WinBackup 2.0 Professional

Reviewed by: Sallie Goetsch, November 2005
Published by: Uniblue Systems Ltd.
Requires: 400 MHz CPU, 32MB RAM, 40MB available hard drive space, Windows 98/ME/2000 or XP
MSRP: $69.95

The first thing you notice about WinBackup 2.0 Pro is that Uniblue not only provides an actual CD, but a printed quick start guide—in almost-flawless English. (Does an "extensible" online library of white papers telescope outward?) There's also a 54-page PDF manual available from the "Help" menu.

Another thing to like about WinBackup is the modest demands it makes for space on your hard drive. SmartSync Pro, which I reviewed in September 2005, sprawls across 239MB of my modest-sized laptop hard drive. WinBackup needs only 41MB.

WinBackup 2.0 Pro gives you the option to back up to external hard drives, removable drives, USB drives, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, tape or LAN, with additional options for filtering and compression, total or incremental backup, and individual file restoration.

Perhaps because my installed versions of NewsGator and Skylook rely on Microsoft Exchange (Outlook's operational foundation), Outlook showed up in two places in the Backup Sources list: under "Shortcuts" and under "Agents." It's confusing to have two entries for Outlook, but between the two, WinBackup provides the means to back up not just Outlook PST files but Outlook Options, covering everything from Mail Format to Preferences to Spelling, not to mention the RSS feeds I get through NewsGator and my Skylook conversations.

Once you've chosen your source, WinBackup calculates the size of the files and asks you where to store the backup. The calculation seemed to take forever when I opted for the total Outlook backup, so I skipped ahead to "Settings," where you decide whether you want a total or incremental backup, what level of compression you prefer, whether you want to encrypt your backup, and what actions WinBackup should take before or after backing up. The default choices are "Close Outlook During Backup" and "Shut Down After Backup." You can also set up exclusion filters (by file type) and decide whether to erase the CD/DVD (if you're using rewriteable optical media) or append a new session (if you're using standard recordable optical media). Perhaps most important, you can choose to verify your backup.

Backups can be put on a regular schedule. Scheduling options are fairly primitive: Never, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly. This lacks the flexibility of SmartSync Pro and other competing backup utilities.

It was at this point in my initial test that WinBackup started to get upset and toss list exclusion errors (whatever those are) at me. Being impatient to conclude a backup and this review, I went back to the beginning and chose a different set of files to back up onto my external drive.

My backup job of a 744MB folder containing 5,262 files, run at high compression with full verification and password-protection, took two hours and 14 minutes over a USB 1.1 connection to an external drive. Maximum compression reduced my 744MB of data to a 523MB .w2b file—appreciable shrinkage, but hardly astonishing.

2:14 is a very long time to back up less than 1GB of data. Creating a Ghost image of my entire drive only takes about that long (also done over USB 1.1 to the same external drive, and using high compression). On the other hand, the Ghost backup, although compressed, is not password-protected and isn't verified.

Verification or no verification, the only way to be sure of a backup is to try restoring the files. Clicking WinBackup's Restore tab takes you to a simple "select backup folder" command line browser which lets you navigate in typical Windows fashion to your backup file. If the file is encrypted, you'll get a password prompt, but once you've navigated that hurdle, WinBackup will load your backup file into its Work Area under the heading "Restore Source." The first time I tried this, the backup archive started to load and then got hung up in the middle. I shut down WinBackup and restarted it, and then the backup file loaded quickly and gave me a selection of files to restore and a choice of where to restore them. On my first restore test, WinBackup restored not only my selected file, but the entire directory tree, to my Temp folder. The trick to restoring a file without duplicating the directory structure is to choose "Single Folder" rather than "Alternate Location" under "Restore To."

WinBackup 2.0 Professional works, and provides a decent if incomplete range of options. It's generally easy to use. But it's slow, and for some reason it doesn't seem to get along very well with my system. I use other programs, such as Microsoft Office, which are at least as prone to mysterious problems. But I need to have absolute confidence in my backup software and WinBackup doesn't inspire it.

(Ed. Note: We tried WinBackup over a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection and managed to backup a compressed 560MB worth of files to a Maxtor USB 2.0 Hi-Speed external hard drive in a little under 16 minutes, much better performance than a USB 1.1 connection. The difference in speed between USB 1.1 (12Mbps) and USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480Mbps) is huge.)

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