Windows Backup slowdown

My Windows 7 desktop is set up to back up to a Drobo B800i (over iSCSI) every night at 04:00, using Windows Backup. Even though it only uses about 700 GB of its 2 TB mirror, and only backs up a small fraction of that, backup jobs routinely took 15 hours or more. It could have copied the entire disk in half that time!

I set about hunting for a solution. One suggestion that turned up repeatedly in Google searches was to turn off the Background Intelligent Transfer Service. BITS is basically a download manager designed to only run when there is little or no other network traffic; among other thing, it is used by Windows Update to download patches. I couldn’t understand how this could help, but I had no better ideas and nothing to lose, so I stopped BITS. The next backup job completed in 45 minutes.

Patch Tuesday came along, and I rebooted the computer. Since I had only stopped BITS and not disabled it, it started again when the machine booted. Backup jobs slowed down again. This time, I disabled BITS, and I was back to sub-hour backups.

This makes absolutely no sense. BITS wasn’t even downloading anything; as far as I know, the only program or service I have running that actually uses it is Windows Update. BITS was slowing down backups just by being there. I don’t remember having this issue when I ran backups to an eSATA drive, so there must be some network-related interaction between BITS and iSCSI, but I have no idea what.

Backing up your VMs

A few weeks ago, I finally got my Drobo (a B800i with eight 2 TB disks) set up correctly so I can back up my Windows 7 computer to it. The only data I really care about on that computer are my VirtualBox VMs—so imagine my surprise when I discovered today that they weren’t being backed up! It turns out that with the default settings (“let Windows choose”), it does not back up your entire home directory, but only AppData, your desktop, your libraries, and a handful of other directories (including Downloads). Since VirtualBox stores VMs in a separate directory under your home directory rather than in AppData\Local or even My Documents, Windows Backup does not include them. If you want it to, you’ll have to either configure backups manually, or create a library that includes your VMs.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because backing up a VM’s disk image while it’s running is mostly pointless. Until now, I’ve been backing up my FreeBSD desktop by the simple expedient of rsync’ing ~des to a server with redundant storage; when I get around to it, I’ll set up a Bacula server backed by the Drobo.

Windows Update and Automatic Reboots

Glad to see I’m not the only one pissed off by this. I found a useful article on this topic on the Microsoft Update Product Team’s blog. The article was written back in the Vista days, but the procedure is the same in Windows 7, except that it’s much quicker to type “Edit Group Policy” in the Start menu search box than to try to find it in the Control Panel.

Brave new world that has such software in it

First impressions of my new Dell Studio XPS 16 with Windows 7:

The Good
  • It’s fast.
  • The screen is really, really nice.
  • Aero is pretty.
  • Face recognition is neat.
The Bad
  • The screen is a veritable dust & lint magnet
  • No clit, so I’ll have to get used to the trackpad (although 99% of the time I have an external mouse hooked up)
  • I have a strange feeling that the keys are larger than on a regular keyboard, although it only takes five seconds with a ruler to verify that they aren’t.
  • F’ed up keyboard layout. Not MacBook-f’ed up, and not so f’ed up I won’t get used to it, but sufficiently f’ed up that when I do get used to it, I’ll have trouble adjusting when I use other machines / keyboards.
  • Had to resort to Google to figure out where the disk activity indicator is (on the front edge, hidden where you can’t see it without picking up the machine)
The Ugly
  • The camera activity indicator is also hidden where you can’t see it without picking up the machine. Actually, it’s about 1 cm to the left of the lens, right where it’s supposed to be.
  • The exhaust port is located on the rear edge of the machine so the bottom of the screen covers it when the lid is open.
  • Bluetooth didn’t work out of the box. I’m pretty sure I didn’t order the machine without Bluetooth. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can’t even get the machine without Bluetooth even if you wanted to. In fact, I checked.
  • When I rebooted to check that there actually is a Bluetooth radio in the machine (there is) and that it is enabled in BIOS (it is), 7 blue-screened.
  • After rebooting, the Bluetooth radio still doesn’t show up in the device manager, and the driver fails to install.
  • When I rebooted a second time to check the BIOS again, I got a BSoD again. Two for two. Wheee!

Update: three for three; I suspect it may have something to do with my phone, which I have to connect using USB since Bluetooth doesn’t work.