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Old 02-14-2006, 11:00 PM
Don Tolson
Thoughts Media Review Team
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 749
Default Saving Your Bacon with Spb Backup 1.0

Product Category: Software - Backup/Recovery
Manufacturer: Spb Software House
Where to Buy: Handango
Price: $19.95 USD A trial version, which expires after 5 runs, is available.
System Requirements: Pocket PC 2002, Pocket PC 2003, Pocket PC 2003 SE, Windows Mobile 5. Works fine under VGA, although no specific mention of support.
Specifications: Requires 1.9Mb of memory (your results may vary – see article text). Highly recommended to install into device memory (not on external card).

  • Small program size;
  • Full featured – selective backups and restores (with scheduling)
  • Automatically produces compressed, self-extracting executables;
  • Encryption of backups is available;
  • Log files stored with backup executable;
  • Windows Mobile 5 support
  • No ability to backup to/restore from desktop. (according to the press release this is available, but it wasn't seen on the build available - 1606)
Summary: The operating system and hardware manufacturers seem to be struggling to provide a reasonable backup/restore application for the Pocket PC. As examples, I give you Activesync from Microsoft, and Data Backup from Dell. The former recently removed its Backup/Restore functionality and the latter is very slow and unreliable. Thank goodness, third party developers, like Sprite Software and Sunnysoft, have willingly stepped into the void. Now, Spb Software House, known for quality utilities for the Pocket PC, is releasing Spb Backup – a full function backup program which produces self-executing restore modules.

Read On for the full review!

I’ve always been an advocate for regular backups of my machines –- whether they be Pocket PCs, laptops or desktops. I’ve seen (and been part of) too many disasters where the lack of a recent backup meant hours or days of reconstruction. I’d worked my way through Activesync’s backup/restore function but gave up on it since it didn’t have the ability to selectively backup/restore particular files. I was pretty happy with Sprite Software’s Backup v3.3, but when I loaded WM5 on my Dell Axim X50v, suddenly I was without my most needed tool! Sprite has been working on a WM5 upgrade for their product, and I’ve been part of the beta test team, but it was still needing some work.

Then, about a week ago, Jason received an announcement that Spb Software House was preparing to release its own WM5-compatible backup and restore application. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to try it. I am very familiar with Spb’s other applications and utilities, so I felt pretty confident they wouldn’t let me down.

As is usual these days, the install package comes as an executable for the desktop PC, which runs Activesync to install the application. At this time, there was no mention of a .CAB file being available for direct install on the Pocket PC. When you run the application on the desktop, it asks if you would like to install the trial version or if you have a key to install a registered version. I quite like this approach to direct installation of registered versions, since it eliminates an additional step of running the application on the Pocket PC to input the registration key. It is also possible to register an installed trial version via a Registration option on the Tools menu.

Installation proceeds normally through Activesync, with the usual options for where you would like to locate the application. My personal recommendation is that you not install Spb Backup onto an external card, unless you plan to have the card with you at all times. This is one application you really want to have on your Pocket PC wherever you are, just in case. During installation, my Dell Axim X50v stated it needed 966Kb of memory for the application, which is almost half of what Spb reports as the space on the device (1.9Mb) on their website. I’m not sure why there’s a discrepancy, but when I look at the Spb Backup folder under Program Files, the total is closer to the 966Kb.

As part of the installation, Spb Backup creates a Today screen plugin to notify you of when you last completed a backup and provide a quick launch point. As I was testing, I noticed that it can sometimes take a minute or so for the plugin to update the time of the last backup, so be patient.

Figure 1: Spb Backup’s Today Screen plugin (at the bottom).

On the candidate release I used in the review (Build 1606), I didn’t see an option to choose whether to install this plugin or not, but it would be an easy matter to remove it via the Today screen settings.

Trial #1 – Full Backup, Soft Reset, Full Restore
For my first run, I decided to make things as easy as possible, and do a full backup and restore. Unfortunately, I also decided to do this with the Pocket PC in its cradle and attached to my laptop. Big Mistake! (as you’ll see in a moment.)

When you launch Spb Backup, you may notice that it only gives you the option to back up your files.

Figure 2: Spb Backup’s opening screen.

So where’s the Restore option? Well, if you think about it, since Spb Backup only produces self-extracting executables, there really isn’t need for the Restore option. Everything you need to handle the restore is within the package produced – but more on that later.

As shown above, there are three options for Backup – a Full backup in which everything on your Pocket PC is included (except, I’m assuming, files located on external cards); a Custom backup where you selectively pick which folders and files you want copied; or a Scheduled backup which can be set to run on a regular basis.

So, after selecting Full Backup, the next screen asks where you would like to place the backup.

Figure 3: Selecting a location for the backup.

By default, the file is named “Backup_” and suffixed with the current date. Its location is set to the first available storage card. If you want to change the location tap on the drop-down list in the Location box.

Figure 4: Choosing a different location for the backup.

If you want to place the backup within a folder on a card, choose the Custom option from the list.

Figure 5: Choosing a folder for your backup.

Options for compression and encryption of the backup are available at any time from the Options selection of the Tools menu.

Figure 6: Spb Backup Options.

Once all the selections have been made and you tap on Next to continue, Spb Backup provides an estimate of the size of the Backup file. This estimate is produced very quickly – usually in less than 5 seconds, which is a nice change from what happens with Dell’s Data Backup utility.

Figure 7: Estimate of Backup file size.

I also found the backup file sizes to be considerably smaller than those of Dell’s Data Backup or Sprite Backup (beta for WM5) – sometimes by almost half! And neither of the other two produce executable extraction modules! After accepting the estimate and tapping Next, a warning is displayed that Spb Backup will be shutting down all background processes.

Figure 8: Background processes being shut down. Unfortunately, because all background processes are halted, I wasn’t able to screen capture the actual backup in progress.

And now, onto the actual backup! Once started, the actual backup of the system only took about 2 minutes. I was a bit surprised, since I was used to other utilities taking 10 minutes or longer. (Did it really get everything?). Unfortunately, because I had my unit attached to the laptop, Activesync did its usual thing and attempted to run synchronization during the backup, producing a log with 20 or 30 errors. The log file is a text file which is loaded in the same location as the backup, using the same file name, but with a .txt extension.

After the backup is completed, Spb Backup requires the unit to be soft reset and provides a button to do this for you. I’m not exactly sure why this reset is required, but Sprite Backup does the same thing, except they do it both before and after the backup. So, after the reset was completed, I did another soft reset, just to be sure, then located the backup file and double-tapped it to do a restore.

Figure 9: Running the backup executable for restore. No, I didn’t run the backup that early in the morning! It's been fixed in the 1606 build.

Next comes the selection of whether you want to do a full restore or a partial, selecting specific files or folders.

Figure 10: Full Restore or Partial?

Tapping Next starts up the restore process. In this trial, I got an error message saying that “Spb Backup was unable to read the data stream” and the “Backup file may be damaged”. Hmmm, a bit disconcerting, but I decided to proceed anyway. As with Backup, a progress bar shows where you are in the Restore, and it “Completed with no errors.” – go figure – taking about 5 minutes.

Again, a soft reset is required after completion of the restore, and I’m happy to announce that everything looked exactly as it did before. Even Activesync didn’t try to re-synchronize all 5000 or so of my calendar entries!

Trial #2 – Full Backup, Hard Reset, Full Restore
OK, so a restore after a soft-reset went OK, but the REAL TEST is restoring your unit after a hard reset, right?

For this trial, I disconnected the cradle from the laptop, but left the Pocket PC in the cradle, so it could work with full power. (Some backup programs complain when you’re not ‘plugged in’ but Spb Backup didn’t seem to mind either way). So, I did another full system backup out to my CF card (no errors encountered this time), hard reset the unit and went through the usual ‘move the doctor’s appointment’ setup routines. Now for the moment of truth. I double tapped on the backup executable I had just created, and selected full restore. The first thing Spb Backup did was to remind me that the System Clock needed to be set properly before proceeding, and it provided a button to go directly to the utility to do this. I suppose having the clock set properly would allow the Restore to determine where it was restoring to and keep Activesync happy. So, after setting the clock, it came back to the Restore and I tapped Next to continue. The Restore progress screen appeared and things went smoothly from there.

After the restore was finished, I completed the required soft reset and held my breath. Would I be back to where I was before? Well, for the most part, yes. I only noticed one small thing. Activesync seemed to get confused about which files it was supposed to sync with and which ones were new, etc. For some reason, it now had all the files it was supposed to in the My Documents folder on the Pocket PC, but none on the laptop. To fix this problem, I finally had to copy all the files over from the Pocket PC back to the laptop, using Activesync’s Explorer module, then everything seemed to settle down properly.

As far as everything else was concerned, I was back right where I started from. All the applications I loaded were there, hacks I had made to the registry were still in place, and as before, Activesync didn’t try to resynchronize all my appointments, contacts, tasks, etc. All the PIM stuff was just as I had left it! Whew, what a relief!

Custom Backups
When you select Custom Backup, instead of just giving you the typical folder/file tree to navigate, Spb simplifies the process by combining items into the major categories which most people would want to backup/retrieve.

Figure 11: ...and what would you like to backup???

If you want to be even more selective, on items like My Documents and System Data, you can tap on the item and then on the Options button to get to a screen where you can define specifically what to copy.

Scheduled Backups
In Schedule Backups, you first determine the days and times at which the backup will occur.

Figure 12: Setting up a Backup Schedule

As you can see from the screen, Spb Backup assumes a weekly schedule, but you can easily change that to daily if you wish. After defining the schedule, you then tell Spb Backup where the backup files should be stored and how many versions to keep.

Figure 13: Location and Numbers of Backups for Scheduled Backup

Then, you proceed through the same screens as with the Custom Backup, to define what should be included.

I’ve now completed numerous full and selective backups and restores, with no further problems at all. I’m quite comfortable that Spb Backup can bring me back to life easily and consistently – even from a hard reset. (As long as I remember that backup first!) The press release for this version of Spb Backup mentions the ability to backup and restore to your desktop, but I couldn't see it in the candidate software provided. Hopefully, it will be in the 'real' release.

Don is an Associate Director of Systems Development for Fujitsu Consulting – struggling to keep Windows Mobile 5 operating stably on his Dell Axim X50v... (Thank goodness for a backup program that works!)
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Old 02-14-2006, 11:06 PM
Jerry Raia
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Very impressive. Looks like it's 19.95 USD though.
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Old 02-14-2006, 11:14 PM
Jason Dunn
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Originally Posted by Jerry Raia
Very impressive. Looks like it's 19.95 USD though.
Fixed! Not sure what happened there...
Want to contact me personally? Use this. Want to read my personal blog? Check it out. Want to follow me on Twitter? Here you go.
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Old 02-14-2006, 11:23 PM
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 237

Looks nice -- the feature set is very similar to what I have with the iPaq Backup software that came with my HP, so I'll pass for now.

One thing I'd like to see is the ability to backup the storage card itself (perhaps it could default to only changed files, to save time) to a network share or even via FTP. Now that would be a killer Mobile backup app!

As it is, I have to do this manually once or twice a week to protect against pesky FAT errors.
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Old 02-14-2006, 11:46 PM
Jerry Raia
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Yeah even Sprite Backup will backup storage cards.
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Old 02-15-2006, 12:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 287

Highly recommended to install into device memory (not on external card).

Uhm, wouldn't you WANT the backup software on non-volatile memory? I guess with WM5 that's moot but running this type of software from a card would be key for me. Im not always near activesynch to reinstall the software. :|
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Old 02-15-2006, 12:35 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 270
Default Sprite vs. SPB Backup

I've used Sprite Backup for a couple of years. Recently I changed to a WM5 device so Sprite wasn't working for me. I just checked out Sprite's site for the new WM5 version. It's $29.95, but they'll give me a $15 rebate as a current user (after jumping thru some hoops). Their WM5 version still doesn't do stand-alone restoration like SPB does.

Without waiting for the review due "in minutes", I've downloaded, installed and used SPB on a trial basis. Based on what I've seen, I'm going the SPB route, even though I could get a better deal through Sprite (assuming my rebate would go through).

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Old 02-15-2006, 12:58 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 221

Originally Posted by Edgar_
Uhm, wouldn't you WANT the backup software on non-volatile memory? I guess with WM5 that's moot but running this type of software from a card would be key for me. Im not always near activesynch to reinstall the software. :|
Not an issue when you think about it.

You don't need it installed to restore (self extracting backups), and when stored in volatile memory, it'll be backing itself up along with everything else.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:04 AM
Jerry Raia
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The more I think about it, the more I would like to see this app have an option to backup storage card data. I recently had both the miniSD and the SD cards on my 6515 get corrupted.
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Old 02-15-2006, 01:49 AM
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Posts: 327

Originally Posted by Jerry Raia
The more I think about it, the more I would like to see this app have an option to backup storage card data. I recently had both the miniSD and the SD cards on my 6515 get corrupted.
This used to happen to me all the time, until I read an article from a post here, and it mentioned better stability based on the format. I noticed if I do FAT32 and 4K cluster size, it seems to not happen.
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