Expert Mode: SyncBack Container
Using this window you can use, create, repair and compact a SyncBack Container. Containers can be used with profiles to store files and folders, much like a Zip file or a virtual drive. You can also use existing VHD/X files.
What is a SyncBack Container?
A SyncBack Container is like a Zip file or a virtual drive, depending on how you define and use it. You can store all your files and folders inside a container and optionally have the container mounted as a drive letter during the profile run. This allows other programs to access those files and folders as if they were on a normal drive.
To use a container, in your source or destination, you must use a variable (%CONTAINERMOUNT%). You can also use this variable in Run Before, Run After, etc. When the profile is run the variable is replaced by the mount point (where the container is mounted in Windows, e.g. a drive letter).
The advantage a container has over a Zip file, for example, is that containers are treated by SyncBack exactly the same way as drives. This means, for example, you can use versioning with containers.
All installations of SyncBack come with an external utility to mount SyncBack Containers.
In this example we'll backup some files to a container:
oCreate a new backup profile.
oSet the Source directory as appropriate. These are the files you are going to backup to a container.
oSet the Destination directory to %CONTAINERMOUNT%
oYou may want to click the Choose sub-directories and files button to choose which files to backup.
oGo the the SyncBack Container settings page.
oTick the checkbox Use a SyncBack Container (a virtual drive)
oClick the Create button to begin the process of creating a new container.
oWe'll use a variable sized container, the default, so click Next
oWe won't use encryption, the default, so click Next
oWe won't use compression, the default, so click Next
oWe'll leave the page size at the default 65536 bytes value, so click Next
oClick the folder button to choose where to store the container.
oClick Finish. A window will appear where it creates the container and shows the results. Click OK. A dialog box appears saying Success. Click OK.
oClick OK to save the profile.
oRun the profile. It will backup your files to the container.
•Use a SyncBack Container (a virtual drive): If enabled, when the profile is run a container will be mounted and available for use.
oContainer is a VHD file: SyncBack containers are proprietary and can be used only with SyncBackPro. A free utility is provided with SyncBackPro so that containers can be open and read by any Windows Vista or newer computer without needing SyncBackPro. However, if you want to be completely open then you can use VHD files which Windows itself can use (and are also used for virtual machines, for example). If you want to use a VHD file, then enable this option. Note that you must create the VHD file yourself, which is possible within Windows. Note that VHD files are only supported on Windows 7 or newer.
•Container Filename: This is the filename of the container (or VHD) file. If you don't have an existing container the click the Create button to create a new container. SyncBackPro cannot create VHD files. You must use Windows itself to create VHD files. During the container creation process you can choose where to store the container. If you have an existing container then click then Use button.
The advanced settings are optional. Some of the advanced settings cannot be changed, e.g. level of compression, as these are set during container creation.
•Mounting Point: A container can be mounted on a drive letter, e.g. X:\, or on an empty folder in an NTFS partition. Note that this is entirely optional and not required (unless a VHD file, protected by BitLocker, is being used). In fact mounting and dismounting a SyncBack container can take several seconds. Only mount a container if you have external programs that need access to the container while the profile runs. Also, when using a VHD file, if it is already mounted then that mounting point will be used instead.
If a VHD file is being used, which is protected by BitLocker using a password, then it must be mounted to a drive. It cannot be mounted to a folder on NTFS.
•Use transactions for improved integrity (reduces performance): Enabling this option reduces the chance of the container file becoming corrupted. However, enabling this option will also decrease performance. With transactions enabled, when a file is stored in the container, it is done within a transaction. This means if there is a failure, e.g. power failure, during the save, then the container won't contain corrupted data. This option does not apply to VHD files.
•Use the system cache (can improve performance): Enabling this option means the cache within Windows is used for reading and writing to the container. Using the cache can improve performance, but can increase the risk of corruption. This option does not apply to VHD files.
•Only allow SyncBack to access the virtual drive: To stop other programs from accessing the contents of a container simply enable this option. This option does not apply to VHD files.
Creating a new SyncBack Container
To create a new container click the Create button:
•Size: A container can have a fixed size or a variable size. A fixed size container has a set limit on its size. If you know how the maximum amount of disk space you will require then creating a fixed size disk is recommended. A variable sized container has no fixed size and will increase in size automatically when required. However, increasing the size of a variable sized container is a slow process. A fixed sized container is just like using a drive, i.e. it has a fixed and known limit to its size. Just like when formatting a drive, you can format it quickly or do a full format. A full format initializes the entire container, where as a quick format will just initialize a small part of the container. To improve performance, a full format is recommended. Depending on the size of the container, a full format may take a long time (just as formatting a large drive can take a long time).
•Encryption: Just like Zip files, and NTFS, you can optionally encrypt files stored in the container. 256-bit AES encryption is used to encrypt the files. Note that you cannot change the password once set. Using encryption will incur a performance penalty.
•Compression: Again, just like Zip files, and NTFS, you can optionally compress files stored in the container. You will not receive the same compression levels as when using a Zip file due to the way containers use pages for storage. Using compression will incur a performance penalty.
•Page Size: When you store a file on a drive, the file is stored as a collection of clusters, with a cluster being a fixed size, e.g. 2KBytes. When you format a drive you can usually specify the cluster size. If the cluster size is 2KBytes, and you have a file which is just 1 byte in size, it will still use an entire cluster (2KBytes). A page in a container is similar to a cluster on NTFS. A small page size means less disk space is wasted. However, smaller page sizes reduce performance because more of them need to be read and written. Larger pages can potentially waste more space but are always faster, because less of them need to be read and written to. If you are going to access your container over a network then you should always use the maximum page size.
•Storage: You can now choose where the container is stored:
oFilename: This is the file used to store the container. Note that you cannot use NTFS encryption or compression with the container file itself. The same restriction applies to VHD files.
Click the Finish button to create the container. If you've specified that the container be fully formatted, then that may take a long time.
Creating a new VHD file
Windows itself contains the utilities to create VHD files. There are two ways to do this: via Disk Management or via DiskPart:
Basically, you need to create the VHD file, create a volume on it and then format it. This only needs to be done once. You do not need to attach or mount it as this is done via SyncBack (however, if it is already attached or mounted then it's not a problem).
To create a VHD via the command line:
1.To start the DiskPart command interpreter, open an elevated Command Prompt window (click Start, right-click Command Prompt, and click Run as administrator) and type:
2.To create a new 2 GB dynamically expanding .vhd file (called Test.vhd) and save it to the C:\vhd folder, type the following command. If you do not specify the type=expandable parameter, DiskPart will create a fixed VHD:
create vdisk file=c:\vhd\test.vhd maximum=2000 type=expandable
3.We now need to attach the VHD file:
4.To create a primary partition inside the new VHD, type:
create partition primary
5.To format the partition, type:
format fs=ntfs label=”test volume” quick
6.We can now detach it:
7.And finally exit diskpart:
Using an existing SyncBack Container or VHD/X file
To use an existing SyncBack container, enable the Use a SyncBack container option, disable the Container is a VHD file option and click the Use button. To use an existing VHD/X file, enable the Use a SyncBack container option, enable the Container is a VHD file option and click the Use button
•Encryption: If the container is encrypted, supply the password. If you're using a VHD/X file, and it's using BitLocker with a password, then enter the password. If no encryption is being used then do not enter a password.
•Storage: You can now choose the container file.
Click the Finish button to open the container.
Checking, fixing, compacting and re-sizing SyncBack containers
To check, fix, compact or re-size a container, click the Check button. Note that this option is not available when using VHD files.
1.You are first asked if you would like to check the container for corruption. If so, click Yes. SyncBack will then check the container to see if there is any corruption.
2.If any corruption is found, then you are prompted to ask if you would like the container to be repaired. If you click Yes, then repairs are made to the container.
3.You are next asked if you would like the container compacted (defragmented). This can reduce the size of variable sized containers.
4.Lastly, you are asked if you would like to re-size the container. If you have a fixed size container, and need more space, then click Yes. You will then be asked for the new size of the container (in bytes).
SyncBack Container or VHD?
•VHD files are faster than SyncBack containers.
•VHD files can be used on Windows 7 and newer, but SyncBack containers can be used on Vista and newer.
•The VHD file format is open and so can be used by Windows and other 3rd party software. A free utility is provided with SyncBack so containers can be accessed (read-only) without SyncBack.
•For SyncBack containers, the page size is important. A larger page size improves performance, because fewer reads are required. However, larger page sizes can waste more space, especially if many of the files in the container are smaller than the page size.
•Fixed size containers are quicker than variable sized containers. This is because it takes time to increase the size of a container. This applies to SyncBack Containers and VHD files.
•SyncBack containers can be encrypted. VHD files can be encrypted (via BitLocker). However, encrypted containers require the user to manually enter the password to decrypt them.
•SyncBack container compression is better than VHD compression (but Zip compression is even better).
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