The first thing you notice about WinBackup 2.0 Pro is that Uniblue not only provides an actual CD, but a printed quick start guide—in almost-flawless English. (Does an “extensible” online libray of white papers stand on telescoped legs like a camera tripod?) There’s also a 54-page PDF manual available from the “Help” menu.
Another thing to like about WinBackup is the modest demands it makes on your hard drive and operating system. SmartSync Pro, which I reviewed for Kickstartnews.com in September 2005, is a good program, but Windows tells me it takes up 239 MB on my modest-sized laptop hard drive, which is less than ideal. Symantec Ghost Corporate 8 Console, by contrast, requires 72.97 MB. More compact than either, WinBackup needs only 41 MB.
WinBackup 2.0 Pro gives you the option to back up to external hard drives, removable drives, USB drives, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, tape or LAN, with options for filtering and compression, “total” or incremental backup, and individual file restoration.
WinBackup’s interface resembles Windows Explorer crossed with tabbed browsing. Each step in the backup process is indicated by a tab across the top of the screen, below which is the Work Area. On the far left is the Task Pane.
I was curious to discover that Outlook showed up in two places in the Backup Sources list: under “Shortcuts” and under “Agents.” Between the two, WinBackup provides the means to back up not just Outlook PST files but Outlook Options covering everything from Mail format to Preferences to Spelling, not to mention the RSS feeds I get through NewsGator and my Skylook conversations. It’s still a bit confusing to have Outlook in two places, but I believe this is because NewsGator and Skylook rely on Microsoft Exchange.
Other “Shortcuts” include Microsoft Windows, Outlook Express, and Internet Explorer. (I don’t have any other agents, and they don’t seem to be covered in the manual, so I’m not sure what else might show up as an agent in WinBackup.) Or you can select a whole drive to back up.
Once you’ve chosen your source files, WinBackup calculates their size and asks you for your destination. The calculation can take quite a while if you’re backing up a large hunk of data (which my outlook.pst and archive.pst files are), and it’s easy to get impatient with the “Estimating Job Size” progress bar. You can move on to “Settings” before it finishes its estimate, however.
This is where you decide whether you want a total or incremental backup, what level of compression you prefer, whether you want to encrypt your backup, and what actions WinBackup should take before or after backing up. (The default choices are “Close Outlook During Backup” and “Shut Down After Backup.”) You can also set up exclusion filters (by file type) and decide whether to erase the CD/DVD or append a new session, if you’re using optical media. Perhaps most importantly, you can choose to verify your backup.
It was at this point in my initial test that WinBackup started to get upset and toss list exclusion errors (whatever those are) at me. Being impatient to conclude a backup and this review, I went back to the beginning and chose a different set of files to back up onto my external drive.
Scheduling options are fairly primitive: never, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. This lacks the flexibility of SmartSync Pro or even the free program Karen’s Replicator which I use for file backups when I start my computer.
My backup job, of a 744 MB folder containing 5262 files, run at high compression with full verification and password-protection, took two hours and 14 minutes over a USB 1.1 connection to an external drive. That’s a very long time to back up such a small quantity of data; the Ghost image of my entire drive only takes about that long (also done over USB 1.1 to the same external drive).
On the other hand, the Ghost backup, although compressed, is not password-protected and isn’t verified. The way I verify it is to open Ghost Explorer and take a look at the files, then extract one at random. (I’ve learned the hard way that if a Ghost backup is damaged, you can’t open it at all.)
Maximum compression reduced my 744 MB of data to a 523 MB .w2b file. (I was already using Windows compression on many of the files; this may be a confounding variable.)
Verification or no verification, the only way to be sure of a backup is to try restoring the files. Clicking WinBackup’s Restore tab takes you to a simple “select backup folder” command line/browser which lets you navigate in typical Windows fashion to your backup file. If the file is encrypted, you’ll get a password prompt, but once you’ve navigated that hurdle, WinBackup will load your backup file into its Work Area under the heading “Restore Source.”
The first time I tried this, the backup archive started to load and then got hung up in the middle, making me wonder whether it would take as long to re-load it as it had to back it up. I shut down WinBackup and restarted it, and then the backup file loaded quickly and gave me a selection of files to restore and a choice of where to restore them.
On my first restore test, I selected “all” under the “Replace” option, and WinBackup restored not only the file, but the entire directory tree, to my Temp folder. On my second test, I picked “None (Restore Missing Files Only)” and got the same result. The trick, I discovered, is to choose “Single Folder” rather than “Alternate Location” under “Restore To”. This will put the files into whichever folder you indicate without replicating the directory structure.
WinBackup 2.0 Professional works, and provides a decent if incomplete range of options. It’s generally easy to use. But it’s slow, and it doesn’t seem to get along very well with my system, for reasons unkown to me and which may be due to something else I have installed on my computer, not to WinBackup alone. I use other programs, such as Microsoft Office, which are at least as prone to mysterious problems. But I need to have absolute confidence in my backup software, and WinBackup doesn’t inspire it.