How Backup Apps Work
All file-and-folder backup programs let you select any folder or a set of folders as a backup source. I especially liked the programs that also let me select additional prebuilt backup strategies—making it easy to back up my Windows desktop, or all of my Outlook Express or Windows Mail accounts and messages, or my Internet Explorer favorites. Genie Backup Manager Pro can even merge backed-up Windows Mail messages into my current mail store. It also comes with plug-ins that can back up and restore all your settings for common application programs.
Unfortunately, not even Genie Backup Manager Pro knows how to back up all my Microsoft Office settings, and that's one reason I prefer a drive-imaging program to even the best file-and-folder backup software. With a drive-imaging app, I don't need to plan in advance which files I might need someday, because a drive-imaging program backs up everything. A file-and-folder backup program will back up only the files and folders I select—and any Windows system has a lot of settings stored in obscure places that I might not remember to select in advance. For example, Microsoft Word stores its default font and page margins in a file called Normal.dot (or Normal.dotm for Office 2007). Raise your hand if you know that this file is stored under Windows XP in C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates, and that in Vista it's stored in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates. Do I see any hands? I thought not. If you didn't raise your hand, you definitely need a drive-imaging program.
When I mentioned in my reviews of drive-imaging programs that those apps back up everything, a few readers sent e-mails asking whether that meant they backed up the Windows Registry, or the browser cache, or temporary files. I wrote back to explain that the word everything actually means "everything." If you don't think you need everything, or if you don't have an external drive with enough space to backup everything, then a file-and-folder-backup program is enough to save the data you need. Just make sure to set its built-in scheduler so that it makes its automatic backups more often than once a year.
Below are links to our latest reviews in the file-and-folder backup space. It's not an exhaustive list of every app in the space, but it does represent the big players. As always, click on the links to read the full reviews.Genie Backup Manager Pro 8.0
Genie is a powerful, flexible, exceptionally well-designed and reliable backup powerhouse.
Memeo AutoBackup Premium
Memeo has too many glitches—and too much built-in marketing. Wait for a future version.
NTI Shadow 3.7.1
NTI Shadow 3.7.1 is inexpensive, and setup couldn't be easier. Still, there are better alternatives out there.
Roxio BackOnTrack 3 Suite
Although it worked on an old test system, BackOnTrack 3 Suite failed disastrously on a brand-new one with advanced hardware. Roxio pulled the app as a result of our testing. We're looking forward to reviewing the retooled version when it's available, as the app looked to have potential.
Second Copy 7
This long-established, deservedly popular backup system emphasizes simplicity.