Ask Leo! #530 – Making Images, Incremental Backups, Free Software, Giving a Laptop and more…


How do I create a new machine image?

I have a new machine, but I wasn't able to get true installation media, only recovery disks. I've heard you say that instead, I should make a backup image of my new machine as soon as I possibly can, so that I always have that to fall back on if I need to start over. Great. But, how do I create a new machine image?

Installation media – true installation media – appears to be a thing of the past.

It used to be that you would get an actual CD or DVD of the operating system with each new machine. Then it became an extra-cost option. Then it became an on-request-only option.

Now it appears to no longer be an option at all – at least not when you purchase your machine.

The alternative, then, is to create a new machine image as soon as you get your machine.

I'll show you how.

Continue Reading: How do I create a new machine image?

How do I give someone a laptop without including access to my accounts?

I gave my sister my laptop today she signed in to her broad band provider but I can still see my Facebook account etc how do I give her the laptop without any of my things on it?

This depends on exactly what you mean by "give", and to a lesser degree, exactly how much you trust your sister.

There are several possibilities, so I'll try to cover the most important.

Continue Reading: How do I give someone a laptop without including access to my accounts?

What's an incremental backup?

I have a mental ‘block' on backing up which unnerves my approach to it. I have managed one full backup (32gb) on an external hard drive. I have just read your article on maintenance but do not understand what is meant by "incremental backup". Does it simply ‘update' or overwrite the existing backup or does it create something else that only contains whatever is new since the previous backup? I think the latter is what I would prefer.

What you prefer is, indeed, what it is.

There are actually typically three different types of backups: full, incremental, and differential. Understanding which is which, and how they should be used is pretty important to making sure you're appropriately backed up, while not simultaneously eating up disk space at an exorbitant rate.

Continue Reading: What's an incremental backup?


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Glossary Term

image backup

An image backup is a complete copy of a hard disk or other media being backed up. The copy is complete in that it can be restored to a completely empty hard drive – as in a replacement hard drive after a failure – and the result is a hard drive that contains everything that the original did.

There are, of course, nuances to the term.

An image of a hard disk can take either of two forms:

  • A copy of all files, folders, and overhead information stored on the disk, including the information required to boot.
  • A copy of every sector on the disk, including those that are not used.

The first is all that is needed for backup purposes. When restored, the files are replaced on the hard disk, but not necessarily in the same physical locations as they were originally. (A side effect is that often a restored hard disk has no fragmentation.)

The second, when restored, it places all files in exactly the same physical location as the original and restores all unused sectors as well – thus enabling deleted-file data recovery and potentially other forensic techniques.

Finally, most backup programs create an image of a partition. To fully backup disks that contain multiple partitions, an image must be created of each.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?

Kay writes:

"The very short, very easy answer is: hell yes! Absolutely, positively you need a firewall."

Not applicable for for Linux based operating systems.

Leo writes:

We disagree. One of the first things I set up on my Linux boxen is a firewall. In fact, to be honest, the typically included Linux firewall is one of the best.

Let's Get More People to Back Up

Martin writes:

Honestly, I've stopped telling customers they need to back up. They never listen and I've decided I'm wasting my time. The ones with any sense are going to do it anyway, and the others, well, they have a thousand excuses why they can't or why they don't have time. (A recent customer after a computer crash informed me that he was an extremely busy man and had no time to mess with doing back ups. Really? But you're too busy to back up, but you did have plenty of time to download nearly 40 gigs of porn jpgs?) So fine. Let them not back up. I make money off of them when they don't.

James writes:

Well, that's the thing. People want backs ups, whether just of data files or of their entire system, to be something that "just happens," without them having to lift a finger at any point in the process. Then when it does happen, they scream and yell that it shouldn't.

I definitely identify with the frustration. You tell people and tell people, but they never seem to listen

Why do People Create Free Software?

Greg Bulmash writes:

Couple of things I think you left out...

Money: Another monetary option is ad-supported. A lot of those free games on the Android or iPhone app stores pop up video ads between replays or have a banner at the top or bottom. Then you can buy the version without ads for a nominal fee.

Building a Market: Imagine I develop an amazing video encoding system that reduces bandwidth use by 80%. I then create a video player and give it to people for free. Why? Because I'll make my money on licensing the compressor to Netflix, YouTube, Comcast, etc. It's like razors and razor blades, only instead of selling blades to the end user of my razors, I'm selling the machinery to make the blades to third parties.

Leo's Blog

Why do People Create Free Software?

What prompts an individual or organization to create and offer software for free? Is there some hidden agenda that I am missing that drives these people to put all that work into development of these applications and then simply give them away?

Sometimes, I'm sure there is indeed a hidden agenda. But often there really isn't. Heck, there are probably as many different reasons as there are individuals creating free software.

Naturally, I can only speculate, but I can think of several broad categories that individuals or organizations creating free software might fall under.

Continue Reading: Why do People Create Free Software?

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