LIUtilities' reasonably priced WinBackup effortlessly backs up files and folders to hard disks or removable storage devices such as DVD, CD-R, and Zip drives. Like Novosoft's Handy Backup, WinBackup costs about $30, lets you schedule unattended backups, allows you to copy individual files and folders or entire drives, and is easy enough for novices. It also compresses backup jobs--handy for storing large amounts of data on CD-Rs and Zip disks--and includes optional AES encryption for users backing up via a network. However, WinBackup lacks some high-end features that corporate users demand, such as the ability to back up to tape drives, and its long-distance phone support is expensive for anyone living in the United States. Overall, though, WinBackup is a fine tool for students and home users.
WinBackup's setup is as painless as it gets. Download the compact 1.7MB installation file from LIUtilities' site, then launch the setup program; each step took us about 30 seconds. Now that's fast! Unlike Dantz's Retrospect, WinBackup doesn't require a system reboot once setup is completed.
The Backup Wizard leads you through the process of archiving data.
Once up and running, WinBackup uses wizards to guide you through the process of backing up and restoring data. Unlike some wizards that insulate newbies from the interface, WinBackup's tutorials teach, using a series of pop-up captions to point to the buttons and icons needed to complete a given task.
The interface itself is austere and colorless, but we couldn't be happier with its lack of splashy graphics and oversized buttons. A backup program should be easy to use, not visually stunning, and WinBackup isn't afraid to be bland. The program's spartan Explorer-like file tree, used for selecting files and folders for backups, will be immediately familiar to Windows users.
WinBackup offers a range of backup options. Compression is activated by default and makes sense in most backups, except when speed is of utmost importance. Compression slows the backup process somewhat, but we didn't notice a significant drag on system performance. Our 563MB backup was squeezed down to 340MB--a significant savings for anyone using removable discs. Zip and floppy drive users will appreciate the program's ability to split backups into smaller chunks, such as 100MB segments for Zip disks. We also liked the ability to exclude files ending with specific extensions, such as space-hogging TMP files. You can choose between doing a complete backup or copying only new and updated files; the latter is faster but creates a larger archive file.
WinBackup calculates on the fly the amount of disc space required for compressed backups; it's easy to tailor backups to fit on, say, a single CD-R. You can, however, also create backups that span multiple discs.
WinBackup's settings allow you to configure sessions, stop specific processes, exclude unnecessary files, and even split backups into smaller chunks.
Security features, including password protection and 128- or 256-bit encryption, are turned off by default. This approach makes sense, as most small-business and home users don't need bulletproof security unless, say, they're backing up sensitive data over a shared network. The Security Settings dialog makes it easy to configure these protection options. But beware: if you forget your password, your data is lost forever. Encryption slows backups somewhat, but the impact wasn't noticeable in our tests.
The scheduler feature makes it easy to schedule daily, weekly, or monthly backups. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't mimic Handy Backup's ability to schedule backups for when you log on or off your PC, which is ideal for those of us who forget to archive (and who doesn't?).
The good news: WinBackup users get free phone support. The bad news: You'll have to call Sweden to get it--and pay international toll charges. Fortunately, we also found LIUtilities' e-mail support to be very responsive. Our queries were answered accurately and politely within a few hours. WinBackup's help documentation comes as an Adobe PDF file and is fairly detailed with how-to advice, but we were disappointed that we couldn't search the PDF file for particular keywords, such as scheduler or DVD. The Help menu includes a link to WinBackup's support site, which provides an adequate collection of tutorials, FAQs, patches, and related product information.
WinBackup's user manual comes as a PDF file, which makes it easy to skip to a particular page but impossible to search for a specific keyword.