A NOTE RE WINDOWS 95/98 BACKUPS

I happen to have a SCSI DAT tape drive (as well as a SCSI CD burner) on my Windoze 98 machine here. Now, I recently attempted to create a backup for the Windoze machine using its SCSI tape drive in conjunction with the Microsoft Backup program (*). And everything looked normal for a while ... it ran for about 8 hours creating my backup. But then (during "verify" mode) it gave me a tape seek error! Argghhh ... !!!

So gritting my teeth, I decided instead to re-run the backup using a variant of my Linux CD-R backup method as follows: (#)

I altered the options in Microsoft Backup to back up to a file instead of to tape. Then I ran the whole backup again. The result (after about 30 minutes) for my drive C was an 1800Mb .QIC file. I then split this into three 600Mb chunks using Winsplit95 ("cardware"). Finally, I burned these chunks onto three separate CDs (one chunk per CD).

NOTE: Don't forget to include the appropriate .Split files generated by Winsplit95 on your CD as well - it needs those to do the unsplit!

For recovery, one must re-assemble these chunks from the CDs into one .QIC file (again using Winsplit), run Microsoft Backup, click on the "recover" tab, and select the desired files and directories.

NOTE - You must maintain enough spare disc somewhere on which to re-assemble these split pieces on your CDs back into the original .QIC file(s) via Winsplit if and when the need arises! Or at the very least be prepared to make room when required. Microsoft Backup can only restore from complete .QIC files on your hard drive (or from tape).

(*) Microsoft Backup normally lives in Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools. It is not included in the default Windoze installation, so if you can't find it, you'll need to go off to Control Panel -> Add/Remove programs - then click on the Windoze Setup tab and select System Tools -> Details. Then tick Backup and click your way back out via the 'Okay' buttons.


Hint: When running Microsoft Backup, make sure you tick the Backup Windows Registry box. The silly program excludes it by default in some builds of Windows 95, making complete disaster recovery impossible. (... heavy sigh ...)


(#) An alternative to splitting (well, not really)

If you'd prefer to avoid using Winsplit (and the need to maintain spare disc for recovery), you can in principle use careful directory selection within Microsoft Backup so that your first few directories go into one .QIC archive, a few more directories into the next one, and so on. The obvious difficulty with such an approach is in trying to judge just how many directories to include in each .QIC archive to achieve a size of around 600Mb - especially when compression is selected. Using something like Winsplit simplifies all this.


Q: What's worse than not making a backup?
A: Making a backup that doesn't work.

After making a backup using this (or any other) method, always invest the time to check the result. A reasonable check with the above methods is to satisfy yourself via a dummy recovery run from your backup CDs that you actually can reach the point where you can select and see your files and directories in the Microsoft Backup recovery window. Once you reach that point, you know with a fair degree of certainty that your archive is good.


Caveats

You cannot use Microsoft Backup to create .QIC backup files such as this under Microsoft Windoze NT - it only supports "devices" such as tape. (Tres inflexible, eh, Bill?) In other words - this whole system will only work with Win 95/98/2000 or XP.

Also note that Win XP backup files are incompatible with 95 and 98! So if you upgrade to XP, you will not be able to restore files from your Win 95/98 backups unless you have another Win 95/98 machine handy for use as an intermediary.(Also tres inflexible, but not unexpected - it is Micro$oft.) In any case, XP already has elements of Orwell's "Big Brother" in it so it's wise to avoid using it wherever possible (check out the dark force's current project and in particular the link to the article on The Register if you'd like to learn more about this.)


  Some general observations re backups, etc, as related to Unix and MS Windows. Written just after yet another NT disaster :-(

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