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Everybody needs one, like it or not

by Larry Becker

Posted November 20, 2003

BackupMan 1.3 is my new favorite utility for backing up my whole Palm RAM to an expansion card.

I usually recommend that any Palm user with a unit that sports an expansion slot should buy and use a Palm 16MB Backup Card. While that's good advice, the 16MB backup card does have its limitations. It won't work for any Palm that has more than 16MB of RAM, the card can only back up or restore all of the RAM (as opposed to file-by-file), it's relatively slow (about 5 minutes for 14megs of backup or restore in my decidedly unscientific lab tests), and the Palm 16MB backup card is US$50.

The BackupMan program, on the other hand, addresses practically all of the needs you have for a backup card. It lets you use any expansion card with enough memory to hold your data. It doesn't have to be the only thing on the expansion card, so you can use the expansion card for many other programs and data. It can store multiple backup sets of data; it can restore individual files; you can set up exclusions that don't get backed up. It's really fast (around a minute for the same 14MB data) and it can be programmed to backup your Palm automatically at any time you like. Oh, by the way, it's just US$10.

I keep a 256MB SD card in my Tungsten T2 at all times because it has ebooks, MP3s, and lots of data I use regularly. I sleep well because my BackupMan program backs up my whole RAM contents to the expansion card every night at 3:30 am. I've got 2 backup sets so I can restore data from today or yesterday if I need to. And I've used it a couple of times to restore my Palm and had no problems with the data and preferences settings.

If you've ever restored from a HotSync backup you know that preference settings and other idiosyncrasies make for a challenging and potentially time-consuming restore experience. Restoring with BackupMan (or a Palm Backup Card) is a much better experience.

One strength of the Palm Backup card was apparent when I tried to migrate my data to a new Tungsten T2 from my old T1. The BackupMan software told me that the devices were different and data corruption may happen. I told the software to go ahead and try but it crashed every time. Performing the same task with the Palm Backup card DID fully restore all my data from the T1 to the new T2 with one minor flaw. The voice recorder on the new unit wouldn't work. I used a file utility to delete the Voice database files and then reset the Palm and had no further weirdness.

I should point out a couple of things here. If your backups are all on your only SD card--the one you leave in there all the time--and the unit gets lost or stolen, it won't help much. You still will benefit from backing up to an expansion card that doesn't live in your handheld full-time. There is a new Palm 64MB Backup card that offers enhanced features like individual file restore, but that sucker is US$80. Because it's my money here, I'm buying a US$39 64MB SD card from Staples and using my US$10 BackupMan program to backup a couple of data sets I carry in my wallet.

-Larry Becker

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