Tape backup for Windows. (Irwin's AccuTrak Plus) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes
Windows has really upped the hardware ante. Most of us would agree that Windows helps us get more work done more quickly and with less effort, but all this high-powered productivity demands some pretty hot hardware. Let's face it--to really run Windows right, you need at least a 386DX with 4MB of RAM, Super VGA graphics, and a 200MB hard disk (or a 100MB Stacked hard disk).
It's this last point that I'm going to talk more about--hard disk space. Windows programs demand megabytes and megabytes of hard disk real estate. It's not at all unusual for a Windows app to require 7MB-10MB. Before you know it, you have a hard disk full of applications and data files--a hard disk you should back up. But how? If you're lucky enough to have a 400MB hard drive, you'll soon discover that you'll need nearly 300 high-density floppies to back up that sucker. With large hard disks, floppies are just not an option. So what do you use? In a word, tape.
Windows makes tape backup an essential. But choosing the best backup system can be tricky. First, you'll need one that provides high capacity--at least 200MB per tape. Second, you'll want a system that's fast. Third, you'll want a system that has a Windows backup program--so you can work while you back up. And the last consideration, of course, is price. This system should be under $500.
Is all this too much to ask? I would have thought so before I tried Irwin's AccuTrak Plus (Maynard Electronics, 36 Skyline Drive, Lake Mary, Florida 32746; 407-263-3500; $349; high-speed controller, $179). This superb tape system comes in internal and external versions and can be used with your current floppy controller or with a special high-speed controller. The system stores as much as 250MB on a tape (with compression), and it comes with the easiest-to-use backup program I've ever seen--EzTape for Windows.
I opted to test the internal model with the high-speed controller. To install the unit, I simply put the controller card in an open slot, inserted the tape drive in an open drive bay, and installed the EzTape for, Windows software.
To get going, I pushed a tape in the drive and cranked up EzTape. The EzTape screen looks a lot like the Windows File Manager, displaying a directory tree on the left and a file listing on the right, Above the tree and file windows is a toolbar with buttons for Disk, Library, Tape, Mark, Unmark, Backup, Restore, and Scan.
Disk, Library, and Tape are the three sources you can choose. The default is Disk, showing the files on your hard disk. To back up, you simply mark anything from a single file to your entire hard disk.
After selecting the files, you click on Backup, and you're presented with a dialog box that includes the name of the backup set, any password you'd like to assign to the backup set, and options to reset the archive bit (the default), verify after backup, add to library, encrypt the backup file, and choose the level of compression (none, level 1, or level 2).
The only default I changed was the compression level. The default is none, which would only store about 120MB on my 200MB hard disk. I knew I'd need level 2 to push the tape's storage to 200MB.
After changing the compression, I clicked on OK and listened to the tape whir. It took about 50 minutes to back up 3bout 170MB of data. The backup really did multitask. I worked in Microsoft Word for most of this period and didn't have any problems.
After making the backup, I labeled the tape and decided that I'd restore some files to test the system the next day. Little did I know that a malevolent program would trash some essential data on my hard disk and make my first attempt at restoring more than just an exercise.
The next day, I was running a beta copy of a program I was testing, and after a crash I noticed that Ascend, the personal information manager I use, wasn't working. As it turned out, half a dozen files in my Ascend directory had been mangled by the beta program. Yikes!
I cranked up EzTape and inserted the backup I'd made the day before. I still hadn't read the manual, but it seemed logical to click on the tape button, which I did. After a few moments of whirring and flashing lights, EzTape showed me a tree and file listing of the backup files on the tape. I moved to my Ascend directory and marked it. Next, I clicked on Restore, and in less than a minute, my entire Ascend directory had been restored. Everything worked perfectly. EzTape and the AccuTrak had saved the day--and my bacon.