Monday, 23 March 2009

IDE Failures and backups

For 80% of people, running backups is a non-event. We simply don't consider doing them, not because we are lazy but it just never crosses our mind. Fortunately I had a happy event last week - I ran a full backup of my beloved D610 Dell Latitude's hard disk and not 2 days later the bastard failed on me. It was then I found out how much harder it is to get IDE hard disks for laptops. The 40GB HDD in it was adequate for my purposes and the smallest I could find was 120GB. Now I know how easy it is to fill 120GB of disk with music or movies or whatnot, but in context, I store very little of such things on this notebook. It's for work, and for online stuff such as Google's services and apps. At any rate, I use the wonderful TrueCrypt ( to create encrypted partitions and then use the equally handy rsync (or in a pinch xcopy) to incrementally back that data up across the network to my servers. 

I thought perhaps I'd share how I do this, using xcopy in a batch file and with the potential of using either an external USB device or whatnot. You can get *very* fancy, but in all honesty, any backup is better than no backup so here is the script (abridged for privacy purposes) that I use:

xcopy "z:\My Documents\*" "m:\My documents\*" /C/D/E/H/Y

You can see that I'm just backing up My Documents from one location to another. The first one, on the Z:\ drive is the source and M:\ is the backup. Easy! 
The switches do the following:
/C: Continues copying even if an error occurs
/D: Copies files changed on or after the specified date. If no date is given, copies only those files whose source time is newer than the destination time.
/E: Copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones.
/H: Copies hidden and system files also.
/Y: Suppresses prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file.

Pretty straightforward really. I run it manually at the moment, but plan to put a schedule in place once I get some error correction built into it. For example, if the M:\ drive is not available I don't want it to panic and grind to a halt, much better for it to gracefully exit.

Feel free to adapt it for your purposes if any. As I noted, it's better to have *some* sort of backups than none at all. This particular one of mine doesn't catch emails or the like, fortunately for me I use Gmail so it's not really an issue - all my emails reside on the Google servers (bless them!). For everything else, there's xcopy!

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