[bct] Re: Backups

  • From: "Sarah" <kales2@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 16:45:47 -0700

Yep. I acually started using karins replicator. I spelled that wrong but it 
is very accesible with jaws and I was able to back up my music files in a 
matter of half an hour or so.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Kelly Pierce" <kellyjosef@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 4:25 PM
Subject: [bct] Backups

After a good friend's hard drive crashed, which was recoverable, I got
scared about my system and worked really hard to piece together a backup
solution in the spring of 2005.  last summer I wrote it all up in an article
below.  enjoy.


My Backup System

by Kelly Pierce

For years now I have been searching for a method to backup important data on
my system automatically, seamlessly without me needing to remember to do
anything.  The trouble with burning all my data on a CD is remembering to do
it and scheduling a time for burning when I am not using my computer.  As a
consequence, I end up saving my e-mail only weekly on Cd and overall data
about monthly.  My audio projects are too large to burn onto CD and the
uncompressed audio files aren't transferred to CD until they are in final
form, weeks or months from original file creation.  If a hard drive crashed,
yeiks!  A lot of good work would be lost.

For me, backup nirvana would be a totally passive system.  Once installed,
it backups and saves new files, updates changes to existing files, and
removes deleted files on a daily basis.  It would not be in the computer
case but outside, connected by a cable, so it can be removed instantly and
safeguarded in the event of an emergency or evacuation.

My inspiration came after I read a Walter Mossberg column in the Wall Street
Journal, which I will share below.

    The Wall Street Journal

    October 7, 2004; Page B1

    PC Backup Is a Must Now

    This Method Is Simple, Automated

    by Walter Mossberg

    Backing up your PC is one of those things, like eating right or changing
your oil on time, that everybody knows they're supposed to do, but too few
people actually carry off well. For years, computer experts have warned
users to back up their hard disks regularly, and for years, most people have
ignored them.

    That's because making such copies traditionally has been boring,
laborious or expensive, depending on the method. I can still remember how,
in my early days with computers, I'd sit for what seemed like hours during
backups , feeding dozens of floppy disks into the machine. Later, I would
fumble with balky tape drives and complex backup software.

    But backing up your precious data is more important today than ever.
Computers always have been fragile, subject to crashes and failures. Now,
they are also the target of massive attacks by hackers, virus writers and
other digital criminals. These assaults can corrupt or destroy your files --
including digital photos and music -- or force you to reformat your hard
disk, which also wipes out files.

    So what backup system will protect against such losses and still is easy
enough to use so that people will do so regularly? I recommend buying an
add-on hard disk, and using automated backup software to copy data from your
main hard disk to this backup drive on a regular schedule.

    To overcome user resistance, any backup method must be simple, unlikely
to run out of space and automated. It also should operate unattended, on a
schedule, without requiring any manual action by the user.

    [maxtor's onetouch ii] Maxtor's OneTouch II

    That rules out manually copying files to blank CDs, DVDs or other types
of removable discs. This method may work for some fastidious folks, but for
most people, it requires too much manual effort to be effective. And you
easily can run out of space, or blank discs.

    Another method, subscribing to a service that backs up your data
automatically over the Internet, has the advantage of being automated. But
it can be expensive, and the Web-based services rarely offer enough space to
back up most of the stuff on today's huge hard disks, unless you want to pay
through the nose.

    But the extra hard-disk method, if done right, provides plenty of space,
and it can be completely automated and surprisingly economical. You don't
even have to open up your computer or install anything internally. It's easy
today to buy an external hard disk that plugs into a Windows or Macintosh
computer via the USB 2.0 or FireWire ports and is instantly recognized by
current operating systems.

    Here's how I back up my own Windows hard disk: I purchased a 40-gigabyte
hard disk -- the external plug-in variety -- for less than $100 after
rebates. I keep it plugged into my computer. I also purchased online, for
$35, a small program called SmartSync Pro from a company called SmartSync
Software at www.smsync.com.

    Every night at 2 a.m., the software springs to life and synchronizes key
folders I designated on my hard disk with identical folders on the backup
drive. After the first backup procedure, the program copies only new or
changed files. If I accidentally delete a file or folder, I can easily
retrieve it from the backup drive.

    My method works well for me, but it may not be right for everyone. I did
have to buy the drive and software separately. And the SmartSync Pro program
isn't as simple as it could be. Plus, I am only backing up selected files
and folders, while others may prefer to back up their entire hard disks,
which might require a larger, costlier backup drive.

    So I recently tested a simpler, all-in-one hard-disk backup solution,
the OneTouch II, from Maxtor. This product consists of an external
plug-and-play hard disk, which can be connected to either a Windows or
Macintosh computer via USB 2.0 or FireWire. It includes simple, effective
backup software that can be launched with the touch of a button on the hard
disk. The software also can be run automatically, on a schedule.

    The OneTouch II currently comes in only two relatively large and
expensive versions, a 250-gigabyte model for $329 and a 300-gigabyte model
for $379. They are bigger than most average users need, but the company says
it will offer smaller OneTouch II models, at lower prices, early next year.

    The key to the OneTouch II is the included backup software -- a special,
simplified version of Retrospect, a well-regarded backup program from Dantz
Development. The program can automatically back up your whole hard disk, or
only selected folders and files.

    In my tests, on a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion PC, the OneTouch II installed
quickly and easily, and the software worked fine. My only complaint was that
the initial backup was very slow. Backing up 51 gigabytes took more than 12
hours. Subsequent backups , which only copied new or changed files, were
much quicker. I deleted a couple of test files and was able to restore them
rapidly from the backup disk, using the backup program's "Restore" function.

    OneTouch II is a good product. But whether you buy this all-in-one
solution or get an add-on hard disk and separate software, backing up your
data to a second hard disk makes great sense.

    Write to Walter S. Mossberg at

the article mentions two programs:  retrospect and SmartSync Pro.  Posters
on various blindness-related online mailing lists report that Retrospect is
not accessible to the blind, working quite poorly with screen readers.  What
about SmartSync Pro? Well, I am please to report that I have found
accessible backup paradise that allows me to sleep easy at night.

I used a SimpleTech 120-gigabyte hard drive connected to a windows XP home
computer using USB 2.0 and the SmartSync Pro software described in the
article.  The SimpleTech drive runs quietly with no cooling fan.  Users of
Amazon and Cnet had no problems and loved the drive.  I saw a great deal on
techbargains.com at:


For a $30 rebate from buy.com and free shipping.  This website is a great
resource for finding the lowest prices on computer equipment.  The drive
came pre-formatted in FAT32, which was acceptable as it allows me to connect
it to a windows 98 machine if necessary.  The native file system for windows
98 is FAT32 and the native system for Windows XP is NTFS.  Windows XP can
accommodate both but Windows 98 can only run FAT32.  Leaving the drive
formatted in FAT32 gives me the flexibility to connect the drive in any
computer produced during the past eight years, in the event that my system
fails entirely.  Included in the box was a USB cable and power supply.
Installation took 60 seconds and totally consisted of plugging the power
supply into a wall socket and connecting the drive to a USB port on my
computer.  My computer instantly recognized it as a separate hard drive and
automatically assigned it a drive letter.

The big uncertainty was the accessibility of SmartSync Pro.  The program is
shareware, so I could try it for 30 days without buying it.  Within hours of
installing it, I loved it.  It is really accessible, although some use of
the JAWS cursor is needed though.  The interface could be a little more
straightforward, but I figured it out easily enough in a couple of hours.
The software is incredibly flexible, performing backups on a schedule, in
real time, or at certain time intervals, such as every two hours.  A group
of folders can be backed up at the same time on the same schedule or each
folder can be configured to be backed up on its own terms.  Unlike other
programs, SmartSync Pro doesn't produce its backup in a proprietary file
format.  It copies exactly what is on your computer's hard drive to the
external drive.  New files are copied automatically.  Files that have been
changed are updated automatically on a schedule specified in the folder
configuration.  Deleted files are also deleted.  However, SmartSync Pro
confirms each deletion from the external drive in the event of an accidental
deletion from your computer.  The program also offers a second chance for
deleted items, placing them in a special folder on your computer's hard
drive for possible future retrieval.

Personally, I backup only my data files and folders.  I don't backup my
entire hard drive.  I have heard of too many instances where a file became
corrupted and re-installing the entire hard drive was not possible.  Rather
than add complexity and risk, I back up only my irreplaceable data that has
taken many hours to create over the years.  Windows, Winamp, Duxbury, JAWS,
Microsoft Office, and sound Forge can easily be installed again and again.
I do save customizable files from these programs, such as Real Player and
Winamp bookmarks, word's customized dictionary, and similar files.

My schedule is so erratic that I can't commit to a set backup schedule as I
don't leave my computer on 24 hours a day.  I do though backup the "My
Documents" folder every two hours and other folders every three hours.  Some
folders are backed up in real time while others used for archival purposes
are backed up manually.

Finally, I can sleep easily at night knowing that if my computer's hard
drive crashed at any moment and the data was completely unrecoverable I
would loose nothing and instantly be able to take my USB drive and plug it
into any PC produced during the last eight years or so and be back in
business with little disruption to my life, work, or my projects.

Kelly Pierce

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