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Prosoft Engineering’s Data Backup 2.1 offers simple options for beginners, while including numerous advanced options for power users. The first time you launch the program, it looks for an external hard drive and, if it finds one, offers to use that as the default destination; otherwise, it asks you to choose a destination. You can then drag files, folders, or an entire volume into the Sources field and click Start Now for an immediate, hassle-free backup, saving your settings for future reuse if you like. Alternatively, you can choose from several prepackaged file selections, ranging from your Documents folder to the startup drive.
For greater flexibility and power, you can create custom backup sets using any of Data Backup’s six backup methods, which cover a wide range of scenarios. With this flexibility comes greater complexity. I frequently had to consult the manual to determine which method was appropriate in a given situation. But once you’ve chosen a method you can customize it extensively.
The Clone method, as the name implies, creates a bootable duplicate of an entire disk onto another disk (optionally ignoring specified files). The Simple Copy and Full Copy methods copy entire folders or volumes. With Simple Copy, subsequent backup runs are incremental—only new or modified files are copied—but older files in the backup are overwritten. Full Copy makes a complete copy of your files in its own time-stamped folder each time you run the software. The Synchronize method merges the contents of two folders or volumes, but it does so unintelligently—for example, if a file was modified in both source and destination, the synchronization will fail, resulting in a message for you to check the logs; no reconciliation option is offered.
The other two backup methods incrementally copy new or changed files, but also retain previous versions of files (as well as files that have been deleted on the source disk). The Versioned method makes the drive or folder you’re copying to appear to be identical to the drive or folder you’re copying from after each run, but it keeps older copies of files in a hidden folder. (Versioned backups can also be set to save only a given number of versions and then delete older ones automatically—or you can manually delete certain versions of files when you run out of space.) The Incremental method stores the files from each backup you run in a separate, time-stamped folder. Versioned backups are best suited for backing up to hard drives; Incremental backups are designed with CDs and DVDs in mind.
Unfortunately, Data Backup offers no direct support for backing up to optical discs, leaving it to you to manually burn CDs or DVDs, which can be time consuming.
Data Backup’s scheduling options are extensive. You can run a given backup set with specific dates and times: at intervals ranging from every minute to every four weeks; when you start your computer; when the backup volume is mounted; or on certain days of the week. A given backup set can also run on more than one schedule.
To restore files using Data Backup, you choose File > Restore and select a source, the files or folders within the source you wish to restore, and a destination.
Macworld’s buying advice
Other than the weak support for optical discs and a below-average synchronization feature—neither of which is crucial for backing up your data to hard drives—there’s little not to like about Data Backup 2.1. It’s a mature, capable backup application that should handle almost any single-computer backup task smoothly.
[ Joe Kissell is senior editor of TidBITS and author of Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups (Peachpit, 2007). ]Creating a custom backup set in Data Backup is a straightforward matter of choosing a source, destination, and other options from within a single window (schedules are shown in an additional dialog).