This week’s topic is backing up your PDA. As usual, I have a “What happens if you don’t?” story on this subject. If you’re one of those people who has a Palm Pilot or Pocket PC device but doesn’t use it much, you may have experienced this already.
Suddenly, after months of forgetting you even owned it, you want to use your PDA, perhaps to look up a phone number. You drag it out of its hiding place in your briefcase, handbag, or office drawer and push the power button.
So you plug it in to recharge it (assuming the power cable and the PDA are in the same place), and once it’s working again you discover that it’s completely empty: your contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes are nowhere to be found.
How did that happen? PDAs use solid state memory. The operating system and basic programs are stored in flash-ROM, and all of your data in stored in flash RAM—unless you have it on a smart card or memory stick. (Most new PDAs have slots for one or more types of memory card.) Keeping everything in RAM makes PDAs fast and means you don’t have to save your data—but it also means that if the PDA is totally without power, the transistors will lose their charge and everything in flash RAM will flash out of existence. (When changing the batteries, do it fast.)
Generally speaking, you can avoid this problem by recharging your PDA frequently, whether you are using it or not. (Also, avoid leaving it in the hot sun—this seems to drain the charge out of PDAs and cell phones at amazing speeds.)
So how do you get your data back?
Your desktop or laptop is the simplest and most obvious place to back up your PDA. (And your PDA can act as a backup for some of the data on your computer.) Palm devices back up automatically, so if you have an empty Palm, just sync it to the profile on your computer and all will be restored—assuming that you didn’t lose everything on your drive at some point before the PDA went down.
If your PDA or handheld uses Pocket PC (or the older Windows CE), you need to set the backup process yourself. Connect your device, open ActiveSync and select Options | Backup/Restore. It can take up to 30 minutes to make your first backup, depending on how much data and how many optional programs you’ve installed on it.
You can also get third-party products for PDA backups. Most of them require (or include) a Smart Card, which is used to hold the backup the same way an XHD holds the data from your desktop machine.
I haven’t tried any of these personally, so I will only list them and not make recommendations.
- Backup Buddy for Palm OS (Windows & Mac, $29.95)
- BackupMan for Palm OS ($10)
- Botzam Backup ($14.95)
- MDM Mobile Backup card for PalmOS or Pocket PC ($49.99)
- Sprite Backup for Pocket PC ($19.95 basic, $29.95 Premium)
Good luck with backing up your PDAs—and don’t forget to back up your main computer while you’re at it!
Dedicated to saving your data,