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Back To The Future

Where things are as they once were. Philosophy? Nah, I’m talking about backup & restore! A couple of weeks ago I wrote Newbie Guide to Windows Backups, listing the 3 apps most useful for the job. A lot of people backup their data onto CD/DVDs & it is the best option for one time backups of your media – like say your vintage music collection or pictures of the last 5 years of your life. But what about the files you use on a daily basis – like documents, software applications, notes et al? 

The best bet for that is to backup to an external hard drive. Now you could just connect your HDD to your laptop daily and manually copy *all* the files & folders over but not only is it tedious, you’re also more likely to put off doing it as much as possible. Wouldn’t it be easier to have an app do it for you? Not only take the backup but also keep the various versions in order? Such an app does exist and it’s called - appropriately enough – Genie Timeline.

For starters, it is free. It is also the simplest & thus most effective backup software I’ve ever seen. I’m known for my bigger, faster = better philosophy (as regards to hardware & software) but when it comes to taking backups, simplicity is perfection! Setting up your backup shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

After you download and install it, you’ll see the main window called the Dashboard. There isn’t much you can tinker with. Just open up the modify data selections link & choose between the default smart selections (which include such common culprits as My Documents, My pictures etc.) or go ahead and select your custom locations from the My Computer tab.

The best part of Genie Timeline is of course The Timeline! The hallmark of a good backup software is not just the way it lets you take backups, but also the way it lets you restore your files as painlessly as possible. Genie, I think, achieves this spectacularly well. Most other software will let you browse through your compressed backups & chose which file you want to restore but it’s definitely painful (try sifting through 30 GB backups for a 12 MB exe file!). 
genie timeline

Genie on the other hand uses the Timeline. The timeline appears as a bar across the top of the regular explorer windows. So it essentially allows you to look at how your hard drive was organized at different points in time. Its one of those features which make you go ‘Well duh! That’s because while you may not always remember the name of the file or where you kept it, you’ll always have a vague sense of the last time you saw it. And the timeline makes it a very visual process, so even if you forget, getting the file back is a cinch.

So there you have it. A 3 step process taking all of 3 minutes to setup. From that point on, every time your external drive is connected to the laptop/PC, your files & folders are automatically backed up. Truly set and forget!


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