Main Line Commodore User 

Backing Up - What, How, When?

Tools for the HOW

Some considerations are the media available for back up files and the software enablers to do the task. While we are not going to be able to deal in detail with ALL these items, here are some basic checklists; so folks can be sure they have considered more or less all the options.

  1. Hardware Options

    Listed by type and approximate storage:

    This is a pretty staggering list - and I'm sure I skipped something. Not all of them are common; so they may NOT all be desirable options - especially if you need to do the restore to something other than your own system. Or, since they are all potentially useable to transfer files to others, the more common ones should be considered first as you think thru your needs.

  2. Software Tools

    - there are very many options here, with lots of proprietary programs out there. Consider this a definite starter listing. So here goes - each program and some hint of its function(s):




    (to be cont.)

What to Backup

Following on the February meeting discussion, I am offering some personal thoughts on computer organization aimed at easing back up problems and restoration of damaged operating systems. Feedback is strongly solicited- ed.!

Let's begin, and hopefully, we can generate some discussion and input from meeting attendees (and on the BBS, too) to guide us in developing recommendations that may be useful to our members. And to any others they may want to pass the gospel to.....

So, let's start with what. Conventional wisdom has it that one needs primarily to backup the data files that one creates or acquires as they use their systems. Whether it's that really neat "saved game" or the friendly image or the Y2000 tax return, or whatever. And, in the Commodore and DOS days of some of our members early experience, this was largely true. You backed up the data; so that when complete disaster struck, you could:

  1. re-install DOS (a few minutes work) - your Commodore had its DOS in ROM; so no re-install was needed (or possible).

  2. re-install your applications - which could take awhile, but was relatively straightforward.

  3. restore your data from the backups.

  4. go roaring off again!

However, for those who migrated to Windows, or started with it, the situation is no longer so clean and simple. For the following reasons:
  1. re-installing Windows and getting it re-customized to your taste is time consuming and difficult to get back to "just the way you had it", especially if it has been a while since you had to do it. Most of us do not have any very good records of what we have actually put in place (see the tip on p.5 for an assist in this regard.)

  2. re-installing applications and re-customizing is similarly tedious. Unlike DOS applications, the components of a Windows program are not neatly compartmented in their own folder, but distributed between that folder and the Windows folder (and sometimes elsewhere, too). Your data is very likely to be similarly divorced from the application, especially if you use the Windows defaults for data storage.

  3. data is much more voluminous and, like the OS and the programs, no longer amenable to backing up to diskettes.


Given the above evolution and complexity, I'd like to suggest some approaches. These suggestions are based on the availability of some pretty good software and hardware tools that are real aids to cope with the growth in: So, the task can be massive!

Think about these suggestions:

  1. keep your operating system and programs separate from your data - start by setting up a C: drive for your OS and programs and a D: drive for your data

    [Note: member Layton Fireng uses a C:, D:, E: where C: is for the OS, D: is for the programs and E: if for his data. This keeps the OS partition more compact and easier to back up.]

  2. customize your programs so they do NOT store their data on the C: drive - but put it on your data drive

    My main exception in this C:/D: recommendation is for very large programs; such as, many games that benefit by having the contents of one or more CD-ROMs transferred to the hard drive. That stuff is not needed on the C: drive and just complicates backing it up. Some big programs, like suites, if they will allow it, could probably benefit from a similar D: drive installation.

    If you have a typical purchased PC, it likely has only a C: drive, even if it has a 40 GB hard drive! If you build one, you can set it up to have two (or more) drives. For the purchased one, you could achieve the desired result with a utility like Partition Magic (this change might be done, for example, after a club meeting, where you could bring in your computer and the work could be done. Note: this is a real time consuming task if you have a large hard drive).

    BUT, with this change implemented, you will have taken the first step to disciplined backing up.....

Posted on Sun, Jan. 18, 2004

FAQ | The what and how of backing up a PC

By John J. Fried
Inquirer Columnist
Q: Everyone asks if I've backed up my computer. This is one of those simple questions that I can't seem to get answered: What exactly am I backing up, to where, and how do I do it?

A: It may be a simple question, but the answer isn't, so let's break it up into its components.

What to back up. Consider backing up these:

Files containing documents, letters and any other data you have created, whether with a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a financial program such as Quicken or Money, or a database application.

Digital multimedia files. It is particularly important to backup music files you have bought online. Also, back up photographs you are storing on your hard drive, but have not printed.

E-mail files. Certainly back up your address book, and probably any e-mail messages you want to keep. To back up Outlook Express messages, search for files ending in the .dbx extension. To back up your OE address book, search for a file ending in the .wab extension. To back up Outlook, look for a file ending in .pst. The Help section of other programs should divulge what extensions they use.

(Always write down exactly the complete path to the folders in which those files are stored, because you will have to guide the software you use to back up stuff to those folders. A fictional example: C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\mydbx.files)

Downloaded programs. If you buy programs online, back them up. If a vendor sent you an e-mail with a special code to open the program, back up that message, even if you ignore all your other ones.

Program and driver upgrades. These are especially important if you have to reformat your hard drive and reinstall your programs and hardware.

Favorites or Bookmarks. You do not want to have to find again the 300 Web sites you have come to think of as special. Use Windows Search to look for the Favorites folder. Again, write down the path to that folder.

Where to back up. My favorite medium for receiving backups is a hard drive. As a class, hard drives are highly dependable. Also, you will not have to worry about keeping track of disks or labeling them.

If you are somewhat daring and handy, install an internal drive. If not, and if you have some spare change, buy an external one. These are particularly handy if you want to shuttle data to another computer.

Second-choice medium is the CD-R disc, which is more reliable and less troublesome than a CD-RW disc. Of course, for this, you need a CD drive capable of burning CDs.

Also consider either an external or internal Zip drive.

What to use. If you opt for a hard drive, the best option is a program that automatically and immediately backs up any file you create or change. Iomega's Desktop Hard Drive comes with such a program. But CMS also makes some good hardware-software backup combos.

Another acceptable program, which you can use to back up to hard drives as well as other media, is Backup MyPC from Stomp.

How to prepare. If you have not already done so to organize your hard drive, create special folders to hold your data, photographs, downloaded programs and music, as well as program and driver upgrades.

Move all the relevant files to these folders, and save new files to them. Remember the paths.

When you configure your backup program, have it look in the folders you created, as well as in folders where your e-mail and Favorites are stored.

Some programs - Quicken or Money, for example - can create backups themselves. Those backup files should also go into a special folder and then be backed up a second time from there.

On the Web

To be continued ...

Last modified: Sun Jan 18 13:11:34 2004