Disaster Recovery

How do I use Zback as an easy portable backup system?

With its small footprint in a self-contained executable file, Zback can be a good choice for a portable backup system. Jack Wallen shows you how.

There are plenty of options available for backing up your files and folders. Most of these options are installable solutions that reside on one machine and one machine only. You can install these solutions onto a server and set up a backup server for your local network. But what about having a backup solution for on-the-go purposes? Imagine having a backup solution on a USB drive that you could use on any system? And imagine if that solution was free. Zback is that exact solution.

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Features

Zback can be installed on a local system or on a removable drive so that you can quickly and easily back up a system from a USB drive. Zback features include:

  • Portability
  • No setup required
  • Works from USB stick
  • Does not write to the Windows registry
  • Able to update files or refresh existing files or mirror source to target
  • Filter files based on extension, size, date, or subdirectory
  • Preview mode
  • Backup scripting for routine backups
  • Manual, batch, or command-line operation

Add to these features the fact that the interface is easy to use and you have the perfect solution for portable backups. Not convinced yet? Let's see just how easy Zback is to use.

Getting and installing

There really is no installation required for Zback. Just follow these steps:

  • Download the Zback zip file.
  • Unzip the file, which will result in the creation of the directory zback160.
  • Copy the zback160 directory to your USB device.
  • Run the zback.exe file located in the zback160 directory.

What is nice about this setup is that with a large enough USB drive you can run the application and backup to the USB drive all at once, creating an entirely portable, self-contained backup device. Of course, you do not have to use this from the USB device; you can keep the zback160 directory on your PC for local backups as well. And since the zback.exe is a self-contained executable file, you can right-click that file and select Pin to Start Menu to have easy startup access.

Using Zback

As stated earlier, Zback can be used in two ways: Manual or Batch. Let's first take a look at doing a single Manual backup. When you open the Zback application, the main Zback window (Figure A) can be a little daunting.

Figure A

From left to right, it's source and target.

To run a simple, single backup instance, you just select what you want to back up from the left tree and move it to the right tree. The simple steps are:

  • Select the files/folders to back up from the left pane.
  • Select the location from the right pane (if you need to select a different drive click the ">>" button on the Drive section in the right pane.
  • Select the Mode you want.
  • Select any options you want.
  • Click the Make List button.
  • Click the Execute List button.

With Zback what you have to do is create a To Do list of items to back up. You can place only one "item" into the To Do list. Without the ability to create a Batch backup, this could be a problem in that you would be able to back up only one directory (and all of its subdirectories) at a time.

When you click the Make List button, you will see the lower pane fill up with information regarding your backup (Figure B).

Figure B

This information tells you every file and folder that will be backed up.

Options

As I mentioned earlier, there are options you can enable for a backup:

  • From/To: With this option, you can define a date range for Zback to check. If a file has been modified within this range, it will be backed up.
  • Size: With this option, you can define a size. If a file is within this size restraint, it will be backed up.
  • Masks: You can include or exclude wildcards.
  • Subfolders: With this option, you can have Zback check and back up subfolders.
  • Ask before: With this option, you can have Zback ask before it takes any action.

Modes

There are five modes to select from

  • Update: Update directories
  • Refresh Exist: Update existing files
  • Mirror: Create a mirror of source on target
  • Copy all files: Copy all selected source files/directories to target
  • Erase source: erase source after copying

Batch backup

If the backup you are doing will be one you will want to repeat, you should consider adding it to a batch process. To do this, make your To Do list and then click the Add2Batch button. When you click this button, you will be automatically switched to the Batch Backup tab (Figure C) where you can view the results. You can add more To Do lists to this batch file (as many as you need) by clicking back on the Manual Backup tab, creating a new To Do list, and adding the new To Do list to the batch. Once you have added all your To Do lists, go back to the Batch backup tab. You will also want to save the batch file by clicking the Save button and then giving the batch a name.

Figure C

No batch lists have been loaded yet.

In order to actually run a batch list, you have to first load the list. To do this, double-click the list you want to load. Once the list has loaded, click the Exec B List button to execute the list. The lower pane will fill up with the report as the backup occurs.

Final thoughts

Zback is an outstanding and simple solution to an often overly complicated process. And the ability to make Zback your portable solution makes Zback all the more useful. Although you will not find Zback solving your large-scale Enterprise backup needs, it will give you an on-the-go backup solution that will come in very handy.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
dbl
dbl

Using MS Robocopy for personal and business for 5 years. Fastest I have seen for backup and synch.

coleman
coleman

According to your commentary, the Zback batch files must be run from within the Zback GUI. Are there command line parameters to call a batch backup from an MS Command batch file?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you have a favorite application for creating portable backups?

ken.butler
ken.butler

Check the help tab, it's all in there.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been using Unison for a few years now since it provides a version on all my platforms (especially the USB hosted portable build). Now really a backup app but it manages my mirrored synchronization. This is also more a backup through duplication rather than centralized backup system.