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12Ghosts Backup

12Ghosts - Backup

 

What does it do for me?

Backing up data is mandatory. Just imagine you would lose all your work, all e-mails of the last two weeks: What is that worth to you? If backups were difficult, however, you wouldn't do them often enough. 12-Backup makes it easy because everything is done automatically. All you need to do is add files to a list. The program then does the backup at a user-defined interval. You may exclude temporary files to save time, and you are not bothered with locked files: they are included the next time automatically.

Besides doing normal backups, a special piece of engineering is Hyper-Backup: It keeps every change of your documents, creating several layers of backups, again, automatically, while you are working. HyperBackup automatically stores multiple versions of your files and applies a reasonable filter to keep versions of every stage. This stores more versions in a more sophisticated way than any other backup program we've seen!

There is a registry backup included, too. The software is carefully designed, well documented, and gives you all the options you would expect.

 

Where should I start?

Start 12-Backup and open the settings window. All you need to do is add files to back up.

There are two ways to secure your data. A traditional, incremental backup that copies changed files to a backup location. And HyperBackup, a 4-tiered system of keeping every change of your documents in cascading-aged versions.

 

Full Backup

This is the most common way of doing backups. You create a copy of all important files to a backup location. To keep the backup process fast, so you actually keep doing it regularly, only add folders to your backup that contain files you work on frequently, like the My Documents folder.

The fastest backup would be to a second disk drive. Once you've done a full backup, most of the files are already there. From then on, only files that have been changed or are newer than those already in the backup are backed up. (This is also referred to as "incremental backup" which usually depends on the Archive attribute, whereas 12-Backup is based on the date modified).

The backup location may be on the same disk as the original, but to enhance security it should be a second disk drive. A new 40 GB disk costs only about $65. It is the fastest and easiest method to always have a full backup of your important data. Since it's faster and always available it is also more likely that you are actually doing a backup!

Now add files or folders you would like to backup regularly to the list in the first tab Full Backup using the Add or New buttons. Set Backup every, for example, to 15 minutes. Since this only runs during idle time it doesn't use any processor resources. You may notice disk access, though, while 12-Backup compares Modified dates. When ready, 12-Backup displays the number of files backed up at the bottom of the dialog.

You may enable Backup before shut down or logoff to make sure your data is secured every time before you leave your computer. If you use our more powerful 12-ShutDown to start programs before shut down you should enable Backup there, and disable this option here.

You may use the parameter /backup to start the normal backup at a certain time, for example from 12-Timer, Task Scheduler, or a batch file.

 

HyperBackup

In the second tab HyperBackup you may add files that are secured in four levels. This creates multiple copies of each change of your files. Depending on how often you work with a particular document, more or less versions are kept, based on age.

HyperBackup creates one version per minute for one hour, one version every hour during one day's time, one version every day for the last month, and finally one version per month. This way it keeps a history of changes but requires only moderate disk space. A technology is used that does not require any processor resources while waiting for changes. Hence, most of the time 12-Backup just sits there, doing nothing. And even while backing up it does not block other applications because it runs in idle time, that is, when the processor has nothing else to do.

The more files you add to 12-Backup, the longer it takes to compare file dates, and to create new versions, though. This may add up. If this takes more than one or two seconds, it is advisable to raise the Stabilization Time (see Options in the HyperBackup tab) to 5 or 10 seconds. This is the time 12-Backup waits after a change before new backups are being made.

Add Right-click Menu Entries

Instead of working with the 12-Backup settings window, it is easier to add or restore files from within Windows Explorer (or any Open or Save-As dialog box, by the way). You will find a new entry in the right-click menu of files and folders. The command Add to 12-Backup adds the file to 12-Backup and opens the settings window for you to confirm the changes.

Restore a File out of HyperBackup

To restore the original version simply right-click on the original file in Windows Explorer and select 12-Backup Versions with a list of all available versions, sorted by date. Selecting an entry creates a copy "beside" the original, thus keeping the original. It is copied into the same folder where the original file is but with a suffix 01, 02, etc. Now you can easily view or open one version after the other, compare, and decide which to work with.

 

Backup regularly

Imagine you lose all your files, or your disk drive crashes, and you hadn't made a backup. "Hey, the other backup disk was full; I didn't want to get up just for this..."

Every day in the week (really!) we receive e-mails from customers requesting a copy of their license because the drive crashed, got a virus, or had to be formatted due to a user mistake. It happens a lot from our point of view! It may be only one out of a thousand, but what if it is you...?

Do a backup every time after you changed or created new documents. If your work relies on e-mails and you answer 5 emails a day, you would lose 70 emails after two weeks. "My backup is so slow and cumbersome, I only start it every two weeks..." Better safe than sorry! Worst case is that you lose your work since the last backup. What is that worth to you? Better get a second disk drive and have a fast backup made every 15 minutes, automatically, with 12-Backup.

 

Backup To...

You may also backup to a removable media from time to time, like a USB memory stick, ZIP drive, or a CD-R. You may want to take data with you or save a copy outside of the building at a save place. Click on the button To... to select the target drive and the age of files to backup. You will see the amount of disk space required according to your selection.

Doing backups over backups could lead to an error being backed up, too, again and again. Imagine a virus destroys part of your data, then you backup the destroyed data over your old backups, and you notice it only much later. Even with four different backup disks made once a week all your data may be gone... Store away one disk once a month, at least. Always make more backups than you think are necessary!

For a CD-R to work you need a driver that enables your CD-R to write to using a drive letter. Most CD-R drives come with such a driver, for example "DirectCD" from Adaptec/Roxio.

 

Registry Backup

You should regularly backup your most important data on your computer: your registry. At least once a week, and at least the User part of the registry. Do a full backup of the registry at least before installing new software. You may include a separate backup of all 12Ghosts settings.

 

Important Notes

Changing the System Time: You should not change the computer date by several days or months while running 12-Backup. This may render your backup more or less unusable. (Why? Please see FAQ further down.) When changing your PC date to a different date, for example for testing purposes, stop 12-Backup during that time. In any case, 12-Backup issues a warning message if the time was changed by more than one hour, allowing you to stop 12-Backup before anything happens.

Backup Tip for Users of Microsoft Word: You may include the automatically saved auto-recovery files, which you find under 'C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\Microsoft\Word' (for Word 97: 'C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Local Settings\Temp') as 'AutoRecovery save of <doc name>.asd'. Add this folder with the wildcard *.ASD to HyperBackup in order to always have your data secured automatically. Make sure that the option 'Save AutoRecovery info every...' (Tools - Options - Save - Save AutoRecovery info every...) is checked and the time is set at a short interval.

Note for Microsoft Word on 95/98/ME: If you use Microsoft Word on Windows 95/98/ME, you need to un-check the option 'Allow fast saves' in Tools - Options - Save - Allow fast saves. This setting is highly recommended anyway in order to keep the file size within reasonable limits.

Setup: On Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista Administrator or Power User rights are required only to install the context menu extension in Windows Explorer. Adding and restoring files using the context menu is comfortable, however, it is not required to backup files.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

See also: Planning a Backup - 12Ghosts' Backup Tips

Can I backup to a CD-R or CD-RW directly?
 
A: You would need a driver that supports writing to the CD directly using a drive letter. If you can copy a file in Explorer to the CD, 12-Backup can do this, too. Most CD-R drives come with such a driver. We successfully tested one that's called "DirectCD" from Adaptec/Roxio.

You may also backup to a new folder on your disk drive and from time to time burn the folder completely to a CD-R. This is faster and has the advantage that your backup disk doesn't have to be in your CD drive all the time.

What happens when I change the system time?
 
All incremental backups and especially HyperBackup rely on a continuous system time. You may of course correct the system time, also for Daylight Savings Time, or let the time be synchronized automatically. 12-Backup will issue a confirmation message, however, if the date is changed by more than one hour.

Here's why: When you start 12-Backup with the system date set to a date several months in the past or several months in the future, 12-Backup always uses this system date to consider if files need to be copied or deleted. It might keep less versions than intended or might not backup changed files at all, for example because "new" files (according to the computer time) appear to be older than the backup.

When you start HyperBackup with a changed system time all versions from the last month might be "outdated" and only the newest version per month remains, deleting all files from the first three tiers of HyperBackup. Furthermore, files changed in the "future" will never be copied, since they seem to have a newer version already in the backup location.

If you change your computer's date, for testing purposes for example, you should stop 12-Backup during this test. (Or if your test needs to include 12-Backup, make a copy of the complete 12-Backup folder prior to changing date and time.)

Does 12-Backup need processor or memory resources?
 
Usually, 12-Backup just sits there doing nothing until a change occurs in one of the scanned files of HyperBackup or the time for a scheduled backup arrives. While it is waiting, no processor cycles nor memory are used by 12-Backup. Windows notifies 12-Backup of any file changes when they occur.

Even while it is running it does not use up valuable processor cycles, since normal and HyperBackup run as idle tasks! The system will only give processor cycles to idle tasks if no other programs need the processor (including 12-Backup itself, that's why it is so responsive even while backing up).

If you have many files included in HyperBackup, it may take a long time to check for changes in all secured files. Raising the Stabilization Time to 30 or 60 seconds should resolve this. If you have really, really many files included, or if files need to be compared on a slow backup disk or over a slow network, a good idea is to split up one large folder into smaller parts. For example, instead of adding "C:\MyData" which has the subfolders "Office", "Private", and "Games", you should add "C:\MyData\Office", "C:\MyData\Private", and "C:\MyData\Games" to HyperBackup. This reduces the time required to check for changes by a factor of three. If a change occurs in "C:\MyData\Office", only this subfolder is checked, instead of the complete tree "C:\MyData".

About Full Backup

I excluded a folder but it still creates the empty folder?
 
Add folders without the trailing backslash. For example, if you exclude "\Local Settings\" it would not be excluded since the folder "C:\Documents and Setting\<user-name>\Local Settings" does not have a backslash at the end. It only contains "\Local Settings".

Why doesn't Synchronize work together with Only Since?
 
Imagine you move a file to a different folder, modified before the Only Since date. The moved file will not be backed up any more because it is older than the Only Since date. Synchronize, however, will delete the moved file from backup in the original location. Thus, you will no longer have a backup of that file.

You should not use both options, though. On a CD-R it is not possible to delete files, because you can only write once. On a disk drive you don't need the Only Since option because backup is always incremental (only changed or newer files than those already in the backup are backed up).

About HyperBackup

Does HyperBackup lock folders it secures?
 
Yes, while 12-Backup is running all folders included in HyperBackup cannot be renamed or deleted. You'd have to pause HyperBackup temporarily in case you need to rename such a folder.

Do I need to delete older files manually?
 
12-Backup keeps one version per month of every file added to 12-Backup. One additional file per month should not be a problem for a 10 or 20 GB disk drive. Older versions per minute, hour, or day are moved down the hierarchy gradually. They are removed from the respective folders automatically.

However, if you need to clear files older than one month, open the folder "<12-Backup-Path>\d One per Month", where <12-Backup-Path> is the folder you specified as your backup location for HyperBackup. Check for files you don't want to keep any longer (for example sort by size) and delete files according to your security needs and size restraints.

I get the error message 'Cannot install notify handler...(7)'
 
The folder and volume names are probably identical. This reportedly occurred on some Windows versions for reasons you need to ask the good developers of Windows. As a workaround, please rename either the volume or the folder.

Sometimes, the minute appended to a copied file name is not the same as the minute displayed in Explorer!?
 
Yes, it is interesting that Windows Explorer displays the wrong time. Please look in the properties of such a file and compare the last modified time. If the time ends on 58 or 59 seconds Windows Explorer rounds up to the full minute, even on FAT32 or NTFS. 12-Backup doesn't. (The precision of file times on a FAT file system is 2 seconds at most, by the way.)

About Registry Backup

Why can't I restore the registry without a reboot?
 
To restore the registry you need to reboot your computer because the related files, where the registry information is stored in, are locked until the next reboot. 12-Backup will arrange for restoring the files at the beginning of computer startup, before these files are being used.

Is it sufficient to logoff and immediately logon again to restore the registry?
 
No! You may not logoff and logon since the registry will not be accessible until the next reboot. If you receive the message "Roaming profile could not be accessed" just reboot your computer.

After a registry restore, there are some new files in the same path where the registry files are stored. Can I delete them?
 
Restoring the registry renames your existing registry to '<regfile>_before_restore_01', where 01 is a sequential number. You may delete these files once the restored registry proved to be working. There may also be a '<regfile>_to_restore.log' (usually with a size of zero) which can safely be deleted.

 

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