Can you use the last modified file time on Windows as change indicator for incremental file backups?

Short answer: No.

If your backup software is using the last modified time on Windows as the only indication if a file changed or not the backup software will miss some changed files.

The first issue is that Windows does not update the last modified time until the file is closed by the program writing to it. To work around that your program will need to track which files are open when a shadow copy is created.

The second less known issue is that last modified times are not changed at all if a file is modified by memory mapping it and then modifying it via memory mapping. This isn’t just an edge case – Windows itself creates such files, as well as e.g. Microsoft Exchange and other performance sensitive applications.

UrBackup handles both cases during incremental backups, many other backup software does not.

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