Post by T
I am looking for a backup program (paid or free) that will
store its archives in a non-proprietary format. I other words,
it can store its archives in a format that ANY file manager
I am basically looking for a replacement for Cobian Backup,
which is abandon ware.
I have tested Macrium Reflect, which is a sweet package, but
their tech support has verified that they can only store
in their proprietary format, so they are out.
You guys have a favorite that archives in a non-proprietary
So what's your preferred output format ? TAR (Tape Archive) ?
Remember that a typical commercial backup program in 2018,
uses VSS, and it makes an inventory of clusters. Then, on
a good day, it sequentially accesses the clusters, for least
wear and tear on the drive. Now, given the access pattern,
what kind of output format would you expect ? No, Scotty, it
isn't a friendly format.
It can't be TAR, as TAR is "file-sequential" and the disk
heads would have to fly all over the place during TAR construction.
If a file was fragmented, TAR would make the disk heads fly
all over and capture the file. Whereas one of the twenty or
so VSS based programs, would capture the clusters in
(I tried DriveImage XML mentioned on that page some time ago,
and like RaymondCC says, it's dog slow compared to the rest.)
Robocopy can copy files, but while I've used it for FAT32 boot
drives (because there's no permissions to speak of, just a few
attributes), Robocopy may not be able to nicely handle Junction
Points or whatever. Robocopy isn't touted as a file-by-file
You could examine a program like Retrospect, which back in its
day was a file-by-file intended to drive a physical tape
drive. The last copy I bought of that (a ton of years ago),
would also back up to a hard drive. At one time, it had
a 2GB size limit for output hard drives, but that was
probably fixed, as the person I set that up for the last
time was using a 40GB output drive.
Macrium has an option to convert from MRIMG to VHD.
VHD can be mounted in a number of virtual machine environments.
VHD is mount-able in Windows (even in WinXP as long as your
C: is NTFS and you have a copy of VHDTool). VHD can be
parsed by 7ZIP archiver, if you need random file access, but
I've been noticing lately that a lot of my VHD files
seem to have a geometry declaration that upsets 7ZIP
and prevents traversal.
Ghost probably wouldn't be any good - the older versions
might be file by file, but the output is likely proprietary.
I think there was some sort of "Viewer" so you could see
and extract individual files.
You could probably kinda-sorta backup to TAR, but you'd need
to run an ICACLS from top to bottom of the drive, to capture
all the permissions properly, and store that file on the
partition before backup. You would have to be certifiable
nuts to try this.
I'm not going to claim it's un-possible, what you're asking,
but it's getting damn close.
Many of the backup programs have a mounter for their output file,
that gives random access to the captures partition(s). Ghost had
that. Acronis had that. Macrium has it.
Maybe your needs are somehow legal and not technical ?
Personally, as long as a format is "recoverable" and
has a verify, and has a few viewing options, I'm pretty
A non-proprietary format would be "dd", a sector-by-sector
image of the drive. If you zero the white space on each
partition before capture, I have a block compressor that
runs at 300MB/sec that will remove all the zeroed areas
of the disk from the archive, and reduce the amount of stored
info to about the same size as Macrium ("just the clusters with files").
But I doubt you'd appreciate my programming talents :-/
The built-in Windows backup stores each partition as a
separate VHD file. Leaving to the imagination how the
MBR and first track are stored.
It's possible to do a VSS freeze of a volume from user-land.
Maybe you'll be writing this mythical "friendly" backup yourself ?
I could certainly do it with "dd" here, but only with gales
of laughter from the audience here. My "dd" method exists as
a "reference platform", like if I had nothing and I was dialing
in a second method, and I wanted "insurance", one of my "dd"
methods would provide that insurance. The first backup program
I dialed in, "dd" was the emergency restore method in my
plan. I had a "dd image" of the drive before I started.
Retrospect has a trial. With sales contact info, of course.
(600 page user manual, doubles as a sales guide. Modular,
"charge charge charge" for plugins design. Our IT department
used this stuff at one time, and slogging through the manual
is an experience. It took two solid days of scripting on the
Mac, to setup a complete backup run there. It took 12 pages
of written notes, to explain to an end-user the steps to look
for when doing a Windows backup.
The average backup product has a 150-200 page manual, so you can
tell from the size of the Retrospect manual (3x the competition)
just what it's like. Still, it's possible you'll find the trial
amusing. You never know.
I couldn't find details on the Retrospect output format today.
The product may have changed hands a time or two since I used it.