Synchronize Your Cloud Files Without Slowing Down Your Computer

Cloud Computing

Synchronize Your Cloud Files

Clouds are a great storage option to protect your files. Even if your computer dies the files still live on in the cloud.

Issues With Clouds – Synchronize Your Cloud Files

The problem is that Synchronizing Your Cloud Files may slow your computer down to a crawl if you are synchronizing too many files. We certainly don’t want that.

Problem & Solution

Another problem with Synchronize Your Cloud Files is that it’s somewhat limited unless you purchase a premium plan.

Limited Space in the Cloud

When we use clouds with limited space we have to ensure we don’t try to back up unnecessary files.

The best Synchronize Your Cloud Files solution is to back up files that are the most important taking precautions with sensitive materials by encrypting.

Scroll down or click for help with Synchronizing Select Cloud Files

We can also spread out files among various cloud plans by maybe putting family photos on one and business documents on another.

If you have Office 365 you get 1 TB to backup your files so space should not be a major concern.

Slow Computer

The more files you have to synchronize the longer it takes the cloud software to index your files and upload.

Even if you only change one file the software has to evaluate them all. This can make your computer unusable when the cloud software is indexing.

Slow Zone

Synchronizing websites can be particularly bad since they may have lots of little files.

If there are repository file like Git then the situation is even worse.

If Windows Search all by itself can slow down your computer. Add that to cloud synchronization and you may think your computer is broken or infected.

Synchronize Your Cloud Files – Too Many Files

One Solution that addresses speed and space is to limit the files you synchronize.

If you have plenty of space but don’t want to drag your computer down every time it indexes your changes you can select which folders you need synchronized.

In our case, we have lots of websites and customer backups that don’t need to be constantly synchronized.

First we backup these sorts of files to an external drive or internal section of our drive that’s not associated with the cloud.

Test Case

We download a lot of stock photos from GraphicStock.com that we may want to use someday and we have 1 TB of cloud storage available on OneDrive thanks to our Office 365 subscription.

Initially we download the stock photos to our external RAID (12 TB) into a folder that shows it has not been synchronized to the cloud.

Problem Folder

Then we copy this folder to an appropriate place on our local OneDrive folder which gets synchronized to the cloud.

OneDrive Problem Folder

Once the synchronization is complete we remove the folder from synchronization by opening OneDrive Settings.

  • Start OneDrive if it’s not running
  • Right click OneDrive icon in tray
  • Navigate to Account Tab
  • Choose folders
    • Only Choose folders that are likely to change

      OneDrive Settings – Account

What This Does

Removing the folder from synchronization removes the files from the local PC which is why we have it backed up outside the OneDrive folder. We don’t need these files in 2 places on our computer.

More importantly OneDrive doesn’t have to scan through all these files to see if they have changed. Since they are stock photos we won’t be changing them.

We might however create new versions from the stock photos but we will be sure to back these up.

It does not remove the files from the cloud so the files are still available on OneDrive.com

Windows Search

Windows Search is also known for slowing down your computer so this added to a cloud backup can really bring your computer to a crawl.

This is especially true if you try to open Windows Explorer. Just clicking on a drive may take a long time to open. Think minutes instead of seconds.

Disabling Windows Search

Microsoft constantly recommends Windows Search for Outlook and Windows Explorer. They suggest that searches may take a long time unless we turn it on.

Search performance will be impacted because Windows Search service is turned off.

In our experience, Windows Search slows down any drive with a lot of files. You probably want to turn it off even if you are not synchronizing Cloud files.

Perhaps Windows Search is useful if you are looking for text within files but it’s a significant drag on our resources.

Disabling Windows Search is easy enough. Crank up the Services and disable Windows Search.

Windows Services

You can find Services by typing in the search bar. Double click Windows Search service and set it to disabled or manual.

Conclusion

It’s possible to synchronize your files to the clouds without impacting your computer performance by selecting specific files and folders to keep synchronized.

Turning off Windows Search will help even if you are not synchronizing files to the cloud.

Windows 10 Upgrade? – Restore Old O/S

Windows 10 Upgrade?

 

 

Windows 10 Upgrade, should I allow it? For the most part Windows 10 is a decent Operating System.

There are over 200 million installs and Microsoft’s goal is one billion.

There are some issues with Windows 10 that may cause grief for some

users.

Isn’t Windows 10 Upgrade a Better Operating System?

Certainly Windows 10 has a much better reputation than Windows 8.

Our recommendation would be to upgrade Windows 8 unless you have applications that are not officially supported for Windows 10.

If you are using Windows 7, you may want to keep the O/S. It will lose extended support for security patches in 2020 but by then you will may want a new computer.

 

Is Windows 10 Upgrade Secure?

There are some security issues with the default settings but

It’s easy enough to change those.

Overall we think Windows 10 is secure but you may want to change the settings.

Keep in mind that you are already tracked by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

In some cases, you don’t have to be logged in to be tracked. Certainly you are tracked if you are logged into their accounts.

That said Windows 10 is not any more intrusive than Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, …

All Programs Are Compatible with Windows 10 Upgrade, Right?

Some folks assume that Windows 10 is compatible with their applications

since it runs a test prior to the upgrade.

 

While the test is a good precaution it’s a Herculean task to test every

application in the world not to mention applications you may not  have currently installed.

Case in Point – Windows 10 Upgrade Gone Wrong

To our dismay we have found some applications like LogMeIn Backup are not officially supported for Windows 10.

While it may work the LogMeIn team is clueless about fixing the problem or even moving your backup to another machine.

Part of the problem is with the USB drives we use for backups.

Unfortunately for us this was after the thirty-day rollback period and

moving the application required a full backup.

A full backup backs up every file. Subsequent backups are much quicker since you don’t have to backup files that don’t change.

Note that moving backups requires a lot of time for the full backup and being cut off from the previous backups is disconcerting too.

Some of our remote full backups  take twenty hours.

Obviously we were not happy with this pitfall of Windows 10 and in the end wiped our computer and installed Windows 7.

 My Hardware is Supported for the Windows 10 Upgrade , Right?

In most Windows 10 Upgrade cases, you probably won’t have issues with hardware if it was

installed prior to the upgrade. In theory Windows 10 would warn you if the hardware was incompatible.

USB external drives may not be compatible with Windows 10.

Manufacturers like Western Digital and Seagate may not a Windows 10 driver that works reliably for relatively new drives.

We found that our external drives using USB 3 were not compatible. This was very disconcerting since most of our files are backed up to external drives.

In our case, LogMeIn backups and even Windows Explorer couldn’t get the drives to show a listing until we installed a Windows 7 driver!

Even with the Windows 7 driver, we suspect we didn’t get USB 3 speeds but never measured.

How Did I End Up With Windows 10 Upgrade?

Microsoft has gotten more aggressive in pushing out Windows 10. They

made it a recommended upgrade so it upgraded if you had automatic updates on.

Downs Consulting recommends Windows Updates so the dilemma is that we don’t necessarily want the upgrade but do want updates.

An alternative is to use something like GWX Control Panel.

GWX Control Panel should stop the upgrade to Windows 10.

Restore Old O/S – How Do I Go Back to My Previous Operating System (O/S)?

If you ran into as many issues as we did then you will want to revert back

to your old O/S.

Gracefully Revert to Your Old O/S

If you decide to revert your old O/S in the thirty-day window you may back out gracefully.

To uninstall Windows 10 within the first month, go to the Start menu and choose “settings.” From the resulting menu, choose “update and security,” then click “recovery.” You’ll be given the option to “go back” to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, depending on what you had previously. Click “get started.”

Reinstall Windows

If you are beyond the thirty-day window you are looking at a re-install of

Downgrade Windows 10

some sort.

Image Backup

If you made an image backup of your system you may want to restore it

but that will wipe out all your data too.

Likewise you could use the factory image backup to restore everything back to the day your computer arrived.

To install the factory image backup, you probably have to press specific keys during start-up. F8 & Advanced Boot Options work for some Dell computers.

Image backups will restore all software  that was installed at the time the image was made.

A factory image may contain trail software that they sent with the computer.

A personal image will have the software, data and updates that resided on the computer at the time of the backup.

New Installation

New installation is not for the faint at heart but it may keep your files in

Windows.old. This is a nice backup but we recommend backing up your files to an external drive as a precaution.

You will have to restore all the Windows updates and any software you use .

Obtaining Recovery Media

Ideally you created  backup disks when you received your computer. If you

can locate these disks then you can restore the factory image backup.

If you don’t have recovery media then you will have to contact the computer manufacturer. This may be a nominal fee if you are no longer in warranty.

Our Experience Obtaining Recovery Media

Hopefully you won’t have as much trouble obtaining recovery media as we

did. Maybe you can avoid some of the pitfalls of our experience.

It started out well enough with our first contact at Dell and we were prepared to pay the $20 or so since we were no longer in warranty. So far, so good.

We ran into problems when they wanted our account. Since we were logged into our Dell Advantage account this didn’t seem to be a problem but they wanted an account number.

We didn’t have an account number on our purchases or our online account.

Seven conversations and two hours later we assume the original person wanted a financial account which we didn’t have. We finally explained we wanted to pay by credit card and got the media in a couple of days.

To add insult to injury, we discovered later that we had a $20 credit we could have used for this transaction.

Backup You Files

As a general rule, most of your files will be in your User folder. If the user

is “Randy” then the user folder will look something like the following:

C:\Windows.old\Users\Randy – backup profile in previous Windows

C:\Users\Randy – profile in current Windows

Once you have you files backed up you can initiate a new install and preferably keep old files in Windows.old.

You can always remove this later if space is an issue.

Removing Windows.old

Removing Windows.old should be done via Disk Cleanup.

Here’s the proper way to delete the Windows.old folder: Step 1: Click in Windows‘ search field, type Cleanup, then click Disk Cleanup. Step 2: Click the “Clean up system files” button. Step 3: Wait a bit while Windows scans for files, then scroll down the list until you see “Previous Windows installation(s).

 

Perfect Backup Solution – The Cloud & Encryption

The Cloud – The Perfect Backup Solution

Downs Consulting looks to the cloud in search of the Perfect Backup Solution without having to pay extra for the privilege.

Does such a solution exist or is it like the unicorn a fantasy?

What can be better than having all your files accessible via the cloud?

We setup our documents to store in the cloud and always have the latest versions of files available. The only question is which cloud should we use.

Dropbox & Google Drive gave us significant storage but Microsoft gave us at least 1 TB and it was supposed to go to unlimited. Microsoft has since backed out of the unlimited storage deal for Office 365 users.

Downs Consulting also wanted traditional backups with external drives just in case something went wrong with the cloud files.

We used applications like SyncToy to make the synchronization easier.

We even had Norton backup running which was allegedly backing up our important files. It turns out that Norton doesn’t think html files are important enough to backup which is bad for a web developer.

 

Life was good everything was backed up in multiple locations. What could possibly go wrong?

Encrypt Cloud Files

For one we started to become concerned that our files were not encrypted in the cloud. We discovered that CloudFogger encrypts the files on your PC and that seemed to resolve our problem.

CloudFogger works great since the files are actually encrypted in your PC and become decrypted as you use them but it didn’t play well with our backup scheme.

We had encrypted our cloud services PC folders but we were limited to few locations that can be encrypted outside of that.

Even so CloudFogger is a great tool if you want to upload sensitive files to the cloud. Other alternatives for cloud storage of data is LastPass and OneNote password protection.

Unable to Sync Backups – Can’t Encrypt Everything Unless You Use BitLocker

Sync to Cloud

Consequently files on our external drives were not encrypted.

Encrypted external drives would have been a problem with sharing files between PCs as well.

This also presented a problem for SyncToy since it was comparing an encrypted folder to a non-encrypted one.

Other applications like Mysticthumbs also had issues.

Mysticthumbs also seemed to have issues with Windows 10 so we don’t currently use it. Mysticthumbs presents thumbnails of about everything including Photoshop and Illustrator files. It seemed to drag down our PC when Windows Explorer. To be fair we have lots of images in some of our stock image folders.

Perhaps this would work better on drives that are truly encrypted using something like Bitlocker (only available in Windows 10,  Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise editions). We haven’t tried BitLocker but I would expect everything would be uploaded encrypted to the cloud similar to CloudFogger .

This meant we needed to re-organize my files to encrypted and unencrypted. Reorganizing our drives was no small task since we had websites, graphics, software, in addition to our business files neatly arranged in both PC and cloud folders however it was not setup with encryption in mind.

The logical place to do this was in the Documents folder so we needed to duplicate the new structure on cloud and external drives.

Otherwise we would have to remember which backup files on the external drives went with the PC files and the same for cloud storage. That’s way too confusing if you have as many files as we have.

Convenience and Security Complications for the Perfect Backup Solution

Our new structure looked like the following on our PC.

PC Folders

\Documents\_ Encrypted in Cloud – Docs

\Documents\_Not Encrypted in Cloud – Docs

We tried to distinguish which folders were on the PC versus the cloud folder and external drives. We could do the same for other cloud folders but we wanted to keep this relatively simple.

External Drive Folders

E:\_ Encrypted in Cloud – External Backup

E:\_  Not Encrypted in Cloud – External Backup

Dropbox PC Folders

C:\Users\Randy\Dropbox\_  Encrypted Dropbox

C:\Users\Randy\Dropbox\Non-Encrypted Dropbox

 

One disadvantage of encrypting everything is that files are unusable when accessing from another machine via the cloud or external drive.

If you want to share videos or pictures with people then you do not want to encrypt them.

Some consultants advise against using the cloud for sensitive data period. That’s not bad advice but it’s not convenient either.

With that line of reasoning you could keep your data even safer by not connecting your PC to the Internet. It’s really a compromise between convenience and security.

OneDrive Crashes – Start All Over?

Additional problems cropped up like OneDrive dragging my PC to a halt and at times losing the entire OneDrive folder. A word to the wise is to never interrupt OneDrive when it’s syncing but sometimes it’s just not possible to wait for the application to catch up.

Sometimes OneDrive crashes and you power down PC because it’s hopelessly locked up for hours. This essentially means you need to start OneDrive all over which could easily lead to another  hang.

This is why we moved to Dropbox exclusively for our routine backups. We still use OneDrive on occasion but don’t have a lot of faith in those backups.

The best policy with the cloud backups is to back up most of your data once to the cloud & quit synchronizing it. In OneDrive and Dropbox this is called selective sync.

Enter Dropbox

Dropbox seems to work better for me but I have much more on OneDrive. I do use Google Drive for automatic phone backups. That doesn’t leave us much available space for anything else.

We got a trial of Dropbox with a new PC that gave us an additional 20 G free for a year. We may re-evaluate our cloud options at the end of the year.

cloud-computing

We are not certain that the files on OneDrive are that dependable since I have had videos and picture quit working.

Consequently we mainly archive to Dropbox these days and utilize Google drive for phone backup.

Downs Consulting can’t recommend OneDrive as the Perfect Backup Solution since it tends to drag down PCs and is unreliable. It’s free for Office 365 users so you may want to use it as a secondary backup.

We backup our files to external drives 1st and then sync them to the cloud. Once they are synced, we can quit syncing on the PC cloud folder.  This doesn’t remove the files from the cloud but it does remove them from the PC folder.

Note that you must remove files from the cloud if you want them erased completely. For that matter you may want to empty the deleted folder on the cloud as well.

Too Many Copies?

With the original, a copy in the cloud,  another copy in the PC cloud folder and yet another on at least one external drive there may be a confusing number of file copies available.

This also takes up considerable space for media files and may get backed up yet again by utilities like Norton Backup.

We can get rid of the copy in the PC cloud folder easily enough with selective sync but there are still a lot of copies floating around not to mention various cloud services.

Is this is a good thing? Perhaps we may want to access one of these copies if something goes awry with our other backups but chances are the extraneous copy won’t be up to date.

Enter Repositories

Git Repositories

Downs Consulting also use Git repositories to backup up my websites not to mention that the websites are also backed up on the host.

In theory I can get my anything I retrieve the entire site or just the changes I committed from my local repository or my remote if I pushed the commits.

It’s much easier to get the changes rather than the full site but cloning the site from the remote is a possibility.

When we tried restoring websites the Norton backup was unable to retrieve all files but it did save my images so it wasn’t a total lost. Even so we would not recommend relying on this sort of utility if you are a web developer.

The Perfect Backup Solution Revisited

There doesn’t seem to be a The Perfect Backup Solution and adding more

variations to the mix makes the issue that much more confusing. having an off-site backup was always a part of a disaster recovery plan so the cloud & remote repositories make a lot of sense.

If your data is sensitive it should be encrypted in the cloud which makes local backups all the more confusing.

That said the simpler you can backup your files the better.

Paid Backups

There are solutions like LogMeIn backup and Carbonite that will backup your files for a fee. Both are reasonably priced but our goal was to take advantage of free cloud services we already had.

If these fit your budget then they may be the perfect backup solution .

LogMeIn Backup actually backs up to another of your computers (Storage PC – preferably offsite). The initial backup takes a long time if you have a lot of files. Subsequent backups are much quicker as they only backup files that change.

LogMeIn Backup backups up all your files you designate but you provide the storage on a storage PC.

LogMeIn Backup is not officially supported for Windows 10 so you may run into issues with that. Moving the files to another PC is also not supported so you probably have to start all over if your Storage PC has problems.

We haven’t used Carbonite Personal basic solution but their plan allows unlimited backup of all the user-generated files on your internal hard drive. That sort of sounds like Norton backup so it may miss some files that you consider important.

Carbonite business plans are more expensive but backup much more.

My approach to the Perfect Backup Solution

Our “Perfect Backup solution”  is to backup only select files to my cloud provider, Dropbox

Perfect Backup

and then use selective sync to remove the files from my cloud folders on the PC.

Selective sync also prevents other backups from doing additional backups if they backup the cloud folders (e.g., OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive).

We no longer use utilities like SyncToy much since they may wipe out your files depending on how you have them set up.

Consequently our backups are not automatic as we manually put files into folders that are uploaded to the cloud and then remove them from selective sync. That’s not how we envisioned a perfect backup but that probably doesn’t exist for free.

Our procedure may not be the Perfect Backup Solution but it tries to adhere with the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid.