Bugs & Fixes: Dealing with Data Backup problems

With backup software, the one thing you want more than anything else is reliability. With your data’s survival on the line, the last thing you want is a utility that fails to save your data due to some error that you don’t discover until it is too late.

For the past few years, I have been using ProSoft’s Data Backup. It has worked very well overall. The application offers a variety of backup choices, from clones to incremental backups, and is easy to set up. Still, it is not perfect (as I will describe in a second). I have occasionally considered switching to another utility, but have ultimately been too lazy or too tolerant to bother. That may now change.

For those considering using Data Backup, here are three cautions you should know:

  • When upgrading to a new version of Data Backup or otherwise doing any significant meddling with its settings, be sure to check that your automated schedules are still working when you are done. I have found that they sometimes vanish after such manipulations, with the result that I am no longer backing up automatically. Once you confirm that all is well, you don’t have to keep rechecking. All should remain well, at least until your next upgrade or other similar action.
  • Check out the Restore capability before you need to use it—just to make sure it works. Twice, when I attempted to restore from a cloned backup, the restore failed. As it turns out, there is a simple work-around: Select to backup the clone rather than restore from it. This worked without a hitch. For a clone, these two operations are functionally identical.
  • While Data Backup otherwise continues to work well on my Power Mac G5, I can no longer even launch it on my MacBook Pro. This was not always the case—the problem started happening recently. After I double-click the application’s icon, a message appears stating: “Connecting to Executor…” The application then stalls, never getting beyond this message alert.

I have occasionally had problems with Data Backup’s Executor software (located in /Library/StartupItems) even on my G5. However, in these cases, the fix was easy: Just reinstall a fresh copy of Data Backup and restart the Mac.

This time, on my MacBook Pro, the quick fix did not work. So I wound up calling ProSoft’s technical support. The company promptly answered the phone and was eager to help (and no, the person on the other end of the line did not know that I write for Macworld when I called). Unfortunately, the company also couldn’t find a solution. ProSoft had me uninstall Data Backup before reinstalling it. The Tech support rep also asked me to delete a variety of Data Backup’s preferences and cache files. As a last resort, the company even had me update Apple’s Java Virtual Machine software (presumably Data Backup uses this at some point). None of it had any effect.

Ultimately, the cause of this glitch may be linked to some odd third-party software on my MacBook that is not on my G5. I don’t know. Until someone figures this out, however, I am unable to use Data Backup on my MacBook Pro. As you might guess, this has renewed my interest in seeking an alternative utility.

Note that ProSoft is now taking another look at the Executor issue and hopes to have more information for me by next week.

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