Cleaning Your Carbonite Backup Drive

by JL Beeken on 3-27-2011

CarboniteIf you use Carbonite you’ll know that it creates a Backup Drive on your computer where you can view all the files that are backed up to their server as well as all files that are pending backup.

Carbonite Backup Drive

Since many people have asked, I will tell you that you can’t delete the Backup Drive. It’s put onto your computer when you install Carbonite so you have a local view of what’s going on with your file backup. If you want it gone, uninstall Carbonite. You should still be able to log into your online account and access your files for 30 days after you cancel your subscription. After that Carbonite will delete them automatically.

Back when I was restoring photos after the WLPG disaster I noticed that it’s a bit of a mess in there.

Carbonite Backup Drive

Folder after folder of files that are long gone from my computer, folders that say ‘none’ and everything mixed in with files that reflect a more recent state of my hard-drive.

What I came to wonder is what happens if you need to restore all your files from the Carbonite Backup Drive? Do you get everything back including empty folders and files you deleted two years ago? And do you then have to pick through it all looking for the files that were on your computer at the time it crashed?

At the present time, on my computer My Documents alone consists of 10,614 folders containing 134,373 files. That’s a terrifying amount of ‘picking through’. I don’t know if that’s how a full restoration works because I’ve never had to do it. I’m just saying. On their help pages it looks like there’s a choice between restoring individual files or restoring them all with nothing in between like a date range. I could be wrong.

Unlimited Backup

Although Carbonite advertises itself as ‘unlimited online backup’, at some point you’re going to hit a backup size of 200GB. And when you do, your backup speed is going to slow to a crawl. That’s how they discourage people from taking the meaning of ‘unlimited’ literally.

At the time my computer crashed last August I had a backup of over 200GB, the backup was 60GB behind because I had recently moved some large folders around, and Carbonite was backing up at a rate of 1GB per day. That meant I still had two months to go to catch up, never mind the new files that were being added or changed daily.

This week the total hit 310GB, still 30GB behind, so it’s been crawling for quite awhile. If I add up My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, My Music and a few other odds and ends, my files total around 190GB. What that means is that the other 120GB on the Backup Drive are either deleted or duplicated files.

Moving Files

Let’s say, for instance, you have a folder with 5GB of photos. Your Carbonite backup is up-to-date and you decide, while cleaning up your computer, to move those photos to another location. Or maybe you leave them in the same location but you decide to rename them. Carbonite is going to start all over again backing up those same files. But, it’s not going to let go of the original batch. What it’s going to do instead is mark each of those files on the Carbonite Backup Drive like this:

Carbonite Backup Drive

What this means is that it’s backed up the same file somewhere else and this is a clue about what’s clogging up the drive and putting you over the limit.

Here’s an example of photos that I restored from Carbonite last Fall taken from the XP-drive backup. Before I had a chance to rename them, Carbonite backed them up again but this time under Windows7. And after I renamed them and deleted the “Restored” copies, Carbonite backed those up as well. So, now I had 3 backup copies of exactly the same files.

Carbonite Backup Drive

Your duplicated backup files may not be so obvious. But you’d likely recognize if you have folders you’ve moved around and Carbonite has backed them up from multiple locations.

(2012 update: Carbonite may have changed this recently because the last time I renamed files it did not back them up again, it simply updated the names. But, if you move files, it’s definitely going to back them up again unless you tell it not to. Please read Carbonite Backup: Moving Files.)

If you want to try cleaning up your backup drive, pause your backup, then open your Carbonite Backup Drive (it’s listed as one of your drives under My Computer) and start working through the folders. Pay particular attention to the column marked State because this will tell you what’s happening.

Carbonite Backup Drive

If you right-click on a file that you want removed, you’ll see an option to Remove From Backup. As you work through, click F5 periodically to refresh your screen.

There’s two advantages I see to doing this cleanup. One, you may be able to keep your backup under 200 GB so the backup speed is reasonable. Two, your Backup Drive stays current in case you ever need to restore everything at once.

The downside is that you will no longer have multiple copies from a range of different dates, just the latest backed up version.

I’ve switched to Basket Cloud Storage so, for other support questions, please see Carbonite Support for Home & Home Office where there are How-to Guides and Video Tutorials.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon 4-01-2011 at 5:14 AM

A review of what you have backed up in any media is a good idea, including Carbonite. Note although the slowing down of backup speed does kick in at the 200GB mark, that doesn’t mean that when you download you have any restrictions. The speeds for retrieving your data are the same whether restoring 20GB or 300GB. You get priority to do this.

The slowing down of the upload speed is to ensure that people doing their initial backup get priority so that they can get up do date ASAP.

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JL 4-01-2011 at 12:21 PM

Yep, I’ve heard the theories. I’m well below 200GB and Carbonite has backed up 1GB in the past 3 days. Periodically, it puts up a message saying that my backup is up-to-date while, on the same screen, it also says there’s 173GB pending which is also inaccurate. It’s actually about 50GB.

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Anonymous 4-15-2011 at 5:59 AM

JL,

That may be the theory but it doesn’t work in my instance. I am still working on my Initial Backup but I’ve gone over the 200GB limit, so my backup bandwidth has been limited. How can Carbonite say my Initial Backup has priority when they limit my bandwidth to around 24KB/s? My Initial Backup won’t be completed before I have to renew my Carbonite contract. If Carbonite truly limited bandwidth by their stated rate of 100KB/s after the backup size is >200GB then my Initial Backup would have been done many months ago. I monitor my internal network and Internet speeds, BY APPLICATION & PORT and can say unequivocally that it is Carbonite’s bandwidth limiting that is causing my slow backup speed.

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JL 4-15-2011 at 2:53 PM

I agree with you. It’s slow. My backup is under 200GB and it’s backing up 1GB/day, maybe.

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Rob 2-26-2012 at 4:59 PM

A Quick Note from Experience: if you have more than 35GB of data to backup do a google search on backup throttling carbonite and read the terms on backup / upload speed. I have 135GB and the first 20gb was nice and fast so I went ahead and purchased a full license, only to find when I crept over the 30gb some good 2 weeks later did it then slow dowm to around 100kbps yes your reading that right, its around 3-4GB a day.
Now they say on the terms over 35-200gb “upload speeds can reach up to 512 kbps” and in reality its really throttled back to the 200GB mark as they confirmed 3-4GB per day. I have had the tech support people also check remotely my machine about 4-5 times now and the answer is always we will escalate this to the “Next Level” of support. Well its now been just under 6 weeks and my machine has been on 24×7 with reboots at time to reach 112gb, so another 3 weeks till I get the 135gb online, but that does not include any of my personal videos, that will take another estimated 2 month online backup with machine on..?? so trying to work out is 3 months of powering my Q6600 machine worth all the trouble ? (I backup to remote NAS , but its located on the same site)

It is good for say your mum or dad, long as they place the files in the folder you selected for backup , but for anyone serious with lots of DATA, I would say be prepared to keep machine on for whats looks like weeks or months at a time…. Here is a snippet of files – dates – GB ….(I have been tracking this from JAN when 1st installed till today the 19th Feb 2012…

Time Date Files GB
19:00 13/02/2012 55238 95.8
21:39 14/02/2012 56938 98.6
09:25 16/02/2012 59028 102
19:00 16/02/2012 59598 104
09:00 17/02/2012 60394 106
00:57 27/02/2011 71144 141 = 3.5GB per day……….

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JL 2-26-2012 at 6:38 PM

I’ve often left my computer on over night to catch up. Otherwise, I just ignore it. It will get there when it gets there. I have about 188 GB backed up right now and that’s not all my files. There’s still about another 40 GB of music files that are not set to back up. It seems like it switches to the most recent files all the time so if I did set it to back up my music as well it would put that in the background when it has newer files to back up, like my day’s work. I don’t depend on it entirely. I also back up to external hard-drives. It seems to me when I went over the 200 GB in the past the speed reduced to about 1 GB per day. 3-4 GB per day seems pretty good to me.

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bookbean 3-18-2012 at 2:37 PM

I have been extremely frustrated with this for days now. First it appeared about a week or so ago that that backup was frozen, but not by me. Got a tech support person to log in and he updated the version of the software. BTW, I have approximately 150 gig of backup, comprised of about 380,000 files, if I believe what C is saying.

In any event, after he updated the software and saw that the progress was simply spinning but going nowhere (and spending almost an hour and one half with me) only then did he say that he was going to have a tier 2 person contact me. That was a surprise to me because honestly he seemed like he understood what was going on quite well. In any event, days later, by the time the tier2 guy tried to reach me, the back up seemed to be moving again. I intentionally left this machine alone for days, leaving it on at night as well and allowing it to try and catch up. It finally went from thousands of files to back up and maybe at least 90 Gig, can’t quite recall but you get the idea, it went all the way down to about 1 file left with about 1.2 gig.

I thought that I was almost home free. Then bam, right before my eyes, I happened to be by the computer, the number of files started incrementing by the milisecond to hundreds, as well as the amount of data waiting.

By the next morning, it miraculously dropped way back down again. Several times today it has shown that there was one one file pending with about 4-5 gigs. Yet, the files that would eventually pop up for backup kept changing. So much for “1″. So now it is showing 9 files (where the new ones came from, who knows, and about 1.1 gig to go.

Just no rhyme or reason for any of this.

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JL 3-18-2012 at 3:10 PM

People wonder a lot why the Carbonite Info Center says ‘all files backed up’ and ‘files pending backup’ at the same time. I just write it off to confused programming.

The way I handle it myself is to regularly check through all the files on my computer I want backed up and see that they’re ‘on the list’ by looking at the colored icons:
Solid green for ‘backed up’
Green with a hole in the middle meaning ‘not chosen for backup’
Orange meaning ‘pending’.

I go through all my folders and sub-folders regularly making sure everything’s how it should be and any new files are being included because sometimes they aren’t included automatically. An odd JPG or TXT file here or there goes missing in the fray.

Lately, the colored dots seem to be inconsistent in their meaning which further confuses the issue because you can’t depend on those either.

I also go over to the Backup Drive regularly and delete files I’ve deleted off my C-drive so in the case of a restore I don’t get back a bunch of empty folders and files that I’ve long since deleted. Strangely, I’ll see folders over there saying ‘some files not chosen for backup’ in folders that I have chosen for backup. Or files that are ‘pending’ when the files show on my C-drive as already backed up.

I’ve pretty much given up trying to make sense of it. It’s a labour-intensive way to back up files. It’s definitely not a ‘set it and forget it’ method. To me, it’s worth the $5/month to have a backup of at least most of my files. But I don’t depend on it for everything. I also back up to two external hard-drives. I may trade in Carbonite for a third drive. And that’s my recommendation. Do not put all your eggs in one basket.

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bookbean 3-18-2012 at 6:02 PM

Great idea about the third drive concept. I have been using my little netbook all day today along side of my laptop, wondering if it will ever truly finish. Just a few moments ago it was down to 2 files pending. The size of the files fluctuated which of course made no sense. I happen to know one file was close to a gig in size, yet it was literally saying 2 files pending (55.3 KB). That’s right, KB! And it sat and it sat. Eventually it dropped down to 55.2 KB. Boy I was making progress there. Finally, it finished that file and went on to another unexpected file. An old archive.pst file to a profile that I haven’t used in years (I am very good at controlling the various pst files and profiles and how to locate and store them).

So now it is working on this one for the past 20 minutes and the number of files has jumped again!

Oh, wait a moment, I think it is on the last one, my Outlook.pst file! That will be another week…

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JL 3-18-2012 at 6:49 PM

Micro-managing your Carbonite backup could drive you crazy. Check it once a day, or once every few days.

Now that I think about it, I can get another external hard-drive for less than the cost of 2 years of Carbonite. I have two externals at least 8 years old and they both still work fine. I have two other newer ones. As long as they’re replaced periodically and rotated …

It seems to me online backup services like Carbonite and Mozy are due to go the way of the do-do bird. Back when they started, external hard-drives were pretty expensive so online backup seemed like a good deal. Now, Mozy has increased its prices to a point where it doesn’t make sense. Carbonite slows to a crawl after 200 GB. At best, it’s 5GB/day so it takes forever anyway. They’re both offering new services like keeping your backups on an external hard-drive they can mail to you, or something like that.

Backing up to my own external hard-drive is as hassle-free as it gets. I set up profiles with Syncback and run them a few times a day. I know I get all my files backed up; there’s nothing going astray. And a full backup takes a few minutes instead of weeks. I can’t, right this minute, think of a single reason to use anything else.

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StarB 7-22-2012 at 2:15 PM

An external hard-drive is a good local backup option but in the event of a disaster such as a fire or all of your gear being stolen you will never recover any of your data. Remote backup is a must for anyone who would like to keep their data safe and sound – no two ways about it.

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JL Beeken 7-22-2012 at 2:31 PM

At this point, I disagree with you. I always have an external hard-drive with me when I leave my house so if something happens to my house I have all my data with me. If something happens to me it’s all up-to-date at home. If something happens to me and my house at the same time, then yes it would be A Bad Day in Paradise.

Other issue here is that if everything went bad at once, does someone else have the information needed to log in into your remote location? Because without that it’s all for naught anyway.

I also use other ‘remote’ locations such as sending all of my genealogy information and photographs to relatives through Dropbox or discs. The more the merrier.

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