zurück

Personal Backup

© 2001 – , Dr. J. Rathlev
 

Frequently asked questions



Compatibility with Windows 7, 8 and 10

The program runs on 32-bit and 64-bit systems (see more)

Installation: Under these operating systems, the rights of an administrator are required. Always use the executable setup (pb-setup-5.5.xxxx.exe) to install or update Personal Backup. This will ensure that there are no restrictions on running the program.
Automatic backups on logoff or on shutdown work on the above systems without any problems. Note: On Windows 8 and 10 the status window showing the backup progress is not visible in this case.


Which version should be used: 32-bit oder 64-bit

On a 32-bit system you will definitely need the 32-bit version.
On a 64-bit system you have the choice: both the 32-bit and the 64-bit version will work with just one exception: if Volume Shadow Copies are to be used, the Personal Backup installation must match the system (see more).
If the backup program is to be installed as portable, for example to be run from a USB stick, the 32-bit version is always recommended because of its ability to run on either system (see more).


How to configure a backup task

Many users do not know which backup settings are best for their purposes. If you are not an experienced user, you should accept the default settings of the program on creating a new backup. Using the wizard for new backup tasks will make this very easy.

Selection of the destination directory

It is recommended that a root directory (e.g. G:\) is never used as the destination directory, but rather an existing subdirectory or a new directory to be created automatically by the program (e.g. G:\Backup). Doing this wll avoid the many problems arising from the restricted access permissions specified by Windows for root directories and the system directories (System Volume Information and $recycle.bin) always found there.

Other Settings

Using the default settings, the backup will be carried out in the Update mode using the method Separate files - Separate directories for drives. The original directory structure will be retained beneath the backup directory. Compression of files will save space on the destination drive, but users can deselect this option if they wish prefer to save exact copies of all backed-up files.
Using this mode ensures that no files are deleted at the destination (unless you selected the Synchronize option). Only those files will be overwritten that have a newer timestamp at source. In addition, all new files will of course be backed up. In this way the backup directory will always contain the current version of all files from the selected source directory and all its subdirectories.
The integrated Restore function of the program can be used to restore your data.

The modes Full, Differential and Incremental should only be used by experienced users if they want to implement a special backup strategy. In each case the destination directory is cleared before backup. Restore is only possible with a combination of full and differential or full and incremental backups.

Saving to zip files

There are two options for saving data as zip files:

  1. As one large zip file containing all subfolders: the original directory structure is contained within the zip file.
  2. As separate zip files for each subfolder: the destination directory structure is an exact copy of the original tree and each subfolder is a zip file containing all the files within the original subfolder.

Zipped backup files must always be written anew, so this option is not suited to a daily backup of large amounts of data. It is more appropriate for small amounts of data (e.g. special projects). Many programs (including Windows Explorer) can read and unpack these files. To document the various stages of a project, you can use one of the optional placeholders as part of the filename.


Anfang

Notes on backup modes

There are four different backup modes:

Note:

The Differential and Incremental modes should always be used in combination with a Full backup to perform specific backup strategies. You can find a comprehensive explanation on Wikipedia. A simple example:

  1. On the first day, make a full backup to directory A.
  2. On subsequent days, make a differential or incremental backup to directories B, C, etc.
  3. To restore your data:
    1. Full + differential: restore the last differential backup (e.g. E) and the last full backup (A).
    2. Full + incremental: restore all incremental backups (e.g. E, D, C and B) in reverse order and the last full backup (A).
    Already-restored files must not be overwritten during this.

On an automatic backup you can run program controlled schedules of this kind.


Anfang

Protecting the backup from malware (Ransomware)

Of late, ever more news items are published reporting malware (so-called Ransomware) that maliciously encrypts a user's data and demands a ransom in return for the decryption key. Unfortunately a simple backup is not capable of preventing such attacks because it too can be maliciously encrypted and hence cannot be used to restore the data.

I have compiled some tips on how to protect a backup created by Personal Backup (see here).


Anfang

Does the program support volume shadow copies?

Since version 5.7 Personal Backup supports the possibility of using Volume Shadow Copies (VSS) for backup. To use this option, the following conditions have to be fulfilled:

An application for this function is for example the backup of the user-specific registry files (ntuser.dat in the AppData directory of the users).

Note: The internal restore function of the program does not at present support this procedure. To restore system files, you need to boot e.g. from a CD with Windows PE to ensure that the installed system is not running.
It does not make sense to use Volume Shadow Copies with Personal Backup for a complete system backup (see the following section).


Anfang

Is the program capable of backing up system data?

The intended purpose of the program is to backup personal data such as documents, spreadsheets, images, etc., the loss of which can have a serious impact since the data is either impossible to recreate or can be achieved only after extremely time-consuming labor.

On the other hand, the operating system and applications in use can always be reinstalled from their original sources and while this will take some time, it is at least possible.

Saving this data with Personal Backup does not make sense because a restore will not produce a runnable system. Moreover a daily backup of the system is not necessary (in contrast to personal data). The fastest way to recover after a system crash is to restore the whole partition previously saved with an imaging tool. This should be done from time to time, e.g. after a system update or the installation of a major piece of software. Apert from some commercial programs, a freeware version for personal use is available from Paragon: Backup & Recovery Free Edition

Since Windows XP the possibility of using Volume Shadow Copies is available under NTFS to back up even locked files directly. How this can be applied with Personal Backup is described here.


Anfang

Backing up data from a Smartphone (Android)

After connecting a smartphone using the Android operating system to your PC via USB you can access its files using Windows Explorer, but a file backup using programs such as Personal Backup is not possible. The device is not displayed in the selection dialog for directories to be backed up because the Media Transport Protocol (MTP) is used for file transfer. This protocol is integrated in the Windows Shell used by Explorer, but to mount the device within the Windows file system, an additional program is required. To my knowledge, MtpDrive is currently the only program available for this purpose, but it is not free of charge.
More information is available at Wikipedia.


Anfang

Backups to external drives (USB flash drives and HDDs)

When using such drives it can happen that the system does not always assign the same drive letter. To backup data always to the same medium independently of the drive letter, you can use the volume name of the removable media (:<volumename>:) instead. Go to Windows Start, Computer or Workplace, right click on the drive and select Properties to define or view the volume name.
Example:

Assign the name Backup-1 to the external drive.
Enter :Backup-1:\Backup instead of K:\Backup in Personal Backup

Disconnect drive

To disconnect the external drive automatically after backup, use the "External programs" function to start a small batch file which calls the utility program RemoveDrive.

Sample script:
  rem remove external drive (RemoveDrive.bat)
  RemoveDrive "Backup-1"
  

Anfang

How to use network resources

The destination directory may be located on any network device or computer. There are various ways to connect:


Anfang

Specifics for backing up files to FTP servers

Before backing up files to an FTP server, you should be aware of the following:


Anfang

Connection dropouts during backup via FTP

During backups to an FTP server using a secure connection (FTPS) in passive mode, sometimes unexpected connection dropouts will happen. The reason is very often a misconfigured Windows firewall. To fix this, enter the following command line as administrator in the Windows prompt:

    netsh advfirewall set global statefulftp disable
  
You will find more information about this issue at StackExchange


Anfang

Timeout on copying files

Since Version 5.0.5, a monitor has been incorporated to prevent the program from hanging (e.g. if the network connection is lost). If while copying files there is no response for a specified time (default: 30s), the process will be canceled. The timeout is adjustable for each task in More options ⇒ Miscellaneous. Setting it to zero disables monitoring.


Anfang

Problems while backing up files from Microsoft OneDrive (SkyDrive)

When backing up files located on a Microsoft Onedrive server, it is necessary to disable the Files On-demand option. Otherwise the files will not be mounted to the local file system and thus not found during backup.


Anfang

Problems while copying to USB drives and NAS systems

When using a backup destination on one of the above devices, the backup might stop with the error message The destination volume is full! even if sufficient space is actually available. In this case you should reduce the size of the internal copy buffer (e.g. to 64 kB) via Task settings ⇒ Other task settings. Try different values to determine which size is optimal for your backup device.


Anfang

Warning in log file: Timestamp could not be set

After a file has been successfully copied, its timestamp (date and time of last change) will be set to the value of the original file. If this doesn't happen, a warning will appear in the log file. This is only an indication of a problem, in that the actual backup of the file nevertheless occurred.
When backing up to a local or Windows network drive, this warning points to a problem in the destination directory (e.g. lack of administration rights) that should be investigated. Should this warning appear when backing up via FTP, the cause will probably be due to the fact that some FTP servers in principle offer no way to set the timestamp. In this case the warning can be ignored.


Anfang

The program does not launch

After double-clicking the program's Desktop icon or the file PersBackup.exe in Windows Explorer nothing happens or a security warning is displayed. The reason for this issue may be found in the Windows security settings. To check, right-click the exe file in Windows Explorer and select Properties. If a Security section in the lower part of the window is displayed indicating "This file came from another computer and might be blocked to help protect this computer", you must click on Unblock to overcome this restriction. Thereafter, you should be able to start Personal Backup as usual.
Background information: When downloading a file, e.g. from the Internet, Windows stores security information (a Zone identifier) specifying from which security zone the file came. This information is stored as an Alternate data stream (only available under NTFS).


Anfang

The program window ist not displayed after start

Sometimes it happens that the program window is not displayed after start. Only the taskbar symbol appears in which also after clicking this symbol the main window will remain unvisible. A possible reason for this issue can be a position outside the screen caused by an accidental mouse move.
When this issue arises, first of all you have to terminate the program, in case of need using the Windows Task Manager. Then you can try to start the program from the command prompt using the option /reset (see here).
If this does not work, you should delete or rename the ini file (see here). Thereby however all settings for automatic tasks will be lost and must be entered manually afterwards.


Anfang

The program starts slowly because at first, directories are scanned

On starting the program, the first directory of a backup task will normally be scanned for new files. If for example this is a whole partition, it can take a very long time.
There are two ways to get around this:

  1. Instead of having one large directory in the backup task, you can enter all its subdirectories and move the smallest to the top. Consequently, while you will have a little more work to do during configuration, at the same time you will have more opportunity to filter certain file types, individual files and directories out of the backup task, because such settings are selected separately for each directory in the task.
  2. You can disable the scanning of directories on starting in the main menu under Preferences ⇒ Program start ⇒ Scan directories. This will then be carried out only after clicking on one of the directories to be backed up.

Anfang

Starting the program from a USB flash drive

It is possible to configure Personal Backup in such a way that it can be started from a USB stick or drive without leaving traces on the host PC. Copy all files from the program directory (usually C:\Program Files\Personal Backup 5) or the downloadable zip file to a directory on the USB drive (e.g. K:\PersBack), and use the command line options /ini:[Filename], /taskdir:[Directory] and optional /logdir:[Directory] to start the program. The options set the program to use an ini and cfg file (for default location see here) and a task directory on the USB drive. Filename must contain a full path (e.g. \PersBack\pb.ini or K:\PersBack\pb.ini). Additionally you can specify a special directory for the log files. Otherwise the logs will be written to the directory where the ini file is located.

Then, using a text editor, create a batch file (e.g. startpb.cmd) in the root directory of the USB drive (e.g. K:\) with the following lines:

   @echo off
   echo Start Personal Backup from USB flash drive
   start PersBack\PersBackup.exe /ini:%%progpath%%\pb.ini /taskdir:%%progpath%%\ /logdir:%%progpath%%\logs

The task files and the ini file created by the program all are located in the directory K:\PersBack as specified by the placeholder %progpath% (Note: Until version 5.6.3 the placeholder does not work for the cfg file containing the language and update settings. This bug was fixed in version 5.6.4).
Start the program from the USB drive using this batch file and configure and save your backup task. To use a backup target directory on the USB drive itself, omit the the drive letter from the destination path (e.g. \Backup) or use the volume name of the USB drive (see here). The latter will also work if the destination path is on another external drive. In doing so, you avoid problems arising from assigning different drive letters by the system.


Anfang

Start a backup automatically when a USB medium is connected

There is a simple way to start a backup automatically immediately after a USB medium is connected to the computer. First you have to download the program AutoRunner. After having installed the program, create a batch file on the external medium (eg. a USB stick) containing the following line:

  "%ProgramFiles%\Personal Backup 5\Persbackup.exe" /f <buj-Datei>
  
Replace <buj-Datei> by the full path of the backup task to be started. Then add this batch file to Autorunner's start list.


Anfang

Notes on using the Windows Task Scheduler

Since Windows 7, there has been a new version of the Task Scheduler. In addition to the features of the former version some new options became available, such as running a backup after a missed scheduled start or the use of user accounts without passwords.
From Personal Backup 5.9 this new version of the Windows Task Scheduler is supported in the integrated wizard. As a result, the wizard is no longer available on systems running Windows XP.
Progress window: If you want to have a progress indicator on the screen after starting a backup from the Task Scheduler, you must select the option Run only when user is logged on under the General tab in the settings for the Task Scheduler. Otherwise the program will not run interactively, which means that any Desktop output is suppressed. You will find more information about this at Microsoft Technet.


Anfang

Backup and hibernate mode

If you wish to switch to hibernate mode instead of logging off or shutting down the computer (see here) but wish to initiate a backup immediately beforehand, you can achieve this as follows:
Create a Desktop shortcut to Personal Backup to start one or several tasks and select Hibernate as the subsequent action. Configuring of automatic backups is not required in this case.
Now, when you wish to switch the computer to hibernate mode, double-click the desktop icon. First, the backups will start and then the computer will subsequently hibernate.


Anfang

Backups on logoff or shutdown

There are several methods to start a backup on logoff:


Anfang

The backup does not start on logoff or shutdown

If the backup does not start or is canceled by the system when logging off or shutting down the computer, the reason is usually an incorrect Windows setting. The registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\AutoEndTasks determines whether running processes end automatically or not (see the information from Microsoft). This value must be "0" to allow a backup. If this value does not exist, it must be created manually: search for HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop and right-click on the right window to create a new string value AutoEndTasks and then set the value by double-clicking to "0".
If the program XP-Antispy is installed, the value can also be changed from there: switch off the option Activate fast shutdown.
Another possible reason can be an installed System Optimizer like Norton Utilites 16.


Anfang

External programs are not executed

If a backup is started on logoff or shutdown using the Auto Backup function, it is not possible to execute external programs before and after the backup. The reason is probably that at this point the Windows system is already in shutdown mode (shaded screen) and is inhibiting the start of any program.
However one of the following workarounds can be used:

  1. Create a Desktop shortcut to Personal Backup to start one or several tasks and select Power-off for example as a subsequent action. If now the computer has to be shut down, double-click the desktop icon instead of using the Windows Shut down function from the start menu.
  2. Configure the automatic backups to be started on logoff or shutdown in the usual way and minimize the program window. Personal Backup is now running in the background and a small icon is shown in the Windows notification area. If you want to logoff or shutdown the computer, right-click this icon and select the desired option Logoff or Shutdown with Backup from the context menu instead of using the Windows Shut down function from the start menu.


Anfang

The PC does not perform a restart after backup

When performing a backup on shutting the computer down, it may be that the PC does not restart or does no power off.
The reason is that the Windows API function that notifies all programs before shut down (See "WM_QUERYENDSESSION" in Windows SDK) says nothing about the intended action (shut down or restart).
In this case you should not use the Windows start button to restart, but instead the functions in the context menu called by right-clicking the icon in the Windows notification area.
To tell Personal Backup permanmently what to do after backing up, select this in the main menu Preferences ⇒ Shutdown.

Logoff script

This problem can be avoided by not using the integrated function Backup on logoff, but instead using a logoff (or shutdown) script. Create the following script and set the Windows policy for logoff (administrator rights are required):

  1. Create script file:
    1. Open Notepad or any other text editor.
    2. Insert this line:
      "%programfiles%\Personal Backup 5\PersBackup.exe" /force /hide <Backuptask>
      <Backuptask> is the full path of the configured backup task to be performed on logoff.
    3. If you have other backup tasks to do, add similar lines. Store the text file as LogOff.cmd in the folder
      C:\WINDOWS\system32\GroupPolicy\User\Scripts\Logoff\.
  2. Start ⇒ Run and start the Group Policy Editor gpedit.msc (not available in all Windows versions)
  3. Expand the tree:
    Policies for Local Computer ⇒ User Configuration ⇒ Windows Settings
  4. At Scripts, double-click Logoff.
  5. Click Add a Script and then the Browse.. button to select the file you just created. Close the window with OK.
  6. Close the group policy editor.

Notes: To use a shutdown script instead, select the section Computer configuration in the Group Policy Editor. This requires at least Personal Backup version 5.2.
If the backup takes a very long time, it may be that it is cancelled by the system (default: 10 min). You can control this behaviour by changing a registry key (more).


Anfang

How the file compression works

By default, compression as zip files (zip extension) is used by the program for backing up single files. Alternatively, the the gzip algorithm (see RFC1952) can be selected for compression (gz extension). Both methods are compatible with all standard archive programs (e.g. WinZip and 7Zip, more details). But only zip files can be opened with native Windows tools, like Windows explorer.
Many file formats (such as PDF, MP3 and JPG) are themselves compressed. Further compressing these files saves no disk space but costs more time. For this reason such file types can be excluded from compression. By default, the following file types will not be compressed:
zip,zipx,gz,7z,arj,ace,arc,bz2,cab,lzh,lha,rar,pdf,jpg,jpeg,gif,png, odt,ott,ods,ots,odg,odp,otp,docx,pptx,xlsx,mp3
This list can be edited by the user for his own requirements.


Anfang

How the encryption works

Files are encrypted using the AES method, with the same routines as in WinZip (Info at WinZip and at Brian Gladman). The file format created depends on the backup mode. Further information about this you will find in the program documentation.


Anfang

Unpacking gz and zip archives created on backup

If the backup target is inside a Windows directory (local, external or network) you can use the internal Restore function for unpacking. This works also with encrypted gz and zip files.
If you you just want to restore a few single files or directories, use of the additional Program PbRestore (in the Windows start menu under Personal Backup - Restore files) is recommended.
If the backup is on an FTP server, it is not possible to unpack gz and zip files directly. You have to copy them first into a local temporary directory using the internal Restore function or any FTP client (e.g. FileZilla). Then you can use the internal Restore function (see above) to unpack them to their final destination.


Anfang

Recovering corrupted zip files

In a zip archive, first of all the compressed files are saved with a header and checksum in the destination file followed by a directory with pointers the start of each file. See PkWare for more details.

If the directory is corrupted or missing, the zip file can then no longer be read by many programs, although the data itself may still be intact. Some archive programs (e.g. iZArc) provide tools to repair such files.

To be able at least partially to restore data from corrupted zip files created with Personal Backup, you can use the following program:


Anfang

Start Personal Backup as a service

The easiest way to start Personal Backup as a service is to use the Windows Task Scheduler. You can configure many different backup tasks to start at different times (e.g. on particular days of the week).
Process the following steps:

  1. Configure and save the backup task using the Personal Backup main window.
  2. Select the Windows Scheduler tab and start the wizard New backup as scheduled task:
    The current backup task will be taken over and the necessary command line options automatically inserted.
  3. Configure the time schedule
  4. Specify the user account with password under which the program is to be run.
Detailed description


Anfang

Settings for an unattended installation

The program is installed using Inno Setup by Jordan Russell. To run an unattended installation, the parameters /silent or /verysilent can be used. If you do not want to start Personal Backup immediately after the installation, add the parameter /norun to the setup command line.


Anfang

Where to find the ini file (program settings) and the log file

All program settings including the configuration of automatic backup tasks are saved in an ini file (Persbackup.ini). This is a text file and can be read with any text editor. Editing this file is, however, not recommended.
The ini file and the standard log file (Persbackup.log) are located in the user's application data directory. You will find this at the following locations:

Note: By default this directory is hidden. To make it visible, change the Windows Explorer setting via Tools ⇒ Folder Options ⇒ View ⇒ Show hidden files and folders.


Anfang

Saving Thunderbird files

Thunderbird (unlike Outlook) is very user-friendly. All files can be backed up even if Thunderbird is running. There is however just one locked file created by Thunderbird on starting (parent.lock) but this is empty and is deleted automatically on closing Thunderbird. The file must not be backed up and should be excluded from backup using an appropriate file filter (All not matching - parent.lock).

The easiest way to save Thunderbird mail data is to use the additional program TbBackup which makes all required settings automatically.


Anfang

Saving Outlook and Skype files

Files used by Outlook and Skype are locked for other applications and backing up this data requires that none of the associated applications are running. For PST files this concerns for example besides Outlook itself all applications and services accessing these files (e.g. phone and fax applications using the Outlook address book). Even indexing services such as Copernic Desktop Search may lock these files. To run a backup, it is required that all these services are stopped.

There are two ways to ensure this:

  1. Start automatic backup on logoff within the program or via a logoff script: at this time Outlook will have been terminated.
  2. Stop Outlook, Skype and other apllications while the backup is running: you will need to execute scripts before and after backing up.

VB scripts to stop and restart Outlook and Skype

Using the function Execute external programs: before backing up, a script is run to stop Outlook and/or Skype and another script run to restart the applications as soon as the backup is completed.
The following sample scripts for Outlook can be modified for other applications. For this purpose, first of all you must find out the running processes which are blocking the files to be backed up. A very useful tool to do this is the Process Explorer from the SysInternals package by Microsoft. To create and edit the scripts you need a simple text editor such as Notepad. Save the scripts at an appropriate location using the proposed names. Open the backup task, click Settings at Other options ⇒ External programs and insert the following command lines:
Before backup: %sysdir%\cscript.exe "<path>\StopOutlook.vbs"
After backup: %sysdir%\cscript.exe "<path>\StartOutlook.vbs"
and select the checkboxes.

Stop Outlook (StopOutlook.vbs):
  ' VB Script Document
  option explicit
  
  dim oWmi, sWmiO, oQResult, oProcess, WshShell, iRet
  
  ' Terminate Outlook 
  
  Set oWmi = GetObject("winmgmts:")
  sWmio = "select * from Win32_Process where name='outlook.exe'"
  Set oQResult = oWmi.Execquery(sWmio)
    For Each oProcess In oQResult
      iRet = oProcess.Terminate(1)
    Next
  Set oWmi = Nothing
  
  WScript.Sleep 100
Restart Outlook (StartOutlook.vbs):
  ' VB Script Document
  option explicit
  
  dim WshShell
  
  ' Start Outlook
  
  Set WshShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
  
  ' The following line depends on the installed Office version
  WshShell.Run """%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Office\Office14\Outlook.exe""", 9

The scripts for Skype and other applications loog quite similar and can be combined with those for Outlook. Some sample scripts (including Skype for Business) are available for download:

Download the script files

Anfang

"Path too long" error in log file

The Windows API functions used until Version 4 of this program restrict the path length (directory + filename) to 260 characters (see Windows SDK). Even Windows Explorer in XP has this limitation.
Personal Backup version 5 now allows longer paths, because it was built with a Delphi development system which has Unicode support. So it is possible to use the wide-string Windows system functions which allow path lengths up to 32,000 characters.

With Version 4 you can use a workaround using the command "Subst":
Example:
The files to be backed up are located in the directory C:\Dir1\..\Dir2\Dir3\..\Dir4. The whole path (directory + filename) exceeds 260 characters.
To split the path, type at the DOS prompt:

subst X: C:\Dir1\..\Dir2
Now you have a new (virtual) drive X: with the subdirectory Dir3\... Add this to your backup task.
Later you can delete the assignment:
subst X: /d

To automate this procedure, start the following batch files before and after backup using the integrated function to execute external programs: SplitDir.cmd:

rem Split directory path and substitute with drive 
subst X: %1
UnsplitDir.cmd:
rem release substitution
subst X: /d
Execute before Backup:
SplitDir.cmd C:\Dir1\..\Dir2
Execute after Backup:
UnsplitDir.cmd


Anfang

Personal Backup and Windows 98

Personal Backup Version 5 does not work under Windows 98. Users using this operating system must use Version 4.5!