After three attempts to repair the power-connector problem with my laptop (and then-only computer), I realized that I would need not one but two computers to replace her. New computers come with warranties, which is good—but to have repairs done under warranty usually means sending the computer back to the manufacturer, which takes a week to ten days, and is NOT good. So I needed not just to back up the data on my machine, but to get a backup machine to use in case something went wrong with the first one.
With a little research and the help of Craigslist and eBay, I was able to purchase two computers with my new-computer budget: a brand-new 15.4″ widescreen Gateway, and a used Dell Latitude PIII with a year still remaining on the on-site service contract. The Gateway is still being assembled and shipped, but I picked up the Dell last week and have been busily installing and configuring it.
One thing about new laptops which I don’t much like is that they don’t have floppy disk drives. True, almost no one uses floppies these days, but a floppy drive is a requirement for using Symantec Ghost 8 Corporate, my preferred drive-mirroring program. You create the floppies from within Windows using Ghost Boot Disk and then use them when making or restoring from backups. They run an operating system called PC-DOS and can thus create an image of your drive when Windows is at rest. When Windows is running, something is always changing, so the chance of an error when creating an image is much too high for my comfort. I’d used Ghost 8 with great success on Keramat (the dying computer) and would prefer to go on using it.
Last year, however, Symantec bought PowerQuest, the makers of DriveImage. The good news is that Ghost 9 does not require a floppy drive. The bad news is that it makes its backups from within Windows. This made me nervous. And while PC Magazine and other reviewers gave Ghost 9 good marks, the Ur-Guru panned it—primarily because it couldn’t recognize his RAID controllers and was therefore totally useless to him.
So I was happy to discover that Astarte came with a floppy drive, the kind you swap with the CD drive. I figured I was all set to go on making backups with Ghost 8, at least on my backup machine.
But for some reason Ghost 8 can’t see my external hard drive when I connect it to Astarte’s USB port. (Astarte doesn’t have a FireWire port, one of her few drawbacks.) It can’t see my CD/DVD-writer, either. It seems to be blind to USB, despite the fact that I had it install USB drivers when I made the floppies, and despite the fact that Astarte can see and use both external drives just fine from within Windows.
This meant I had to use Ghost 9. Since I didn’t want to put a full installation, much less my own data, at risk, I decided to test it on the bare system as I’d bought it. (And I was annoyed to discover that while you can restore from the Ghost 9 CD without starting Windows, you can’t back up directly from the CD. What were they thinking?)
To my relief, it worked just fine, but I still don’t feel entirely satisfied, and I’m going to want to test out some alternatives once the Gateway (whose name, incidentally, is Enheduanna) arrives. It may be that I’ll prefer Retrospect, TrueImage, or another program to Ghost now that I’m entering the floppy-free zone.
Ghost is a disk imaging program. Versions up to 8 were small and fit on a floppy, but USB support was limited. Ghost 9 is after Symantec bought PowerQuest. It’s a lot more bloated and only runs from a full installation.True Image from Acronis is also a disk imaging program. It will create a recovery CD that will both make backups as well as restore them. I prefer it to Ghost 9.Retrospect is an excellent file backup program, but for full system backups, especially Windows XP, it takes a rather complicated route. Check that out in the manual before considering it.
The FileSlinger says
Many people seem to prefer TrueImage, and I do plan to check it out. One thing I do feel obliged to say, though, is that the two-floppy version of Ghost 8 that I had could see both the USB and the FireWire drives on Keramat perfectly well.
When you use Ghost 9, always check out the event logs to make sure it actually ran OK (and tunr on the option to do a verfiy after backing up). Even do a manual verify on the ghost backups. Otherwise you may find, like I did, that when you need to use that Ghost backup, it won’t work! You’ll get some dumb Symantec message about a corrupted backup and there is nothing you can do about it at that point. And of course, Symantec’s Indian help is next to useless.