If you value the files on your computer, backing up is an important step to ensure that you don’t accidentally lose important files through accidental deletion, malicious software such as ransomware or a software update that’s gone wrong. Luckily there are many ways you can back up files, whether it be to external or cloud storage.
In this tutorial, we’ll be looking at using backup software from Veeam to create incremental backups of our whole computer so we can easily restore files or the whole computer from a backup if needed.
What is an incremental backup?
An incremental backup is a backup that is updated over time. Initially, the backup will backup your whole computer, or the folders of you select, and then only backup changed or new files from that point. This saves time when it comes to backing up as it means that only changed or new files need to be copied over, versus copying everything every single backup, resulting in a smaller size backup that can span a wide timeframe such as two weeks.
Veeam primarily provides backup software for business use, but they have released a free piece of software for Windows called Veeam Agent. To get started download the Veeam Agent software from their website, you’ll need to make an account to access the download, but it’s straightforward to do.
Once the installer is downloaded, it’s simple to install, simply agree to the license agreement and the installer handles the rest.
When the installation process is finished, the installer will prompt you to begin configuring the backup and creating recovery media. Recovery media will allow us to restore files in a worst-case scenario where Windows won’t boot.
As I have not yet connected my external drive, I’ll skip setting up the backup for now and move to creating the recovery media.
Creating Recovery ISO
When it comes to creating recovery media, it can either be made in the form of a bootable USB or an ISO file which could be written to a USB at a later date with a tool such as Rufus. I’ll initially be showing you how to create an ISO, but I’ll show you how to create a USB later on during the tutorial.
If you choose to create an ISO, I’d suggest storing this in the same location as your backup, as it will be external to your main OS drive and will be out of harm’s way and accessible if you need to use it in the future from a different machine.
I’ll be using an external drive to store my backups as they are inexpensive and portable, so I’ll connect my drive and save the ISO there as well.
Now let’s configure our backup by opening Veeam Agent and we’ll run it in the free mode. Click the menu at the top left and select “Add New Job”, from here we can now configure the backup. We can give the backup a custom name and description if we want to.
You can also select what you’d like to back up, whether it be the whole computer or a volume-level backup. If you’re backing up to a secondary internal drive, you’ll need to select a volume backup and select the volumes you wish to back up. As I’m backing up to an external drive, I can select the option to back up the entire computer. You can also back up to a NAS, which is what I do with my personal computer or even back up to OneDrive.
Now I can select the external drive as my backup destination, and it’ll create a “VeeamBackup” folder to store everything in. At this point you can also choose how many backups you wish to keep; I like to increase to 14 days of backups from the default of 7 days as this gives me some more backups to choose from if I need to restore something. You can also make use of the advanced settings if you wish to.
Now we’ve chosen what we want to backup and where we want it to be backed up, it’s time to choose when we’ll have the backup run. By default, the backup is set to half-past-twelve at night, which is not a great time for me, so I’ll change it to six-thirty at night and for the backup to happen every day.
Luckily, if the computer is not on at this time, it will back up when it is next turned on. I’ll leave this as-is as it is a handy feature. Additionally, there are some extra settings at the bottom. You could turn off periodic backups entirely and just have the backup run when you connect your backup drive, which could be handy if you have a laptop or are on the move a lot.
After configuring this, we’ll have a chance to double-check our backup settings, which can be changed at any time. When we click finish, we can now do an initial manual backup through Veeam, this may take a while as it is the first backup but following backups should be faster as they are incremental.
Restoring a file is a great way to test if the backup has been set up and is working as intended, it will also, of course, come in handy if something needs to be restored that is deleted. Veeam has the file restore as a separate application, so open the Start Menu and select “File Level Restore” from the Veeam folder.
From here, we can select the backup if needed but, in our case, Veeam has detected it automatically. Now we can select which backup we would like to open, as I have only done a single backup so far for this tutorial, this is the only option but as your computer backs up over time this list will begin to grow to the timeframe you specified within the initial configuration.
Selecting which backup restore point I would like to use now allows me to open it and browse the file structure to restore a file of my choosing. In this case, I’m looking to restore the Veeam installer which I deleted. When you’ve found the file you’d like to restore, select it and click “Restore” in the top left and choose whether you want to overwrite any existing files with the same name that may be in its place or if you want to keep any existing files.
The bare metal restore is a little more hands-on but can be used to restore to a previous backup if the computer can’t boot into Windows or if you’re restoring to a new machine. This does require the ISO or recovery media USB. You can either write the ISO stored on your backup drive to a USB from another computer using Rufus, or you can use Veeam on a different computer to create a recovery media USB.
Creating a USB
To create a recovery USB using Veeam, open “Create Recovery Media” from the Veeam folder on the start menu. This is essentially the same process shown earlier during the tutorial, but this time we’re going to be creating the recovery media straight onto a USB instead of an ISO, so ensure you have a USB drive connected.
This process will format the USB drive you will be using as the recovery USB, deleting any data on the USB. If there is anything on the USB drive you wish to keep, make sure you copy it off before beginning.
Simply select your USB drive as the destination and agree to the warning, acknowledging that the USB drive will be formatted, erasing all data on the drive. Veeam will then create USB recovery media which can be booted from to perform a bare metal restore.
Performing a Bare Metal Restore
To perform a bare metal restore, ensure that both your drive containing your backups as well as the USB recovery media are connected. Turn on your computer and enter the boot menu by pressing your boot menu key, this can vary depending on the computer so a quick Google should be able to reveal this for you if you are unsure.
Select the USB as the boot device and your computer will boot to the Veeam recovery media. From here we will select “Bare Metal Recovery” from the menu, some other options are available if you wish to perform diagnostics. Now Veeam will attempt to locate your backup files, you may need to browse to these manually, but mine were automatically detected.
Like the file-level restore, we have the choice of which backup to restore from, as I have only done a single backup for this tutorial, I will be selecting that. Now you can choose what you want to restore, whether it be the whole computer or only a specific drive – for this tutorial I’ll be selecting to restore the entire computer, but this will vary depending on your situation.
Now we can double-check what will happen on this screen, it tells us what backup will be restored and where it will be restored to. When you’re ready to restore, click “Restore” and the process will begin – when it has finished, you’ll be prompted to reboot.
With the rise of malicious software and ransomware, it’s a no-brainer to ensure that your files are backed up and safe in case something goes wrong. Veeam’s Agent software is an incredibly straightforward, yet thorough piece of backup software for Windows that performs excellently and is free.