Backups and Picasa

May 30, 2009

Recently I’ve started getting occasional disk errors from the trusty PC, so it was clearly time to think about backups again. A while back I bought an external hard drive, but I’d only been doing ad hoc backups by copying files and folders over.

I can’t imagine that it is too contentious to say that Windows (up to and including XP at least) is utterly useless at helping users with backups. With all the stuff we pile on our machines now – photos, videos, music, emails and documents certainly, but also favourites, preferences, contacts, game saves, web history, bookmarks, licence keys, passwords – all this stuff is a nightmare to keep track of, especially when the machine is used by other people.

Anyway, I recently downloaded GoodSync, a program that lets you create copies of important folders on an external hard drive, and then synchonise them with the main hard disk(s) periodically, either manually or on a schedule. It does other things too, but that’s how I’m using it. It’s not free beyond the 30-day trial period, and it doesn’t help at all with deciding what is important, or where important things are (Outlook Express email folders anyone?), but it is good at what it does, and I already feel more confident about getting stuff back if the main disk fails.

Here’s an extra rub too, and another Windows moan. When the external hard drive (USB) is connected, Windows assigns it the first available drive letter. At the time I set up my Picasa backups, it was letter H: so that’s where Picasa expects its backups to go. Today, when I connected it, it became letter G: so Picasa refused (by simply greying out the button) to do a backup. After I’d worked out what was wrong I had to plug another USB device in to create a G: drive first, then connect the external disk so that it became H: again. Awkwardly, when I set up the GoodSync backups, the drive letter was G: so now that expects things the other way round. Aaargh! There must be a better way! These flipping drive letters are years past their sell by date. Will Windows 7 get rid of them? Probably not.

Apparently you can reassign drive letters in XP using diskmgmt.msc, but blimey who’s going to know about doing that? Someone please tell me there’s a way to avoid all this hassle (without buying a Mac or running Linux). I feel a GMail account coming on.

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