Backing up: registry, files AND directory syncing?

SynkBackup128 Once again I’ve been on the hunt for the best software to achieve a particular purpose, and I’m coming up blank right now. Maybe there’s something out there that does what I need, or maybe there’s a giant opportunity for some genius to invent the complete backup solution.

Allow me to explain. I’m looking for a backup program with the following features: 1) It has to support backing up user-chosen registry keys, and 2) it has to support file synchronizing – not full mode, not differential or incremental mode, not catalog-based stuff, true make-the-contents-of-the-target-directory-look-exactly-like-the-contents-of-the-source-directory synching. And believe it or not, I haven’t found a single program which can do that yet!

Like most people, I believe backups are crucial to the retention of both irreplaceable items on your computer and thereby your sanity as well. So here’s what want. Firstly, something which will backup my essential stuff – contents of the My Documents folder, Application Data folder, certain other files (secure password storage etc) and finally certain tree hierarchies out of my registry (a-HA!) – not to mention my email program’s data and ITS registry keys – into compressed zips; and secondly, because compressing JPGs/AVIs doesn’t save any space, I want something which mirrors out certain target directories on my digital photos drive to the backup destination. The destination is an external drive and it’s only off a USB 1.1 interface so I want to minimize data transfer. I have many gigabytes to backup and until I get a faster external case I’m looking at a decent chunk of time to sync out my stuff every night.

And here’s what I’ve managed to turn up recently, while exploring the idea of “mirroring” directories. Firstly, the backup part can be done relatively painlessly, several programs out there do allow you to export selected parts of your registry along with regular files. But I haven’t been able to find a program that can do both exporting of registry data AND proper directory hierarchy synchronization. It’s driving me nuts! Most of the backup programs I’ve looked at incorporate full, differential, incremental and “mirror” backups. Hooray, I thought to myself: a “mirror” backup should be just what I need since all I want to do is take dir A (with subdirs) and exactly duplicate it across to dir B – adding/deleting files to/from B each time. Pfft. Let me quote you what the typical "mirror” backup definition is, with this text taken directly from the Genie Backup Manager help file: “In mirror backup, the first run always backs up all selected files and folders, and a backup catalog (.gbp file) is stored on the destination media. On subsequent runs, Genie Backup Manager searches for the catalog ".gbp file" in the destination. If the media is empty or it does not contain the catalog file, GBM will start with a new full backup.” So that’s not exactly what I want to do. I want both the source AND destination completely scanned the first time. I don’t want a stupid catalog file written to the destination. See, I already HAD most of the files on my destination from a previous backup program, and when I started a mirror backup to test out GBM, the stupid program started overwriting files on the destination that were exactly the same as on the source, because it was copying blind. Stupid! So next I have a look at SyncBackPro, and it does precisely what I want it to – its mirror mode scans the destination too and it doesn’t need to keep catalog files for the process. But you guessed it, SyncBackPro doesn’t support registry exporting, so I can’t wholly perform my backups with it!! I just looked through their forum and found a post where one of the authors say it’s not designed to do that. Posted a nudge on this anyway.

I am so glad that there’s a shareware period of 30 days or whatever for most software these days. It’s a great opportunity to save wasting my money, again and again. Get this: today I set up Genie Backup Manager to backup my registry and files for email, digital photos and “essentials” to a directory, then had SyncBackPro mirror-sync that directory (~38,000 files) out to my external drive. Two programs, because I haven’t yet found one that will do it all – I refuse on principle to use a mirroring system that relies on the existence of a single catalog file to inform it as to what’s present or not in the destination – a trojan changes one byte in that file and your backup is potentially bollocked or has to be started all over again. Bear in mind that I’m someone who not only keeps two backups (local on a separate drive and external as well), but I also generate Reed-Solomon parity info (using ICE ECC) for all my backed-up data on a weekly basis just in case I need to reconstruct a corrupted backup, and then back up the parity info too. Can never be too paranoid, especially about irreplaceable digital photos. So: maybe there’s a backup program out there with a PROPER mirroring mode that doesn’t require a catalog and that I can rely on to scan the destination and make intelligent choices as to what’s there and what’s not. Maybe “TwoBrightSparks” will add registry export capabilities to SyncBackPro. Until then, I’m stirring my coffee with two spoons at the same time. I’ve got thirty days, and I’m sure as hell not buying two programs to do this. Wish me luck as I hunt through other programs in this genre.