If 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.