I’d never heard of Jungsoft, the manufacturer of a product that can make your life easier by helping prevent accidental or malicious file deletion. I was skeptical the company’s new plug-and-play HDD Sheriff (Figure A) could do all that it promises. In a news release, the company claims its USB device, smaller than a pack of wooden matches and less than half the length of a Sharpie pen, could provide instant recovery from data loss due to neglectful users or viruses.

Figure A
The Jungsoft HDD Sheriff can help eliminate the need for software reinstallations and disk drive reimaging.

The company promises that the HDD Sheriff works transparently in the background, unbeknown to users. In the event a PC becomes corrupted by virus infection, mistakenly deleted files, or altered system settings, the HDD Sheriff can make repairs with a simple reboot.

Works as advertised
I thought there had to be a hitch. While the HDD Sheriff uses less than 5 percent of available hard disk space, I couldn’t believe a system could recover so easily from such errors. It turns out the device not only works, it works well.

I plugged the device in and completed a three- to four-minute setup program. During setup, I created an unprotected data partition. It’s in this partition that all data should be stored that will change or be deleted, including users’ My Documents folders. Any data on the partitions you mark as protected are just that: protected. They will not accept changes unless an administrator or supervisor password is provided.

Once I completed installation, I went back to work as if nothing had changed. The HDD Sheriff’s operation was almost transparent. I noticed the addition of a few files and folders—your users probably wouldn’t notice, however—but that was it.

I tried deleting files. When I rebooted, they were still there. I 86ed folders on the protected partition. On rebooting, there they were, right where they’d been before I deleted them.

Then I got brave. Instead of playing with test files and folders, I deleted critical Windows system files from the protected drive. What happened on the reboot? You guessed it. Windows booted right up, with all of its required files perfectly intact.

Jungsoft even claims the HDD Sheriff can recover from a drive that has data and is then formatted. Skeptical again, I tried formatting the Windows system partition using a third-party disk utility.

My hope was I wouldn’t have to root around for my Win2K Pro disk and perform a new install. I wasn’t disappointed. The HDD Sheriff intercepted the action and returned my system to its normal state following a reboot.

How does it operate?
The HDD Sheriff uses a powerful but deceptively simple hardware-software combination. It creates a buffer, or backup area, to protect a hard disk’s master boot record and the Windows registry, thereby preventing changes from being made to critical system settings and important files.

“We’re right at the boot stage, the BIOS, the master boot record,” says Jungsoft USA Executive Vice President Kris Haines. “We’re heading things off at the pass before the OS actually goes into effect.”

The HDD Sheriff monitors those drives you’ve instructed it to guard. If changes are made to a protected partition, and the administrator password is provided, the changes will prove only temporary. At the next reboot, the system returns to its original configuration.

Academic and educational institutions, training labs, and retailers, in particular, are finding the HDD Sheriff particularly beneficial. As an administrator, you may find it helps reduce support calls and time spent recovering from accidental deletions.

The specs
Jungsoft’s HDD Sheriff works on client systems running Windows 9x, NT, Me, 2000, and XP. HDD Sheriffs are also available in ISA, PCI, and parallel port configurations, should you wish to protect systems without USB ports.

Best of all, pricing makes the HDD Sheriff an affordable tool your enterprise can use to reduce downtime, save on administration costs, and protect against data loss.

The HDD Sheriff USB version sells for $49.95, while a LAN card version runs $79.95. The PCI card platform, meanwhile, costs only $69.95.