Tools of the Trade: Backing up

I’m sure everybody here has lost a hard drive or two. We’ve all experienced major crashes. I have lost all manner of half finished stories over the years. The only real protection you can have against this is to back up your work regularly.

My first solution

My first backup solution was a little thing called synctoy. Synctoy is available for free from Microsoft. Synctoy was neat, and did what I wanted, but was ridiculously slow, like 30 minutes slow. I haven’t tried it for a while, so maybe they’ve sped it up by now.

My next solution


I used to use Toucan, as it’s a part of the suite and it’s really easy to use. The only problem: it is slow, slow, slow. It took like 20+ plus minutes to back up my open projects directory. Granted, there’s all sorts of stuff in there, including the testing web server I use for work and many file-intensive web scripts .

Speaking of PortableApps, I use a fork of that project called It automatically integrates with Truecrypt, so that when I plug in my backup drive, it prompts me for a password. If I type it in right, it mounts the encrypted portion of the drive (which is where I keep all my backups) and loads up the menu in the system tray. Form that menu, I can run a portable version of OpenOffice, firefox, Toucan, all sorts of stuff. It’s totally slick, and makes me feel like a worthy nerd.

Anyway, as I said Toucan took forever to run (albeit it ran a little faster than synctoy), but I was willing to take the time, because I did not want another data calamity in my life. It also had the benefit of being portable, which for no good reason makes things attractive to me.

Enter rsync

Then I learned about rsync. It’s a super powerful (yet easy to use) backup tool. The problem is that it’s command line only. While I’m not such a graphical interface snob that I refuse to use command line tools, I do avoid it whenever possible. (I’m only a level 20 nerd I suppose…)

However, I located grsync, which is a rsync with a windows GUI frontend.


Grsync performs the exact same same operations as  synctoy and toucan, but in 1/20th the time. That’s right, it backs up my open projects directory in less than one minute.


Here’s the settings I use for grsync:


Did I mention it’s fast?

So anyway, that’s the tool I now use to backup my work. I backup onto a 128 mb Toshiba USB external hard drive. I haven’t tried to run it from the external drive yet, so I don’t know if it’s portable.

download grsync for windows

How do y’all protect your work?

8 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: Backing up

  1. This is some awesome and excellent information here Bryce! I’m saving it – maybe I’ll copy it to a text file or something, because this is good to know for reference. I know we’re going to need to get something to back up our stuff as soon as we’re able, so this will give us some great information to work with. Thanks! 🙂

  2. I used to have a program called FileBack which would back up any files I changed to a CD, but I haven’t used it since the advent of flash drives.

    I used DropBox, which also means I can work from my laptop or PC and I can share files.

    For my manuscript, I back it up on a flash drive, in DropBox, and I email a copy to my daughter in Ireland. Figure the odds are slim we’ll both have trouble at the same time.

    But I want to go back to something that will do what PC anywhere did– put all the files I touch somewhere apart from my hard drive. This post looks interesting.

  3. grsync is by far my favorite back up system ever.

    I was like you and used the stupid slow synctoy…honestly…it wasted more time than it was worth for me.

    I actually stumbled upon the RSync by accident – I wasn’t even looking for a back up system but when I found it and used it a few times I was hooked.

    So I absolutely agree with you – if anyone is making a living on their computer writing or whatever they are doing – the RSync is the back up to have.

  4. I have been using the apple wireless time machine station to back up my files on nearly a daily basis.

    It’s actually pretty neat if you own a mac, as it will check for updates nearly every 2 hours if you want it to. And is super fast, as its only backing up the updates and not rewriting like most clients do.

  5. I like to think one day backing up and the cloud will become synonymous and we will have access to our data anywhere on any platform… wishful thinking aside, to anyone else who works entirely from the PortableApps suite this is how I am currently trying to bodge a solution.

    Like some users above I use Dropbox. However, Dropbox’s meagre 2GB (and excessive 50GB next step price) is not enough to cover the entire partition I have dedicated to the PortableApps Suite.

    Fortunately, I only really need to sync the “Documents” folder in the PortableApps suite so I have installed Dropbox alongside PortableApps (rather than above or inside or vice versa) and use DropboxFolderSync to create symbolic links so there is only one hard copy of your Documents folder on your machine (as simple as right clicking on the folder and selecting “sync with Dropbox” – what this actually does is copy the entire folder to your Dropbox folder and create a symbolic link where your folder used to be). Downside to this method is that the folder icon for your “Documents” folder changes to a rather crappy one with a shortcut arrow through it (you can change the icon back to the PortableApps folder icon but it still has the arrow through it).

    Apparently Dropbox are developing a feature to allow users to sync any folder outside of the Dropbox folder without the need for the DropboxFolderSync extension but how that will work and how long it will be in development is a mystery.

    I love PortableApps and I rather like Dropbox. I am also (putting aside reservations about any large corporation) rather keen on the bookmark syncing in Google Chrome and the fact that all my work and personal email accounts can feed into a gmail account. I am so very close to having access to the same apps/document/settings synced across my laptop, desktop and netbook without any second thought but its just not quite there.

    The ironic thing is I have spent considerably more time trying to find ways of cutting the time it takes to backup and sync my work than I will probably ever gain from all this effort!

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