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10-21-2018, 12:21 PM   #1
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Advice on Windows 10 - including proper use and setup of internal SSD and hard disks

So, I recently took delivery of my new laptop. Believe it or not, this is the first machine I've ever owned more than one internal storage drive. Drive 0 ("C:") is an Intel 760p 512GB SSD, and drive 1 ("D:") is a 2TB Seagate FireCuda SSHD.

I'd initially intended to run Linux Mint 18.3 or 19 on it, but it seems some of the hardware and architecture is ahead of the Linux development curve. I've only so much patience and time to devote to getting it working, so for now I'm resorting to Windows 10 as my operating system. It's not a big problem for me, since I'm more interested in being able to run the software I need and like, and all of that is available for Windows too. Plus, due to the specification of the machine and that SSD, it seems to run Windows very quickly indeed

I've completed my install of Windows 10 onto the SSD. My intention was that I'd use the SSD for the operating system and applications software only, while the hard drive would be for data storage.

As a result, I have some questions and need for advice, and I hope some of you good folks might be able to educate me :

1) Creating and restoring system restore points

I'm aware that SSDs have a lower life expectancy in terms of write cycles than HDDs. So, should I store my system restore points on the hard disk instead of the SSD?

2) Directory structure for hard disk

My working assumption is that, for the sake of consistency between drives, I should set up a directory structure on my hard disk that is identical to what has been created on my SSD during Windows installation, ie.:

D:\Users
\[username]
\Documents
\Downloads
\Music
\Video
\...
\Public
\Documents
\Downloads
\Music
\Video
\...
etc.

Does that make good sense? Or, since I'm the only person using this computer, should I do away with the user structure and just create Documents, Downloads etc. directories in the root of the hard drive?

3) Backups

I've become very fond of Timeshift in Linux Mint 18.3 to produce regular backups of both system software and my data files onto external hard disks. Restore points will give me an in-computer recovery capability, but I still want to take backups to external media. What's the best way to do this in Windows for (a) my operating system, (b) my installed applications and settings (if different to (a)), and (c) my data? Also, can each these be run manually as required? My ideal setup would allow me to have restore points created automatically every day, combined with manually-executed backups to external media weekly, or more often if required (for instance, after a day's shooting).

4) System recovery

I have a bootable Windows 10 Installation Media USB stick (and a backup of same) as well as my product activation key. Do I need anything else in order to recover my system in the event of failure? I seem to recall that Microsoft used to recommend producing a recovery drive. Is that still necessary, and separate to the installation media?

5) Firewall, anti-virus, anti-malware and browser protection

One of the things I loved about running Linux was the lack of need for workstation-level anti-virus. On my Linux Mint 18.3 setups (still on my old laptop and my low-end desktop) I had the supplied firewall running, along with uBlock Origin and HTTPS Everywhere add-ins to Firefox, and all security / blocking features of Firefox enabled.

Thinking back to my last Windows setup, I ran the built-in firewall plus the free version of Avast Antivirus. My Dad does the same on his laptop, but also runs Malwarebytes for malware scanning.

Having read many recent articles, I understand that Windows Defender is pretty much as effective as the free anti-virus and anti-malware tools now. If that's the case, my intention would be to run the Windows firewall, Windows Defender, and Firefox with uBlock Origin and HTTPS Everywhere. What do you think of that setup - is it sufficient? I don't browse any... er... "exotic" websites , but as a moderator here I do occasionally need to click on links that new members post to check that they're not malicious.

Any help or advice would be very much appreciated - especially if you're able to include the "why" along with any recommendations of "what" to do!

Many thanks in advance


Last edited by BigMackCam; 10-21-2018 at 01:18 PM.
10-21-2018, 12:59 PM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Having read many recent articles, I understand that Windows Defender is pretty much as effective as the free anti-virus and anti-malware tools now. If that's the case, my intention would be to run the Windows firewall, Windows Defender, and Firefox with uBlock Origin and HTTPS Everywhere. What do you think of that setup - is it sufficient? I don't browse any... er... "exotic" websites , but as a moderator here I do occasionally need to click on links that new members post to check that they're not malicious.
Indeed, Windows defender is going to give you a very similar level of protection to third-party tools. I would recommend to avoid installing such tools, as they can considerably slow down the system (some would argue that anti-viruses are themselves viruses because they not only slow down your system, but also spy on everything that goes on).

However, there are some other things I would recommend that will help keep your system secure. First, create a second user account on your system, and give it admin rights. Convert the account you use on a daily basis to a standard account. This would effectively prevent any malware (that can successfully bypass the UAC prompt) from compromising the entire system. Whenever you need to perform a privileged action (such as installing a system-wide program), you simply need to enter the other account's password.

Second, create a second partition for your sensitive files, and encrypt it using bitlocker. You can also choose to encrypt your OS partition if you have a TPM module- if not, you'd have to present the decryption key at every startup, which can be annoying.

Windows 10's built-in backup tools can automate the entire process for you. File History is probably what you'd be the most interested in. System restores are really only for program and registry settings.

You can also use a third-party tool for more granular control. I use FreeFileSync, which supports running scheduled backups and is great with external drives.

Adam
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10-21-2018, 01:02 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Indeed, Windows defender is going to give you a very similar level of protection to third-party tools. I would recommend to avoid installing such tools, as they can considerably slow down the system (some would argue that anti-viruses are themselves viruses because they not only slow down your system, but also spy on everything that goes on).
Thanks, Adam - very helpful insight, especially that last bit!

Last edited by BigMackCam; 10-21-2018 at 01:34 PM.
10-21-2018, 01:35 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
However, there are some other things I would recommend that will help keep your system secure. First, create a second user account on your system, and give it admin rights. Convert the account you use on a daily basis to a standard account. This would effectively prevent any malware (that can successfully bypass the UAC prompt) from compromising the entire system. Whenever you need to perform a privileged action (such as installing a system-wide program), you simply need to enter the other account's password.

Second, create a second partition for your sensitive files, and encrypt it using bitlocker. You can also choose to encrypt your OS partition if you have a TPM module- if not, you'd have to present the decryption key at every startup, which can be annoying.

Windows 10's built-in backup tools can automate the entire process for you. File History is probably what you'd be the most interested in. System restores are really only for program and registry settings.

You can also use a third-party tool for more granular control. I use FreeFileSync, which supports running scheduled backups and is great with external drives.
Ah... This is *gold dust* for me, Adam - thank you!

Quick question... With File History, do I have to have the external drive connected all the time, or can I connect and disconnect it as necessary (so long as it's not mid operation, of course)? Also, can I use it to work with multiple drives - i.e. both my SSD and hard drive?

10-21-2018, 01:38 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Quick question... With File History, do I have to have the external drive connected all the time, or can I connect and disconnect it as necessary (so long as it's not mid operation, of course)? Also, can I use it to work with multiple drives - i.e. both my SSD and hard drive?
I think it will work whenever that drive is connected- but you can also set up a network drive, which might be more convenient. You can set up multiple backups to multiple drives if you want.

Adam
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10-21-2018, 02:39 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
You can also use a third-party tool for more granular control. I use FreeFileSync, which supports running scheduled backups and is great with external drives.
Adam, I've been looking at FreeFileSync (I didn't know of it 'til you mentioned it), and I really like the look of it.

Another question, if I may...

If I used this to backup both my OS and applications from my SSD and data from my hard drive, how would I use the backups to restore current operating system and apps? Would I use Windows 10 recovery, then restore from the FreeFileSync backup? Would that work?
10-21-2018, 10:28 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
If I used this to backup both my OS and applications from my SSD and data from my hard drive, how would I use the backups to restore current operating system and apps? Would I use Windows 10 recovery, then restore from the FreeFileSync backup? Would that work?
You can use system restore to restore the registry, and the FFS backup to restore the files. But generally speaking, you wouldn't need to do the former unless something really bad happened to corrupt your system, in which case a OS reinstall might be a better solution.

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