Get up to Speed on Windows XP

Windows XP

Story Contents


Facts & Figures

Home & Pro Differences

Behind the New Wheel

Folders & Special Folders

Looking at 'My Pictures'

Windows Media Player 8

Internet Explorer 6.0

Functional Improvements

Personal Firewall

Remote Assistance

Backup & Restore

Product Activation

Hardware and Setup

Will Your Programs Run?


Beta Conclusions

Backup and Restore

For a knowledgeable user, Microsoft's latest Backup utility is the most functional and useful backup program ever shipped with Windows. Of course, if you've used previous Windows backup programs you know that isn't necessarily strong praise. Microsoft's backup utilities haven't been all that good in the past, and they couldn't handle anything but tape media, which was ridiculous in the age of network storage and CD-RWs. Yet it does appear that this time the "Backup in the box" will be good enough for a lot of people to actually use.

On launch, the backup program gives you the option of either running in Wizard mode (step-by-step guidance through common tasks) or Expert mode (you take the wheel). Configuring backup jobs is a bit tedious, even with the wizard, which can only create one job at a time, even though any useful backup regimen will consist of two or more jobs. For example, you might do a weekly backup job and a daily incremental, or differential, backup. Since many users won't be familiar with backup procedures, the wizard really should work a level above this by setting up a complete backup regimen and scheduling the necessary jobs all at once.

Automated System Recovery
Making a System State backup, which contains the Registry and a number of other important Windows files, is a standard option. The Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard is a nifty feature of the new backup utility. With it you can build a floppy boot disk and file-backup set (stored on CD, perhaps) that contain crucial system files. If your PC encounters catastrophe, you can use these disks to rebuild your system.

It's great to be able to schedule backups with a calendar, although a more coordinated approach with other protection mechanisms would have been even better.
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It's great to be able to schedule backups with a calendar, although a more coordinated approach with other protection mechanisms would have been even better.

One problem with Automated System Recovery is that the size of the files it creates may not fit a standard CD-RW CD. And because Windows XP doesn't offer the ability to span file sets across CDs, you would need to do that manually with a third-party utility. Another gotcha: Although you can do other things while a backup is in progress, you run the risk of accessing files you may be backing up. When that happens, those files won't be copied.

On the plus side, backup time for 1.15GB of data on a 667MHz PIII was 6 minutes 30 seconds to a local Ultra ATA/66 hard drive. The new Backup program is also well documented. All the program's options and features are clearly explained, along with some useful background on the different types of backup (full, incremental, and differential).

Snapshot Feature
Backup has a feature called "snapshot" that lets you backup files that are currently open by another program. If you don't use snapshot, any files that are open (for example, your mail folders if you have Outlook running) won't be backed up. By default, Backup uses snapshot mode. However, snapshot requires the optional NTFS file system to work correctly. If you do a backup on a FAT32 hard disk, Snapshot won't be used and any open files will not be backed up. This is something to consider when deciding whether to convert to the NTFS file system.

It would be much better if System Restore were integrated into the Backup/Restore process instead of being its own separate world. Sure disk space is cheap, but why should the OS have two unrelated ways of saving and restoring important system data?

Perhaps that's because the Backup program is only available in the Pro version of Windows XP. This seems incredibly short-sighted. Shouldn't they be encouraging less experienced users to do backups?

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