Installation and Initial Backup

By Nick Stam  |  Posted 2002-11-06 Print this article Print

The main ABSplus backup software (we tested version 4.3) screen provides options to install, read the manual, perform a disk test, or exit. Note that the Users Guide is on the CD, and no paper version is included. Even though the initial and subsequent backup processes can be highly automated (if you chose Express versus Advanced setup, as well soon describe), a variety of configuration and usage options do exist, so it makes sense to read the manual. In fact, because Express mode installs the software and then jumps right into an automated backup, youll probably want to read the manual to see what the heck is really going on.
A quick-start guide is provided, but it doesnt give the curious (or suspicious) user much assurance or information about the actual backup process. CMS claims that in an upcoming documentation release – due later this month, the quick-start guide will add more tips and tricks, and the user documentation will better describe basic operations. An HTML-based help system will also be added.
CMS specifically recommends using their included driver and backup software rather than letting the OS discover and use built-in Windows drivers, though both the PC Card and USB units can work as secondary drives in many operating systems without CMS software. We had no trouble using the PC Card drive with Windows XP built-in drivers, but on a few occasions, Windows could not recognize the USB drive without CMS software. We recommend always using either drive with the CMS software, because the backup features are so good. For those who care to know, heres a compatibility matrix of native OS driver support for the PC Card and USB-based ABSplus drives. Installation: Before you physically connect the drive to the system you should install the ABSplus software and follow the instructions. A "port-driver" is loaded, and then you plug the drive into the appropriate port or socket. The software automatically recognizes the drive and installs another driver layer specific to the device type (PC Card or USB in our case). With the USB device, you may also see a warning from your notebook that a high-speed USB 2.0 device was plugged into a non-USB 2.0 port. Ignore that, because most notebooks do not provide USB 2.0 today. Also, when the drive is recognized, Windows may try to run AutoPlay, so just shut the AutoPlay window if this happens. The CMS program will warn you to disable anti-virus software during install to speed up the process. All of the above steps happen in under one minute. Next, you must choose either Express or Advanced setup options. We recommend the Express setup, which automatically partitions and formats the ABSplus drive based on your current notebook drive settings. That lets it make a bootable clone of your internal drive (assuming sizes are similar). Only Windows partitions are supported for backup operations, and the bootable partition must be a Windows partition. FAT-16, FAT-32, and NTFS partitions are supported. If you cant resist the Advanced setup, and you want the backup drive to be bootable, DO NOT check the box labeled "Disable Disaster Recovery". Advanced Install permits you to create various backup sets for different directories or partitions that you can run separately if you so desire. It also lets you use a single ABSplus backup device to store portions of multiple notebook drives, but the backup drive wont be bootable on all notebooks. Well discuss advanced features shortly. After the drive is initially partitioned and formatted with the Express setup option, the following actions occur in sequence:
  1. Sizing the backup – the software figures out the size of the source drive primary boot partition and its always the entire size of the partition, even if an incremental backup is being performed
  2. Source data scan – looks for changes that have occurred in the source drive since last backup -all data in the boot partition is copied to the ABS drive in the first backup session. (Subsequent incremental backups only copy changed data.) During both drive sizing and source data scanning functions (which happen fairly quickly) your system may be sluggish when performing other tasks.
  3. Complete system backup is performed – your notebook system can be used for other operations, and many disk-oriented operations are slowed to a crawl.
Heres a shot of the backup progress screen: During an initial backup session only, the following steps are performed after a majority of the source disk is backed up:
  1. Reboot occurs after the initial major backup phase
  2. System files are copied to the ABSplus drive
  3. Sizing the backup occurs again
  4. Source data is scanned again – your anti-virus software likely was re-enabled during reboot, and the scan will run faster if you disable auto-protect features during the scan.
  5. Backup is performed again – very quickly this time
  6. Registry data is copied – this takes a few minutes
  7. Process is complete – you should now have a bootable backup drive!

Nick Stam Co-Founder, ExtremeTech
Ex-Director, PC Magazine Labs

Nick is a founder of the ExtremeTech website. He worked with co-founder Bill Machrone designing the site, staffing up, and getting initial content developed for ET's formal launch on June 12, 2001. Nick was Senior Technical Director of ET until mid-2003, while concurrently performing duties in PC Magazine Labs.

Nick was a technical director in PC Labs from late 1991 through mid-2002, and was Lab Director from mid-2002 until March 2005. Prior to PC Magazine, Nick was in the computer industry in various development, systems engineering, and management roles since mid-1980, and he received an MS in Computer Science from SUNY Binghamton.

In March 2005, Nick decided it was time to leave Ziff Davis Media (parent of PC Magazine and ExtremeTech) to pursue other opportunities, but wishes all the best to the ET and PC Magazine staff and reader communities!

Nick can be contacted at


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