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Software Review of:
A backup software utility


Bill Hunsicker is a retired computer scientist and software developer who dabbles in photography and genealogy.  whunsick.home.texas.net 

From the January, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

WinBackup is a backup utility, kind of like the Windows XP Backup wizard, but a whole lot better. Yes, Windows XP comes with a BACKUP wizard, which will lead you through the creation/restoration of a file or drive backup.  Yes, the package provided by Microsoft is stable and always there, if you need to restore a file or drive. You might ask, “Then, why would I ever need any thing else?”  Answer: If you are the system administrator and only one ever operating on your system, and you have a disk or tape device with adequate capacity to hold all of your backup files, then you might not need anything more.  However, if you are not yet using Windows XP, or you desire more flexibility and or capability, or something that will remember (schedule) for you, then WinBackup may be just the utility for which you are searching. 

WinBackup provides a very intuitive User Interface (UI) with a look and feel much like Windows explorer.

To run or create a backup, just select the function desired, then click the Backup Job tab and select (or create)  the job.  You can use the Add/Remove Files tab to define or change the files that will be backed up by the job you selected.  In general, the help file explanations are clear and useful. There are built-in wizards and smart help features that are not intrusive, but are there when you want them. 

WinBackup makes it easy for you to protect your data with regular backups.  You can define and save different backup processes for different needs (daily, weekly, monthly, onetime, full device, etc.) and schedule any or all of the processes to run on a recurring basis.

For instance, you might want to protect your e-mail, address folder, and selected databases daily, but back-up large, less frequently changed files only weekly or even monthly.  Differential back-ups are also easy to define and schedule

WinBackup works well from a workstation (or Home PC ) point-of-view and allows you to use a hard drive (internal or external), a network device, or a CD or a DVD writer to output your back-up files. From an individual point-of-view it is a very user-friendly package.  If you are using Outlook or Outlook Express, WinBackup automatically finds your emails and adds an email icon to User Data section for your selection. It also locates your address book, even if it’s not included in your email folder.   Best of all, the scheduled backup will run in the background. It is designed to share the files so the backup can occur even if you are using Outlook at the same time. Be warned, however, that during recovery of e-mail the entire file has to be replaced so any existing e-mails in the Outlook folder would be lost. 

Another nice feature: WinBackup has built-in automatic data compression, which helps reduce output file size. If you just want to protect your Outlook files or you’re” My Documents” directory, its just a click and go and a CD should prove more than adequate. 

For my use, the most significant weakness in the package is that it does not support output to tape.  At least I couldn’t find my SCSI tape drive in its output device list. Nor could I find any reference to “tape” or “tapedrives” in the help file.  Those who have larger systems to protect need some form of bulk storage capacity and may not be ready to invest in 80 or 100 GB external disk drives in place of an existing tape capability.  Storing 80 GB (or more) on CD or DVD could prove expensive too. I know today it may be cheaper to buy a large hard drive than it is to buy a tape drive, but not for those who already own the tape drive and tapes.

For those who need it, WinBackup does have Password protection with built-in 128 or 256 bit AES encryption. It also provides detail backup and error logs.

A minor deficiency I noted was the lack of log print support.  While, I selected Snag-it to capture the images for this article, others might need to actually print out the logs.  Please note that you can view the log easily, but must revert to a copy/paste operation into Notepad or Wordpad, if you desire a printed copy.

The speed of backup was generally good. During my tests, the major limiting factor appeared to be the physical device write speed.  When the output target was a fast internal disk WinBackup backed up 3 GB in just 16 minutes. Across a 100 mbit Ethernet link to an old, slow Windows 98 hard drive (5400RPM) it averaged 1.1 MB/s and took about 50 minutes to process the same 3 GB.  Also note - the first time I sent the resulting backup file across the net it hung at the end.  Although the estimated compressed file was 1.76 GB, the actual exceeded 2GB, and Windows 98 couldn’t handle it.  I had to break my D-Drive Backup into two pieces to solve the problem.  I used a smaller file for the USB test.  When targeted to a USB (1.1) hard drive using 840 MB of files, it appeared to process at about 2.2 MB/s. However, the resulting compressed backup file on the USB device was actually only 255 MB, so actual throughput to the USB device was only 0.68MB/s. I used a stopwatch and observed the actual lights on the drive for the USB test, because of the large data buffer involved.  If you intend to use an external disk to host your output backup files, I would recommend you choose either a Firewire (IEEE 1394) or a USB 2.0  capable device because of the speed limitations of USB 1.1. 

Another minor deficiency noted in the original CD version was that the display of estimated time left in the status window always had 12 hours added to the actual estimate.  

However, the update available for download from LIUtilities.com corrected the problem nicely.

File restoration is just as easy and just as flexible. You can choose to restore an entire backup or any file(s) within it. There is a search function to help find a specific file or set of files.

You can select to have files restored to their original location(s), another location or to a single directory. Of course, if you included password protection during the backup, you will need to enter the same password to accomplish the restore. 

BE WARNED  This is strong data encryption, cracking it would be very difficult and expensive even for the experts.  So select a password you can remember and then protect it. Without it you would not be able to retrieve your backed-up data.

The boxed CD version costs $49.95, but you can download an electronic copy from LIUtilities.com for $29.95.  BestBuy and Buy.COM did not stock it.  CNET.com had it for download only, at $37.00

An in-depth review can be found at myworld.com and they offer purchase options identical to LI Utilities.

You can contact LI Utilities or go to their Web site.

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