Me and My Shadow
by Alan German
had a slightly-panicked 'phone call from a friend whose
computer was refusing to boot. He was working on a
scientific paper and was leaving for a conference in
Germany in just a few days. His computer had a USB hub,
bristling with memory sticks and external hard drives
but, of course, he had been busy, and hadn't backed up
his work for some time. Could I help?
Two things came to mind. Either, the hard disk had
crashed, in which case the data files might be gone for
good, or there had been a failure in some other hardware
component in the machine and it might be possible to
recover data from the disk.
The computer was in a sorry state. Lights came on in the
front panel, fans roared into life, one of the two CD
drives blinked incessantly, but neither drive would open
and the computers display screen showed absolutely
no signs of life. Furthermore, the machine gave no
POST-type beeps on the systems speaker, and did not
respond to pressing function keys to access the BIOS or
In an earlier conversation, Bob Gowan had told me how
easy it was to install a spare hard drive in an
enclosure, and hence turn the disk into an external USB
drive. Now was the time to put this sage advice into
practice. So, it was off to the computer store to
purchase such an enclosure. As Bob had indicated,
installing the disk was extremely simple, connect a
couple of cables, tighten a few screws, and voila
an instant USB drive! Now, all we had to do was to
plug in the power brick, and insert the USB connector
into a spare port on a second machine. The green progress
bar in Windows Explorer took a disconcerting age to run
across the top of the window but, eventually, the
complete contents of the 250 GB drive were listed. The
final part of the process was to back up the relevant
data files to another external USB drive. No more chances
were being taken with this puppy!
So, that solved the immediate problem. But what of the
future? Sure, we could replace the dead machine with a
newer, faster, and more powerful computer, but how were
we to ensure that when the next hardware failure occurs
perhaps this time to the hard drive itself!
that the important data will be backed up?
The ultimate solution may well be to add yet another
machine and, as outlined by Rick Claus at our November,
2007 meeting, install Windows Home Server (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/
products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/) in order to provide a platform
on which to back up all of my friends computers,
laptop included, automatically, and on a regular basis.
Folder synchronization programs, such as SyncToy (http://opcug.ca/Reviews/synctoy.htm) are fine, but they generally
need the user to run them regularly or even
occasionally to generate backup files. Clearly, my
friend had failed the latter test! So, is there another
option? Is there a folder sync program out there that
will run automatically, preferably in real time, and
duplicate my friends work as it is completed?
Well, of course, the answer is a resounding yes. And,
even better, there is a free solution to the problem
the unregistered version of Quick
Shadow Backup. This utility promises to monitor one or
more file folders on a drive and create on-the-fly
backups to a second disk.
To test the system, I dug out an old 16 MB SD card that
originally came with the purchase of a digital camera
(and was quickly replaced with a 2 GB card) and inserted
the old card into the built-in reader on my machine.
While having insufficient storage for digital images, the
card would be perfect for my test setup which was to
backup a data folder with around 7 MB of files. Recycling
at its finest!
The setup process was simple. I
specified the path for the data folder to be backed up
and the drive letter for the SD card, thus forming a
backup set in Quick Shadow parlance. I also
configured the settings on the options tab to have the
program ignore any system and hidden files, to delete
files on the target disk when the equivalent files were
deleted from the source, and to log the programs
operations. Finally, I clicked the button on the
programs main screen to initiate the file
monitoring and copying process, sat back, and waited.
initially consisted of downloading and storing a couple
of files in one of the sub-folders being monitored. One
of the files was an update to a previously-stored set of
minutes of a meeting, and the other was a new file with
the draft minutes from a more recent meeting. Then I
started work on the document for the article that you are
reading. This included creating a new Word file in a
different sub-folder, grabbing a couple of screenshots of
Quick Shadows operations, packaging these into the
final article, and then deleting the original image
As you can see from the screenshot of the programs
log file, Quick Shadow did indeed store copies of the
various files as they were created and updated, and
deleted the temporary files once they were no longer
needed. The log file contained many entries for deferred
file copying and renaming operations (multiple similar
entries were removed from the file used in the
screenshot) presumably, because the source file was still
open in Word. However, when the file creation and editing
process was complete, the result was an exact copy of the
entire file folder, including all the additions and
deletions to the associated sub-folders. Perfect!
So, Quick Shadow Backup
offers a real-time backup solution for important data
files. The program comes in registered and unregistered
versions. The unregistered program provides the basic
functionality described here, and is available at no
cost. The registered version (US $25) has additional
features, including the ability to specify up to ten
backup sets, two-way folder synchronization, and
management for multiple file versions.
Are your important files backed up? Do you do this on a
regular basis? If the answer to either of these questions
is no, perhaps you should consider an automatic solution
such as that provided by Quick Shadow Backup.
Quick Shadow Backup
(Registered - US $25 and Unregistered - Free)
Originally published: November, 2010
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.