I paid Carbonite for four years of service up front. I have emailed them requesting a refund. No reply yet except an automatic one saying they got my email.
Since I identified the problem I have researched backups available through Windows fairly extensively. I have found not only a workable solution, but a good one and it was in Windows all along.
My Lenovo laptop has what they call an Ultrabay which provides for change out of the DVD drive with a second hard drive with no restrictions on how often you can do it. Backups to an internal drive are a lot faster. I use Bitlocker and Vista Ultimate and only the higher end versions of Vista have the imaging ability which I'll get to shortly, but here's what I came up with that I think will work every bit as well as Carbonite and leave my computer the heck alone while it does it.
Ultimate and one or two other versions of Vista including Enterprise have the ability to do backups two ways. The first is to create an exact "image" on another drive, be it a second internal hard drive, DVDs, USB hard drive or flash drive. The image, when restored to a new hard drive, will make it bootable and identical in every way to the one that failed. Microsoft recommends you make an image about every six months, but I think I will do it more often than that. It really doesn't take that long. If you don't have Ultimate you can either upgrade or buy Acronis, an imaging program. The second Vista backup method is "File Backup." It can be scheduled to run automatically daily, weekly, etc. unlike imaging to my knowledge. Vista decides for itself what files to backup. It does not allow you to edit the list. File backups do not include program files or Windows folders. I did not find a way to check that it had included all the files I want backed up. When I told it to start the file backup, it scanned my drive and I did see scrolling by quickly .jpgs that were not on the list of file types on the list, so maybe it's smart. I'll have to check what it comes up with, but I can't look now because I canceled that backup to first encrypt my backup drive.
Now this is funny. I had encrypted my second hard drive with Bitlocker long ago. My practice before Carbonite was to format the drive to clear out the old backup quickly, then do an XCOPY. It was not bootable, but I don't mind the prospect of reloading everything in the unlikely event of a total hard drive failure. I used to format and reload once a quarter with Windows 98 to keep it semi-stable and got it down to under a day. Here's the funny part. When I told Vista to create an image of my primary drive, it told me that although Bitlocker had encrypted C:, the image would not be encrypted and to keep it in a safe place. When I looked at Bitlocker in Control Panel, not only was Bitlocker off on my backup drive, but it was totally unencrypted which is different. If I did that I've completely forgotten doing it. But who wants an unencrypted backup?? I looked and looked for the solution on this one and didn't come across anything telling me that you couldn't simply image then encrypt the backup drive so I tried it. It worked fine, although it took six hours to encrypt a 250GB drive. Besides a rotten memory, my only theory is that formatting the drive turned off Bitlocker. At any rate keep an eye on Bitlocker in CP to make sure your backup stays encrypted.
With this setup, the idea would be to image periodically and file backup daily. After a hard drive failure you'd restore the image, then the file backup. As I understand it (hazily) file backup recognizes which files have been changed, which have been deleted, and which have been created and updates the file backup appropriately. I do not think you end up with a lot of incremental backups after your initial big one, just a big one that changes a bit each day.
Here's what I will do in the worst case. If my primary drive not only won't boot, but won't even spin I would not have the option of using my drive's hidden partition to restore it to the computer's original state when it was delivered if I hadn't made backup disks (I did). From what I read in my research on this, it appears to be a pretty common oversight.
I don't want to restore to delivery condition anyway. I want it back to yesterday's condition. Here's the plan. I'll install a new blank hard drive where the dead one was. Then I'd connect my USB flash drive with Bitlocker password(s) on it. Then I'll connect whatever my backups are on, in my case a second hard drive. Finally, I need something to boot from, and my backup drive will be using the DVD's slot. But if you have a DVD drive available you can use your Vista installation disk or borrow one. They're all the same. Only the key is different. In my case, I not only won't have a DVD drive available, I don't have a Vista installation disk. And MS decided to remove from SP1 the planned addition of the ability to make one. Thus, unless you do something fancy before the fan is hit, you will not have the ability to access the Repair function on the installation disk, and we must access it to recover.
Thank goodness some helpful souls have recognized this problem, and with their help you can create a Vista startup disk. Of course you must do this before a problem appears, like now! Go here http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/7050.aspx
and follow the directions. Alternative number three will tell you how to create this disk if you don't have access to a Vista installation disk. You will install UTorrent, get the .iso file with it and burn it to a disk. ImageBurn, free, is a good app to burn to CD or DVD. To "burn" this to a flash drive if you will not have a DVD drive available when your backup drive is connected, go here http://sourceforge.net/projects/unetbootin/files/UNetbootin/Custom/unetbootin-eeeubuntu-windows-276.exe/download
. Download the app. Disregard that it says it's for Linux. It works fine on Windows. Save the file, go back and execute it and you'll be done in about 30 seconds. Back to the recovery. I'll set the BIOS to boot from the proper USB drive, which the BIOS must be able to do for Bitlocker to have allowed you to encrypt a disk in the first place.
It took me a while to find what happens after you boot from this startup disk with new drive installed, flash drive with Bitlocker key connected, and backup drive connected. When you boot, select Repair and the system will then automatically recognize the flash drive with the Bitlocker password on it and allow you access to your encrypted backup drive. You can then format the new drive and restore your image to it. Then you copy backed up files to your new drive. Restoring the image would put the drive in the state when you made the image. Using the file backup files will put you back to where you were after the last file backup, hopefully the night before.
This may sound complicated, but it's really not. After you make your startup disk/flash drive if you need to, you just have to make an image and tell the Backup and Restore Center to make automatic file backups every day and everything will happen automatically until you have a disaster... which won't be a disaster! It took me a while to find out how to schedule automatic file backups. The controls for it are buried. You have to tell Backup and Restore to "backup files" and then it will take you to a page where you can schedule automatic backups.
Advantages over Carbonite:
OpenOffice runs like a champ. My installation of it is still stable as a rock and launches quickly. I've used it many times since I uninstalled Carbonite.
Backups are entirely local, thus your files cannot be hacked off their web site. They brag about their security, but if it ain't there it can't be hacked. They also say Carbonite won't interfere with using your computer and how accurate is that?
There is no annual fee. Once you buy a backup hard drive and maybe a flash drive or two you're done paying forever.
Your computer will run fast. I long suspected Vista's indexing was the cause of my problem. It wasn't and indexing really is as light on using resources as people say. Carbonite's indexing, however is a one-eyed monster. It monopolizes the hard drive and crashes OO.
You can backup without an Internet connection.
Your initial backup will not take two weeks. I have a 15Mbps up
(not a misprint) and 25 Mbps down fiber connection and Carbonite never used more than a tiny fraction of it. There is no way to tell it to go man, go. My 30GB backup could have been done in a few hours, but it took two weeks.
Now we'll see about a refund.