Sunday, November 30, 2008

Easy to use Backup software


I have been on the quest for the perfect backup software since many months. It was only last month that I chanced upon the ideal solution for Windows. Here is what I was looking for:

Backup my entire hard disk at one shot. I do not want to spend time selecting what to backup and what not. Portable USB hard drives are cheap enough that I can afford having an external hard drive of the same capacity as my laptop's hard drive. I would rather keep a complete backup of everything.

One step restore. In the event of a hard disk failure, I want the software to restore everything to the exact state at the time of backing up. I do not want to be bothered to reload the operating system, install the programs again, and then copy the data over. That's so 2005.

Automatically scheduled backups. I do not want to invoke the backup program manually. The backup should start automatically, in the background. All I need to do is leave my external hard disk plugged in when I am sitting on my desk, and I can assure that a backup shall be taken at some point.

Free. I do not want to pay for such software!

A few more thoughts on the how's and why's of backups can be found on www.howtohaven.com

Is it too much to ask for? Apparently not. After much research, I found four excellent backup utilities - namely IdleBackup, Cobian Backup, DriveImage XML and Macrium Reflect. My vote as the best software goes to Macrium Reflect. For quick and simple backups of data only, the winner is IdleBackup.

Macrium Reflect is one such tool that does exactly this! Reflect is a free download for home users running Windows XP or Vista, and uses Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy service to ensure smooth, accurate and background backups.

Reflect can perform full and incremental backups of entire partitions at a single go. Backups can be browsed through using Windows Explorer, and individual files can be located within backups quite easily, without using extra software. If you have lost just one file, you can easily fish it out of a backup set rather than having to restore the whole volume back again. Scheduling backups is also quite easy with Reflect. Power users have the ability to use Windows' VBScript to invoke Reflect in a completely automated manner.

In my opinion, the biggest advantage of Reflect was its ability to create a bootable Rescue CD, which is a Linux CD with Reflect's restore software put on it. You need to create the rescue CD once, and store it away safely. In the event of a hard disk failure, the steps for restoration are very easy - (a) install a new hard disk in your computer, (b) connect the external hard disk containing the backup and (c) boot with the rescue CD. Reflect does the rest, through easy to understand prompts.

An excellent tutorial for Macrium Reflect can be found on www.tipsfor.us heavily illustrated with screenshots.

Lastly, I must confess that I am using a Mac since many years. Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes built in with the most amazing backup software I have seen - Time Machine. I wish every operating system came with an easy backup and restore solution such as Time Machine!

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