There are several utilities designed to make it easier to back up Outlook Express, so I downloaded a few and brought them with me. Outlook Express Backup Wizard has an interesting offer: if you provide a permanent link to their site (using their HTML code), you can get the $39.95 full version for free. It’s a very simple program, a mere 858 K download, and you get two options when you start up: back up Outlook Express, or restore an Outlook Express backup. I installed it for my client and checked the appropriate boxes to back up her Outlook Express identities, mail, and address books.
The first time it ran, it seemed to hang up, but I discovered on the second try that this appearance was deceptive. After running through the first part of its process quickly, it takes some time to complete. Nevertheless installing it, running it, demonstrating it to my client, and then configuring Karen’s Replicator to back up her My Documents folder (in which the OE backups are now stored) to her external hard drive took less than an hour.
Setting up the external drive itself was a no-brainer. It was a modest-priced Maxtor drive which needed only to be plugged in and hooked up. (This is actually true of most ready-made external drives; the problems I discussed in the previous week were not with the Seagate drive, but with the client’s FireWire port.) While external hard drives are almost as vulnerable to failure as internal drives (I say “almost” because an external drive is usually not at risk from a problem with a different component in the machine), they are by far the fastest and easiest method of backing up and restoring your data. You can always copy the most important data from the external drive onto CD or DVD to send off-site.
On a less positive note, I spent nearly four hours on the 20th making space on my own external drive to back up a client’s machine before reinstalling it. This client owns an XHD—I’ve seen it. But it was nowhere to be found, and the client is out of the country. It’s possible their regular tech person has taken it off site, or that it’s in the safe deposit box—both good practices, but not convenient in the circumstances.
I was tempted to cannibalize the 40 GB iPod, but the nature of iPods is that they don’t automatically show up as a drive: you need special software to use them for anything but music, and I had serious doubts about getting it recognized in PC-DOS. Besides, it was full, or nearly so. (I admit to being short on iPod expertise, as I use a different brand of MP3 player, one with far too little memory to consider using to back up a drive image.)
So I found myself creating CD after CD in order to free up the 25 GB I would need to back up her 40 GB drive. Oh, I could have made the Ghost backup directly onto CD, but my last experience with that was not a good one, as a CD got scratched and ruined the backup. Besides, it would have taken at least as long to do it that way, and then a painfully long time to restore anything from that backup.
In addition to the several-times-daily backups of my own current files and the roughly-weekly Ghost backups of my drive, I use the XHD to store things which I need with some frequency, but not enough to keep them on my main drive. It’s a handy place to keep software installers, for instance, which is why I had it along with me in the first place. I made several CDs with audio files and pictures and a few with programs, and finally had enough room to back up my client’s machine.
Once that was done, the actual backup via FireWire took only about an hour. Then at last I was able to reformat the drive and install a fresh copy of Windows. Today I’ll finish restoring the data from the backup and reinstalling the last of the software (as well as setting up the new CardScan device). But moving the backup off of my drive and onto the client’s will have to wait until she’s back in town and we find her external drive.
She won’t need to keep that backup forever, just long enough to make sure she has everything she needs. Ideally I would create a new backup of the just-reinstalled system, but I don’t have anyplace to put it.
Perhaps it’s time for me to get a spare drive to put client documents on when doing this kind of work. What I’d most like to do, of course, is get one of the hard drive manufacturers to send me one to review. So far, however, it’s only software companies soliciting me for endorsements—on which subject more in the future.