BackupBuddy for Windows v1.5 & BackupBuddyVFS for PalmOS v2.1

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, send e-mail
Published by: Blue Nomad LLC, go to the web site
Requires: Palm OS device with a memory card or Sony handheld device with Memory Stick
MSRP: $29.95 (BackupBuddy), $16.95 (BackupBuddyVFS)

BackupBuddyVFS is the latest in PalmOS backup utilities. BackupBuddyVFS is designed to work with organizers that support the Virtual File System (VFS), such as the Palm M Series, Tungsten, Handspring Treo, and the Sony Clie devices. However, these days you can use BackupBuddyVFS safely and reliably on almost any Palm OS device with a memory card. All available memory cards are supported including Secure Digital (SD), Compact Flash (CF) and Sony's Memory Stick. BackupBuddyVFS' older brother, BackupBuddy (no VFS), is one of the original PalmOS backup solutions designed to back up everything on your PDA to your desktop computer.

Whenever I ask people what PalmOS backup software they're using, often the only answer I get is "HotSync." That's when I break the news to them - HotSync only backs up data from native PalmOS programs: DateBook, Calendar, ToDo List, MemoPad and AddressBook. Everything else - literally, every other program you install (and more important, all the data created with those programs) - is lost in a crash, lockup, catastrophic data loss, theft, hard reset, etc. How many of us have lost all sorts of data because we let the PDA batteries die? Sounds disastrous doesn't it? Yes it does and yes it is.

About two years ago I downloaded a little freebie call BackupBuddy. I did so because my elderly Palm IIIxe died one day (well, if truth be known, I kind of dropped it off a building - don't ask - smashing into really small pieces). After replacing it, I cheerfully did a HotSync restore from the Palm Desktop only to find that all of my installed third party programs were nowhere to be found, all of my Jot notes were gone, all of my book files were gone, and, well, you get the idea. I spent several days, on and off, digging out all the software I had installed on the IIIxe and reinstalling it on the new Clie PEG-S360. 'Nuff said (I said to myself). It was time for a backup solution that started up where HotSync left off. BackupBuddy to the rescue.

Times have advanced and options have improved. Plain old BackupBuddy still does a thorough and complete job of backing up everything to your PC and now boasts some really nice extras. The new(er) kid on the block and companion to BackupBuddy is BackupBuddyVFS, which enables you to back up all or your organizer’s files to your PDA’s expansion card (Memory Stick, SD Card or CF card) rather than the PC.

There are some important differences between the two versions of BackupBuddy aside from the backup destinations. With VFS you can select individual files for back up or restore, schedule automatic backups, encrypt backups and log every backup session. I've had VFS set to do a daily backup at 3:00 AM for a long time. It automatically turns on my Palm Zire 71 (I sold the Clie), does a full system backup to the SD card, then shuts off the Zire. Nice. Flawless. No worries. On four separate occasions, after installing beta software sent to me for review, some serious flaw in the software has forced a hard reset. Restoring from BackupBuddyVFS has been a simple three tap affair. Talk about easy. No HotSync cradle or desktop PC required.

BackupBuddy works much the same way, with the notable exception being that you have to HotSync with your PC in order to restore from the latest backup. But the PC version also offers some things which VFS just can't touch. The most important of these Windows-only functions are the Mirror option which copies your backup directory to a network file server or local directory (such as a Zip, Jaz or other removable drive) outside of the Palm desktop installation directory, and the ability to call an external program or script to process backup directory contents after a HotSync operation completes. I use this latter feature to toss Word and plain text files I've created or edited on the PDA into specific directories on the PC for later editing, printing, etc. Very handy.

Cons: Occasionally misses files that are in use (Bluetooth and WiFi mainly), but since manual file restores can be done it's not a particularly serious issue. Absolutely do NOT select the option to backup every time you shut off your PDA - it will drive you nuts. We have no idea why anyone would use this feature.

Pros: Don't leave home without it. The ability to automatically backup your entire PDA to its own storage card as well as your PC is too fail-safe to pass up. Automatically exclude AvantGo document files (they change every time you HotSync anyway) from a backup - definitely speeds up the backup process. Can be set to automatically sync your Palm clock with your PC clock. I've been using BackupBuddy since it was first released and it has saved my data at least a dozen times, not to mention making it ridiculously easy to restore a complete set of files every time I buy a new PDA. The PC version (plain old BackupBuddy) will even backup the contents of Handspring Springboard modules, as well as the Hackmaster program and any installed hacks. Highly recommended.

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