Rob Kraft's Software Development Blog

Software Development Insights

Carbonite Backs Up Well, But Does Not Restore Well

Posted by robkraft on July 23, 2012

I started using Carbonite in mid-June to back up all my important files on my PC.  Just a few weeks later a failed device driver installation began causing my PC to blue screen and I was unable to fix it.  Fortunately, I run inside a virtual machine, Microsoft Virtual Hard Drive (VHD), so I restored my VHD from my last VHD backup made at the end of June then went to Carbonite to download all the files that had changed since my end of June VHD backup.  That is when I learned what you may consider troubling truth about Carbonite.

While Carbonite is good at backing up your files, it is not so good at restoring them.  My first attempt at restoration, which required about 20 hours to restore 28,000+ files (an acceptable amount of time) appeared to work on the surface, and it even gave me a report showing all the files that it had restored.  But when I looked at my important files, none of them had newer date timestamps on them, and when I looked at the contents of the file they were not updated.  To make a long story short, after slowly spending 4 to 6 hours going through every tier of Carbonite support I reached the top tier who told me that, “Carbonite does not overwrite existing files.”  Apparently it only gives one the illusion that it does.

Now this restore solution may work fine if you have bought a new PC, re-installed the OS, and are looking to re-acquire all of your music and pictures, but if you are just restoring over some existing files and hope to get the latest version, you need to pick a new restore strategy.  Personally I think there are two flaws (three flaws) here:

1) Carbonite documentation and first three levels of support were not aware and could not convey to me that a full restore will not overwrite any existing files.

2) The report generated by the full restore indicated that a file had been restored.  The report should have said, “Can not restore over existing files when doing a full restore.”

3) There is no option to restore over existing files.  I understand the risk, so make me click four or five confirmation prompts first, but at least give me the option.

My recourse was to restore everything to a different set of folders, then hunt through all the restored files for files I cared about that had a datetime newer than my local version, and then manually copy the files into the new locations.

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