Back Up Files with Ease

Second Chance: Have you ever installed software and had it turn out to be a botched job? Perhaps the program made changes to your system settings that weren't restored to their original state after you uninstalled the software. Maybe you accidentally deleted system files that you didn't know you needed, or lost some work after a system crash? If so, don't fear: this utility may be just what you're looking for. The program runs continuously in the background, taking regular snapshots of your system so you can restore it to its previous condition before disaster struck. The beauty of the program is that it only backs up the portion of your drive that changed, so you won't have to waste time with a full backup when it's not needed. The program keeps a constant vigil over your PC, making incremental backups according to specifications called checkpoints, which you set. You must have at least 95MB to 100MB of free space on your hard drive to use Second Chance. You can also monitor more that one drive by defining the Limits feature under the Options tab. The free trial version works for 15 days.

Backup Maker: Backing up programs is like flossing your teeth: it's one of those small things that are a pain, but we have to do it. This program minimizes the hassle. Its simple interface makes backing up and restoring files simple. One distinguishing feature is that the names of system files are already listed under a Source tab, saving you the problem of finding them on your hard drive. Automatic backups can be set to your desired level of frequency, and you can also indicate how many copies of the backup to keep--a helpful feature if you have a backup that contains a virus that you didn't know about.

Backup Plus: If you're looking for a way to regularly back up files, and you don't want to spend hours doing it, then this program has a couple of options worth trying. A Backup Wizard walks you through setting up backups and lets you to save them for future sessions. To save time and space on your storage media, you can configure a backup to only add new and modified files that haven't already been backed up. You can also use the Wildcard and Exclusion features to expedite a backup. For example, if you only want to back up your documents, entering C:\My Documents\*.doc and clicking OK would add this wild card to your backup set. Several levels of file compression (None, Low, Normal, High) create different file sizes, but I found the Normal level to be the quickest. There's also an intuitive task manager that lets you access backup details, such as the time and date backups were performed.

My Own Backup: It's easier than ever to avoid using multiple disks for the typical data backup. This free program can make compressed backups of documents, graphics, system files, and so on, an store them on capacious media including hard drives, Zip and Jaz disks, CD-R and CD-RW, or--if it's a really small backup--even floppy disks. The Windows Explorer-like interface enables you to select files with ease, and a backup log helps you keep track of each transaction. Backups are performed in sets, so you can back up all of your data at one time, or break it down into specific categories. I liked this feature because I was able to keep huge graphics files in one folder. If you're working with sensitive files, you can encrypt your compressed backup, and assign it a password. Like most programs, you can have the program back up at certain intervals, or drag and drop files manually.

BackupXpress: This backup program has many of the features you'll find in other programs, such as automated and batch file backups, but what sets this utility apart from others is that you can send the backup file to an e-mail address or FTP server via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and Mail Application Programming Interface. On a test run, I sent a backup to my junk e-mail account and FTP server to see how well this function worked. After entering the information about my e-mail provider and e-mail address in the Configuration area under the Edit Menu, I was one click away from sending the backup. The transfer took place in a couple of seconds, and it came through intact. The program's Extract Zip archive component restored the file to the destination folder that I selected. The only drawback is that the program doesn't come with a help file, so you'll have to spend some time poking around before you get started. The free trial version works for 30 days

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