Backup programs keep your data safe from all but disk crashes

John McCormick

Even if you're diligent about making regular backups, there's always a gap between the time of your last backup and when the system crash occurs. You're lucky if the gap is measured in hours. Sometimes days' or weeks' worth of work gets lost for lack of a regular backup procedure.

Take a look at two utilities that save your data. They are GoBack from WildFile Inc. of Plymouth, Minn., now owned by Adaptec Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., and Second Chance from PowerQuest Corp. of Orem, Utah.

You can configure certain applications to make automatic backups of your work at timed intervals, but these programs keep an audit trail of practically everything that happens on your computer.

Still there

GoBack takes over about 10 percent of the hard drive's capacity. Every time you save to the hard drive, GoBack makes a copy to the dedicated backup file. The oldest item gets pushed out by the newest, but on most new computers you can count on at least 1G of backup data from which to restore.

If you have a 20G drive as I do, that's nearly 2G of continuous backup space.

Second Chance operates almost the same way, but by default it saves copies at fixed intervals, not each time a change is made to the hard drive. Second Chance might be the better choice for slower machines.

On most fast PCs, you shouldn't notice any slowdown from GoBack. I like the fact that it can take me back to any number of rough drafts of my work.

Keep it tidy

It's possible to make regular sequential backups of files as you work by simply renaming each time you save, but it clutters up storage with a morass of slightly altered files.

GoBack and Second Chance do the same thing but manage the old files automatically.

You can adjust Second Chance's backup intervals until they are virtually continuous.

Both programs cost about $50 and work only under Microsoft Windows 9x, not NT or Windows 2000. Both allow selective restoration, let you boot from an emergency floppy and store copies of the registry. It's difficult to choose between them but easy enough to see that lots of computer users should buy one or the other.

For more details, take a look at www.goback.com and www.powerquest.com.

Recovery room

Either program will save data lost by carelessness, system crashes or virus infections. Use them in addition to regular backups on tape or other media'after all, if the hard drive crashes, you won't be able to access these programs, either.

While you're installing one or the other, check to see whether that dust-covered tape backup drive still works.

• • •

I want to apologize to any readers who took my advice and spent the time to configure all their e-mail accounts for access at www.desktop.com.

The Web changes daily, sometimes hourly, and after I praised how well the site managed my e-mail accounts, it promptly took away most of the features I valued.

They did come back after a few more weeks. Everything again worked great for a while, but then the site started acting up, and I eventually deleted my profiles. The service was brilliant in concept. Perhaps someday it will be reliable enough to use again.

Desktop.com never damaged any of my files or lost any of my e-mail. It simply took so much tweaking and so long to load each morning that the time saved by its multiple-account e-mail management got eaten up.

If you tried the site, I hope you had better luck.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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