Backup Excluding System Files


Today’s Question: I’m in the process of creating my first GoodSync backups of both my C drive [with the operating system] and my internal Photos drive (E). If I need to restore my main hard drive as you described in the Sept. 27 newsletter, is it really as simple as plugging in the backup drive? Another colleague said the backup was not a bootable drive, meaning it would not allow me to start the machine. Thanks for any clarification.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Recovering from a failed bootable hard drive would not be as simple as simply installing the backup drive in place of the failed drive if you had used software such as GoodSync ( to create a synchronized backup. For secondary drives (such as the E: drive in this example) the synchronized backup would provide an easy recovery solution.

More Detail: If the bootable hard drive that contains the operating system were to fail (on either a Windows or Macintosh computer) recovery would not be as simple as replacing the failed drive with the backup drive. Rather, a recovery process would be necessary, which could involve installing the operating system fresh. This is something I would recommend in any event because the failed drive could have created corruption issues that would be reflected in the backup as well.

You can recover from a full system backup using tools provided as part of the operating system. For Windows that means using the Backup and Restore feature in the System and Maintenance section of Control Panel. For Macintosh users that means maintaining a Time Machine backup of the system hard drive. In both cases these backups can streamline the recovery process, but that will still involve an actual restore process rather than just swapping out a hard drive.

For non-bootable hard drives that only contain user data, a GoodSync backup will indeed enable you to simply swap out the failed drive with a backup drive, and then make sure the replacement drive has the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) so that data will still be found where it is expected for software such as Lightroom Classic.

You can still use GoodSync to back up your personal data on the system hard drive, such as the documents, pictures, and downloads folders. However, I do not recommend backing up the entire system hard drive with GoodSync. In fact, in the latest version of GoodSync in won’t even allow you to create a backup that includes all system files.

So, for data-only drives you can create a backup that is a clone of the original drive using GoodSync, and recovering from a failure will be simple. For the bootable system drive you can back up your personal data, and recovery would involve copying that data again to the system drive after you have recovered the operating system and applications to that drive.