Langa Letter: Solving Automatic Maintenance Problems - InformationWeek
Software // Enterprise Applications
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Fred Langa
Fred Langa

Langa Letter: Solving Automatic Maintenance Problems

Fred Langa explains how to address problems with Windows XP automation, looking at XP's self-maintenance tools and techniques.

Wizard-Generated Command Lines
Here's how to use the XP Backup Wizard to automatically generate a command line with all the bells and whistles enabled and how then to lift that command line for use in your own scripts or batch files:

Launch the XP Backup Wizard. This is normally done by typing "ntbackup" (without the quotes) on the Start/Run command line, or by clicking to Control Panel, selecting "Performance and Maintenance," and clicking on "Back up your data." Normally, the Backup Wizard will then begin, but if instead the Wizard is only offered as an option, select it.

(Note: Some XP setups--especially original-equipment-manufacturer installations and XP Home--may not have the Backup applet installed by default. Check your system's or vendor's help file for specifics or search your hard drive and setup CDs for the Backup applet installation file, normally called NTBACKUP.MSI. For example, in XP Home retail CDs, NTBACKUP.MSI is located in the "\VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP" folder. When you've found it, click on NTBACKUP.MSI to install the Backup applet.)

When you see the "Welcome to the Backup or Restore Wizard" dialog; click Next. Select "Back up Files and settings," click next. In the "What to back up," dialog, make your selection. I find the "Let me choose what to back up" option to be the best, as it lets you select anything--individual files, or folders, or whole folder trees--anywhere on your hard drive. But it's optional--just make sure you're backing up all your hard-to-replace or valuable data. When you're done making your selection(s), click Next.

When you get to "Backup Type, Destination, and Name," you'll have several choices. The "Backup type" option may not be available to you if the Wizard didn't find a backup device (like a tape drive), but that's OK. For my preferred backup method, you want the backup saved to a single file anyway--a "file" type of backup.

In "choose a place to save your backup," you can select any valid destination on your hard drive, system, or network. Because this backup is intended to be automatic, you shouldn't select any destination that requires that you interactively enter a password to gain access (such as a remote network drive) because you may not be there to enter the password when the backup job runs. You also should not place the backup file inside any folder that itself is going to be backed up (if you do that, the backup won't be able to complete because the backup will try to back up itself as it's being created).

I place my backup file in a separate partition on my hard drive; this avoids all file-contention issues and ensures that the backup and original files don't step on each other's toes.

You can give the backup any name you wish, but I recommend you make it short and obvious. Brevity may help avoid file-manipulation problems later on (some old CD formats don't like very long file names, for example), and clarity of naming will help you later on if you need to use the backups to restore your system. I initially call my backups generated this way "Auto_Backup." Even truncated to an eight-character form ("Auto_Bac") the name remains obvious and still tells me that the backup was created by this specific automatic process, rather than by manual or other means. (I use a separate automated method, which we'll discuss later, to give each backup file a unique, date-based name.)

If your backup files may end up commingled with backups from other users or machines, you might choose something based on your name or the machine name. For example, in my case, "LangaDocs" or "LangaDellP4Docs" might be a good way to keep my backups separate from those created by other users or other machines. When you're done with the "Backup Type, Destination, and Name," dialog, click Next to go to the "Completing The Backup or Restore Wizard" dialog, and select the "Advanced" button there.

Under "Type of Backup," you can select any of several backup types. I prefer the simplicity of the "normal" backup type, but you can select any you wish. If you're not familiar with backup types, this site will help explain them. When you've selected a backup type, click Next.

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