Iomega Automatic Backup Pro - a very serious Design Flaw

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May 24, 2008:  As there is an increasing presence of Iomega USB Hard drives in retail stores, you should carefully check and re-evaluate the merits of using Iomega's Automatic Backup Pro software.  Certain options can make file restoration impossible, even if you diligently back up!  This is unusual, given the fact the purpose of backup software is to save you from a hard drive disaster!

Such was the case with a PCNS customer, who travelled abroad to the Middle East. Unfortunately the customer suffered a signficant laptop failure.   He had his computer serviced in Egypt, where the technician found it was necessary to reinstall Windows XP.  The theory being, reinstallation of the operating system fixes severe problems, and that the technician would use Iomega's backup software to backup the contents of his Profile folder (which contains "My Documents," E-Mail files, and other data files).  What he did not know is using the Iomega Backup Pro Software, as you backup, saves a Catalog file to the C: Drive, the contents of which are crucial to the restoration process.  Further, saving files to an alternate drive in a compressed state requires the Catalog file, and the Catalog file does not get backed up to the USB drive by the software.  When the technician wiped the file system to reload Windows, the Catalog file was obliterated, and none of his data files were recoverable.   By the time the Technician realized this, Windows XP was already reloaded, making the chances of recovering the deleted Catalog file very remote.  

In an Iomega Forum, users having the same problem are met with the same demise, and the Iomega forum moderator plainly states:

"If you backed up your files using IAB pro with the compress option.  If you moved any of the files on the drive or off the drive then there isn't a way to recover the files.  Next time you do a backup make sure you are not compressing the files. "

http://www.iomegasupportforums.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?t=2453

The saving grace was a Robocopy backup script PCNS wrote for this customer in November 2007.   The customer didn't want a scheduled backup, but instead wanted "click backup on demand."   This means it only backs up when you tell it.  Regrettably, the customer did not initiate any further backups, so there was a six month gap in data files.  PCNS cannot force its customers into performing backups.

Solutions

PCNS recommends you do NOT use Iomega Backup Pro Software.  The loss of a catalog file of a compressed backup, (such as a Drive crash) results in no way to restore files.  With the loss of a catalog file in an uncompressed backup, the Iomega Software modifies the contents of each file (adding a 17 byte header), and renames it, and makes it very difficult to restore in the event of a disaster and loss of a Catalog file.

Windows NT Backup

If possible, use Windows NT Backup, which is built in Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Pro (and can be installed from the Windows XP Home CD) onto a Windows XP Home System.  It does not use USB backup disk space as efficiently as it does not compress, but it works well, and it is stable, and time tested.  Windows Vista Users must use Windows Backup.  PCNS has not performed extensive, long term testing of Windows Backup, and cannot comment on its capabilities.

Other Built-In Methods

Even copying and pasting your data folders from Windows Explorer, or a batch script which backs up your Profile folder with the Xcopy command would work and would be better than nothing.   PCNS prefers Microsoft Robocopy AND NT Backup, however Robocopy has a significant learning curve.   Click here for the 35 page Microsoft Robocopy manual.   PCNS can assist with a Robocopy backup script setup.

The Robocopy download link above will redirect you to Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit, which will download many other files you will not need.   Contact me if you'd like a copy of Microsoft's Robocopy, without downloading a large number of unneeded programs.

Demo - how to Backup with NT Backup to a Separate Folder on the C: Drive