosts that range from ~2.5 X (Read SEQ1M Q8T1) to ~1.2X (Read RND4K Q1T1) faster for Thunderbolt versus a direct USB-C connection. I’m going to spring for the CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 dock, in the belief that it will improve speeds still further. Time will tell if that’s wishful thinking or actually worthwhile.

I can tell you this much from direct observation. Through the USB-C port on the Lenovo Yoga 7i, Macrium Reflect takes 4:03 to make an image backup (with reported read/write speeds of 7.6 and 7.2 Gb/s, respectively). Through the Thunderbolt 3 dock the same device takes 3:33 (with reported read/write speeds of 8.6 and 6.9 Gb/s). The former is what I would call “reasonably speedy;” the latter is 14%  (30 seconds) faster.

I’m not sure that’s a big enough difference to count. You tell me…

Heat Can Be an Issue

Running backups back-to-back also showed me that heat can be an issue if you drive an NVMe SSD hard in an unventilated metal enclosure. So I parked the aluminum case on an ice-pack and it sailed through repeated backups with a reported temp of 13 C. Where there’s the will, there’s almost always a way! LOL