By Lenny Bailes
ARCHIVING A WINDOWS 95 workstation or network can be hazardous to your data's health. The utility built into the operating system is not as versatile or full-featured as it should be. But with a little ingenuity, you can overcome some of its shortcomings. We'll take a look at a few of the challenges of backing up with Win95. We'll also show you some neat tricks and clever shareware you can use to overcome those challenges. If that's still not enough, we'll tell you about several well-priced backup drives whose bundled software offers more versatility than Win95's utility.
When you move to Win95, you lose some of your trusty backup allies. In place of powerhouse applications such as Norton Backup, Central Point Backup, Fastback Plus and others, Win95 brings you Microsoft Backup, a small utility applet incapable of supporting newer QIC Wide and Travan tape devices or any SCSI drives.
It's not an ideal solution by any means. Ever try to sort file lists by name, file extension or date with MS Backup? In its haste to abandon DOS forever, Microsoft eliminated the traditional method of tracking files by their DOS file attributes. As a result, you can no longer create differential backups-unless you know how to trick Backup. Read on, and we'll show you what to do.
How about archiving remote Win95 installations over a network, or secondary instances of the OS on a local machine? Because Microsoft considers the Win95 System Registry too sensitive to be archived in the normal way, it built filters into its backup program to hide the Registry and make it difficult to copy. To preserve system settings, you have to select a special Full System Backup set that takes forever to load. Take heart. We'll show you how you can copy the Registry to make remote archiving easy.
Thought you could no longer record and restore long filename attributes from a true MS-DOS command prompt? Long filenames and the Registry seem to require all backup and restore operations be executed from within the OS. If your system crashes-too bad. You can't restore your files unless you reinstall the entire OS. Thanks to a clever shareware package, you can perform emergency backup and restore operations from the DOS command prompt. And you can use your old DOS backup software to create emergency recovery diskettes and recovery procedures. In a pinch, you can also use DOS backup software to archive remote workstations over a network.
Maybe you opted to discard your tape backups and install multiple hard disk arrays. You just open a DOS prompt from within Win95 and run XCOPY *.* /S from drive C: to D:, or from drive D: to E:. This has the advantages of simplicity and brute force, but it's more costly and less flexible than the tape backup solutions that made life easy under Win3.1x. Plus, Win95 and its apps consume more disk space than their predecessors. The 250MB to 350MB tape devices that handled backup chores for Win3.1x systems are no longer up to the task. The good news is that new tape drives are larger, faster and relatively inexpensive.
Win95's Backup doesn't interact with the DOS archive file attribute. Instead, it tracks incremental backups by writing a list of copied files directly into the backup archive. Here's how to turn the incremental backup feature into a differential one:
You may now do as many true differential backups as you want by loading the read-only MYBACK.SET into Win95 Backup. Because the set is write-protected, Win95 won't overwrite it. As a result, Backup will treat each new incremental backup as a true differential backup.
Another problem arises from Win95's overprotective attitude toward the Registry. Here's how to coax it out of hiding.
Win95 hides its Registry in two read-only files called SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT. It also keeps two backup versions, SYSTEM.DA0 and USER.DA0. You can usually find these files in your WINDOWS directory. But some dual-drive systems split Win95 startup files into a small WINDOWS directory on drive C: and a large directory on another partition that contains the bulk of the OS. On these systems, you may find SYSTEM.DAT in one directory and USER.DAT in the other.
Microsoft Backup, along with some other software products such as Seagate Backup Exec, Seagate Backup and Colorado Backup for Windows 95, hide SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT in their selection display windows. You can back up the local Win95 Registry separately by selecting a special option somewhere in each program's interface. But what if you have a crash and want to restore just the SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT files to your computer from DOS? Or, perhaps you want to back up the Windows drive on someone else's machine? To these backup software products, the SYSTEM.DAT, SYSTEM.DA0, USER.DAT and USER.DA0 files on remote drives or computers are invisible and untouchable.
The solution to this problem is simple. To create copies of a Win95 Registry that's accessible from the ordinary file selection window, first open the WINDOWS directory you want to back up in an Explorer or My Computer window. Then do the following:
Although the backup products previously mentioned can't see or archive SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT, they have no trouble with SYSTEM.LB and USER.LB.
Another problem that needs fixing is Win95's DOS booting inadequacies. Long filenames and the Registry require you to execute all backup and restore operations from within the new OS because DOS doesn't support Windows 95's VFAT (virtual FAT) long filenames. Unless a command prompt is running from within the Win95 interface, all files are seen as possessing standard 8.3 filenames with inserted "~" characters. If you back up or restore a disk from DOS, you get all the files and directories, but when you boot into Win95 your desktop is a mess.
Microsoft bundles a limited utility called LFNBK on the Win95 CD-ROM that can record and restore long filenames to your hard disk, but you must run it from a command prompt within Win95. So it's useless for emergency system backup and restore operations from a real DOS command prompt.
Enter the Windows hacker community. D.J. Murdoch's DOSLFNBK is a better version of Microsoft's utility. DOSLFNBK can record and restore long filename attributes from a true MS-DOS command prompt. You can download this freeware program here. Using DOSLFNBK, it's simple to construct a DOS emergency recovery diskette for a Win95 system:
Now create a standard DOS boot disk with the usual information.
If your system becomes corrupted, boot to a real DOS command prompt from a diskette. Perform the necessary disk maintenance on the hard drive. You can even completely reformat the partition and create a blank disk. Next, install or copy your DOS backup software to the partition.
To restore your Win95 system, do the following:
If you don't have the patience for all these workarounds, consider breaking down and buying a backup device. These drives, along with their bundled software, provide more flexibility than Backup fully tweaked. They restore some of the flexibility of your Win3.1x favorites, including the ability to track files by their DOS archive attributes. We'll take a look at four drives-three tape units and one removable hard drive-along with their bundled software.
Our tests show that SCSI and parallel port tape drives from Colorado, Seagate and Iomega are attractive options because of their speed and storage capacity. The latest Travan drives from these companies can hold 10 to 20 times as much data as older 250MB to 350MB QIC 80 tape devices. They're also much faster than the floppy controller-based units popular in the days of Win3.1x. We clocked Iomega's parallel port drive, the Ditto 3200, at an average backup rate of 7.6MB per minute. The SCSI drives from Colorado and Seagate were even faster, although they typically did not live up to their advertised speeds of 31MB per minute and 32.4MB per minute, respectively (see the The Hard Facts on Hardware Devices for test results, pricing and bundled software).
The removable drive we looked at--Iomega's Jaz--offers flexibility not provided by streaming tape drives. The Jaz falls into roughly the same price range as top-of-the-line Travan tape devices. Its removable disk cartridge (1MB uncompressed) is about twice as costly as a Travan TR4 tape cartridge (4MB uncompressed), but, oh, the difference in speed and flexibility! A Jaz disk cartridge is the equivalent of a regular 1GB hard disk. You can store backed up files on a Jaz drive in a standard DOS/Win95 format, and retrieve them in seconds.
Here's the lowdown on the devices we tested.
Seagate TapeStor 8000. This well-designed, rugged unit is available in both internal and external SCSI versions, as well as an internal IDE model. (This was formerly the Conner TapeStor 8000, but in purchasing Conner, Seagate says it is eliminating the Conner name from all hardware and software.) It has a capacity of 4GB uncompressed and 8GB compressed, and writes only to Travan-4 3095 cartridges. Its most annoying flaw is its inability to save copies of a backup catalog rebuilt from a tape. But it gets the job done when others won't.
Installation of the external SCSI version with two different adapter cards was effortless. A readme file warns owners of Future Domain SCSI adapters they may need to upgrade their drivers.
The huge variety of software versions it ships with confounded the TapeStor installation. We found Conner Backup Exec 1.0, Backup Exec 1.1 for Win95, Backup Exec for Win3.1 (Enhanced for Win95) and Seagate Backup 1.1.1 in various boxes. All are actually different versions of the same software. The earlier Win95 versions have minor but irritating bugs that should induce you to upgrade. Seagate Backup 1.1.1 is the OEM version of a package formerly distributed by Arcada. The Arcada version supports other vendors' drives; the Seagate version doesn't. As Seagate consolidates its management of Conner and Arcada, Seagate Backup 1.1.1 should become the standard.
Although the Seagate utility created basic system backups, it wins no stars for extra effort. For instance, it can't save copies of a backup catalog rebuilt from a tape, so if you lose the catalogs saved to disk during your original backups, you're in for a 15-minute to 60-minute wait each time the software rebuilds a tape cartridge's content.
The Seagate Backup package offers the two basic compression options (Save Space and Save Time) and permits Full, Incremental or Differential backup types. It has no capacity to sort file display listings, no "include" date filters and no tape diagnostics. Seagate Backup includes a rudimentary scheduler so you can arrange daily, weekly or monthly backups at any selected time. A configuration wizard allows you to create simple backup sets and quickly restore a volume. Backup of network volumes is supported through an internal Network Neighborhood icon, but it doesn't archive remote instances of the Win95 Registry. If it encounters open files during a background operation, Seagate Backup attempts to change its access level and retry the operation without prompting you.
To its credit, Seagate Backup always delivered. While other, more sophisticated packages occasionally timed out or crashed in mid-operation, Seagate Backup chugged along patiently on all the tasks we assigned it, faithfully archiving and restoring our backup. The average performance speed varied greatly, depending on the hardware platform's configuration. On a P75 ISA system, file transfer was as low as 12MB per minute, and on a P90 PCI system as high as 25MB per minute.
The TapeStor advertises backward compatibility with Travan QIC 3020, 3010, QIC 80 and QIC 80 Wide tapes produced by other Seagate tape devices. We were unable to get it to read QIC 3020 and QIC 80 tapes produced by non-Seagate units.
HP Colorado T4000s. This internal SCSI drive has the same capacity as the Seagate (4GB uncompressed, 8GB compressed), but evidently Colorado decided to be more modest in naming its unit.
Colorado Backup 1.6 shares both the limitations and advantages of the Seagate product. Although it has no preconfigured options for Full, Full Copy, Incremental or Differential backup types, it allows you to create them manually by toggling the archive reset function on or off for any selected set.
We had no trouble installing the T4000s to an internal SCSI connection. Like the Seagate, the Colorado drive features a smart SCSI terminator so you can add it to an existing bus without fussing with jumpers.
The software teases you by offering the option to create backups on local fixed media or network drives. In the current version, this option doesn't work, but Colorado promises to fix it in future releases.
The performance speeds of the T4000s were slightly faster than the TapeStor 8000 (ranging from 13MB to 23.7MB per minute). But the T4000s is more finicky than the Seagate unit. It was recognized by and worked fine with its own software and with NovaStor's NovaBack, but it was incompatible with the latest versions of Cheyenne's ARCsolo and McAfee's SmartStor software. Colorado plans to expand the drive's compatibility through a Flash firmware revision you can download from the Colorado Web site ( http://www.hp.com/isgsupport/cms/index.html) or BBS.
Iomega Ditto Easy 3200. This parallel port drive is the least expensive, easiest to install and most flexible of the tape devices we tested. The SCSI units we tested worked about three times faster than the Ditto with its current software. At press time, Iomega hinted of a new software release that may double the Ditto's performance speed.
Installation was relatively painless, because we knew all parallel port tape drives must retain explicit control of a unique port interrupt. Before we installed the drive we made sure no Sound Blaster or network adapter was surreptitiously competing for IRQ7. Win95 recognized the Ditto drive automatically on our desktop unit.
On a WinBook XP5 portable, when no tape icon appeared, we had to examine the settings for LPT1: in Control Panel/System/Device Manager. Sure enough, the default configuration for LPT1 assigned a port address but no interrupt (because Win95 can print without one). We added IRQ 7 to the default configuration and Win95 recognized the Ditto drive on the next system reboot.
The Ditto's bundled software includes 1-Step Backup for DOS, Win3.1x and Win95. If you want to get your data on tape quickly, the Win95 version is intuitive and friendly. With a couple of mouse clicks, the simple, wizard-driven interface lets you archive everything on your hard drive. The Works brings up a logically designed but more advanced interface that allows you to select specific drives and directories, and configure performance speed. It also provides a rudimentary scheduling calendar. You can back up files weekly or monthly at any time of day, and you can maintain separate schedules for full and incremental backups.
The software offers two data compression options (Save Space and Save Time), and includes all the standard backup types (Full, Full Copy, Incremental and Differential) on a preconfigured menu. You can archive network drives (including remote Registry information), provided you first map them to local drive letters. (No support exists for backing up Novell Bindery attributes.)
The Ditto is a speed demon compared with a floppy controller QIC 80 drive, but not as fleet as some other devices. Although its 6MB-per-minute to 10MB-per-minute transfer rate is good, the Jaz drive and the Colorado and Seagate SCSI units we reviewed surpassed it. With 1-Step Backup, the Ditto drive can read a surprising number of old tape formats. We fed it a series of QIC 80 cassettes formatted on a Colorado Jumbo with a variety of Win3.1x backup programs. It rebuilt the tape catalog and recognized every one. The two SCSI drives we reviewed didn't offer this backward compatibility.
A single TR-3 cartridge for the Ditto can hold about 40 percent as much data as a TR-4 cartridge for the SCSI drives we reviewed. It ships in a lightweight external case, and includes cables and an extra connector so you can share a single parallel port between the tape drive and your printer.
Unfortunately, the Ditto's Emergency Disk feature works only with Win3.1x. But the package includes a compatible DOS backup utility.
Iomega Jaz Drive. This is one of the more significant bits of PC wizardry developed within the past year. It consists of an internal or external SCSI housing unit that contains portable hard disks of either 540MB or 1GB uncompressed capacity. Removable hard drives such as this are generally a faster and more flexible storage option than tape drives, but they offer less storage capacity per cartridge. (There are smaller removable hard drive units from Iomega and Syquest, but they're considerably slower than the Jaz Drive and can store only 100MB to 200MB of data per cartridge.)
Installation of the Jaz drive is simple; just plug the drive into a SCSI adapter and install the Win95 Guest software. Once the drive is present on your system, you can configure it as either a removable or a fixed disk volume.
The 1GB Jaz cartridges are rated with a 10MB-per-second burst transfer rate and a 12-millisecond access time. Although the Jaz drive was noticeably faster and more responsive in our tests than any of the tape devices we tested, its speed was not as high as its specifications indicate.
The Tool Kit includes some useful utilities. Right-clicking on its icon in My Computer or Explorer brings up a series of Context menu options. Copy Machine allows you to duplicate a Jaz volume on another cartridge or transfer the entire contents of a regular fixed disk on the Jaz drive. You can choose between creating a sector-by-sector physical image of a drive or a file-by-file copy.
Although Iomega includes no software to perform specialized, partial backups, the drive's ability to masquerade as an ordinary fixed disk permits it to be a data repository for many third-party utilities, including Win95's Microsoft Backup program.
One minor annoyance is that when you want to boot DOS, the Jaz assigns the drive letter differently under DOS than it does under Win95. One workaround is to keep the cartridge out of the drive during startup, which reassigns the drive letter correctly after you get to the command prompt. Insert the cartridge after startup. This stalls your system for two to three minutes at startup while it detects the empty Jaz drive. Plus, you have to remember whether there's a cartridge in the drive every time you turn on the computer. The same system stall occurs if you boot directly into Win95 without a cartridge in the drive.
There is a solution. The Jaz drive default sets up a primary FAT partition on each cartridge. This is what confuses DOS, which places the Jaz partition ahead of any extended partitions located on your permanent hard drive. You can get around the setup program by booting to a true DOS command prompt. Then run FDISK, select the Jaz drive (Option 5) and delete the primary partition the Jaz software set up (Option 3). Next, tell FDISK to define an Extended Partition on the Jaz drive (Option 1) and create a logical drive within the Extended Partition.
Voilâ! All the annoyances will disappear. You can leave the cartridge in the drive to boot quickly, and you'll have the same drive letter under both DOS and Win95. This also eliminates the Jaz drive's annoying habit of changing assigned drive letters when you add and remove devices to and from your PC.
Now you know how to overcome many of Win95's backup frustrations. Even Win95's Backup applet and your old DOS and Win3.1x backup programs can gain new usefulness and flexibility. All you have to do is choose the backup solution that's right for you.
Lenny Bailes is a San Francisco-based computer instructor and consultant, and author of The Byte Guide to Optimizing Windows 95 (Osborne-McGraw Hill, 1995). Click Here to find the e-mail IDs for our editors, who can put you in touch with this author.