Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 148 / JANUARY 1993 / PAGE 134

The Norton Backup for DOS 2.0. (backup program) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann

The road to hard disk Hades is paved with good intentions. Good intentions to back up your hard disk data and programs. Good intentions to replace DOS's anemic Backup and Restore functions with a high-quality, easy-to-use program. Good intentions to make backups on a regular, frequent schedule.

Too many of us never convert these intentions into action. When the inevitable crisis comes, we arrive all too quickly at that place the road leads to. The crisis can be as small as an accidentally erased file or as cataclysmic as a hard disk crash.

One reason these good intentions remain unfilled is that backup programs just aren't very friendly. If that's your excuse, consider The Norton Backup for DOS 2.0.

This version adds a robust set of easily accessible features to an already impressive program. Norton Backup is equally at home backing up large networks on quarter-inch tape and protecting a home system's 20MB of precious data and programs.

Norton software tends to be well designed with all levels of users in mind. Installing Norton Backup is a snap. The small Installation Guide--a separate manual--tells you how to start the installation process. From there, just follow the onscreen instructions. The process even includes built-in compatibility tests to ensure that everything works as intended.

The program is unfortunately testy about TSRs--programs which usually start when you boot the computer and stay running in the background. The troubleshooting advice in the read me file tells you to remove TSRs and optional device drivers for nearly all problems. (Be sure to study the read me file--it's full of essential information.)

TSR conflicts caused me some trouble. My system runs 14 separate TSRs and device drivers, all necessary to support the hardware configuration. I have an external hard disk, a parallel port doubling device, a multimedia sound board, and a CD-ROM drive. Add Stacker, 386Max, and a mouse, and I've got a dozen TSRs and device drivers. I can boot with the multimedia stuff disabled, but since I want to back up the external drive, its drivers and Stacker must stay loaded.

The read me file strongly advises that you test the program by running Compare on your first two backups. Good advice. I backed up my external hard drive, ran Compare, and found that the 11th disk contained an error, making it unusable, even though there was no hint of trouble when creating the backup. A TSR conflict was the culprit.

Once you get the program installed, tested, and running successfully, Norton Backup is easy to use. The main menu screen offers six buttons: Backup, Compare, Restore, Backup Scheduler, Configure, and Exit.

The Backup function is extremely flexible. You can back up whole drives, directories, or a file at a time. It offers five backup types: full, incremental, differential, full copy, and incremental copy. (The last two are for transferring data between computers.) The excellent manual helps you understand the differences between these systems and how you would use them in designing a backup strategy.

Using the Backup Scheduler, you can even set up automatic backup sessions for future times.

When you're selecting files one by one, you can navigate through the directories easily and look at the contents of individual files with the built-in file viewers. The program displays the contents of files in more than 35 file formats.

Norton Backup automates the backup process through setup files, which record all the options you set for a particular backup. Include and exclude functions let you specify classes of files to include or exclude. You could include all wk1 files, for instance, or exclude all bak files. With a few include and exclude statements, you can build a specific file set much faster than by selecting them individually. These features make Norton Backup an especially useful tool for corporate PC administrators.

Other features include password protection, reports listing backup media contents by file, awareness of network operations (it'll retry files that were in use the first time it tried to back them up, for instance), on-the-fly disk formatting, and dynamic backup statistics.

Norton Backup is an exceptionally flexible, powerful, and fast backup system--at home on modern networks and with tape backup hardware. Yet, once it's installed and debugged for your system, it's easy enough for anyone to use. But take the time to be sure you get it installed and configured correctly; it's no fun to be told by the program after a half an hour of swapping disks that your backup set is no good because there's a TSR conflict.