By Deane Barker on April 9, 2009

So, I have to install Vista. Not thrilled about it, but we need to start developing locally (rather than on a shared server), and XP still has IIS 5.1, so I don’t have much choice.

I don’t want to upgrade — I want to do a fresh install. It’s about time to pave the machine anyway. However, the fear in these cases is that you’re going to format the drive and then remember, “Oh, crap, I needed X…”

So, I figure, I’ll just write my entire hard drive somewhere. Handily enough, I have a Maxtor OneTouch drive sitting on the desk with 1TB of capacity. Given that my laptop only has an 80GB drive, I could back the whole thing up 12 times.

I thought about Norton Ghost, but that’s a little scary — it actually does a low-level disk image that you can restore from a recovery disk or something. That’s way too black box. I just want a brute force file copy that I can browse if need be.

I have Genie-Soft backup, which has been quite good so far, so I decide to use that to back the whole thing up. I set up the job so it doesn’t even zip — it just copies like a mofo. And copy it does…until about half way through the drive when it throws a low-level “do you want to debug?” type of error. I reset the job a couple times, but still get the error (bummer, because I’ve never had a lick of problems with that software before).

Okay, so let’s just use XCOPY, right? That’s a command line utility that will do a recursive file copy. And you can suppress errors with it, so it can skip right past files that are locked or whatever.

So, I set that up, and it starts copying like crazy…until I get an “Insufficient Memory” error. A little Googling tells me that the error is deceptive. The problem is that some of my nested folders result in paths longer than 254 characters. Bummer.

So, I go looking, and I happen on a great little command line program called “XXCOPY.” This was apparently built to handle the 254-character path limit, and it’s evolved from there into what could be the ultimate manifestation of a file syncing utility.

XXCOPY has about 200 switches to configure the behavior and output every which way but Sunday. It started with mere duplicates of the default program’s switches, but now can configure log output, skip or include files by pattern, consolidate directories, re-timestamp files, etc.

As I write this, XXCOPY is brute-force copying my entire hard drive to my OneTouch. I expect it to take 5-6 hours.

They have a freeware version and a “Pro” version for $40. Functionality appears to be the same, it just depends on what you use it for.

I love little programs like this that has evolved around doing one thing well. You can take it too far (see the past posts on WS_FTP, for example), but XXCOPY has a hit nice, sweet spot in terms of functionality. In this sense, it reminds me of another great command line utility — FDate.

So, that’s the meandering story of how I backed up my drive and found a snazzy little command line utility to boot.

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  1. I love XCOPY (and I’ll like XXCOPY even more).

    XCOPY was first introduced in MS DOS 5.0 around 1991. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover XCOPY until the mid 1990’s after I learned Unix. It was only then when I was looking for something equivalent to cp -pr in DOS that I discovered XCOPY. By that time Microsoft was promoting Windows over DOS and didn’t really promote this Unix-like feature.

    Considering I still get into the command prompt for system/network administration…it’s hard to believe that MS at one time had planned to drop the command shell from Windows.

  2. 5-6 hours? Holy carp! How big is your drive, and how full?

    Ran all night. It’s been 14 hours now, and it’s almost done. It’s on the last folder, it looks like.

  3. if you had a linux bootable handy , a dd if=/dev/ of=/mnt/maxtor_mount/backup.iso bs=512 would have done … and I am not sure , but I think it would have taken less that 12 hours .. and it would have been a perfect copy .. you could have mounted it later on as an iso image….

  4. Why re-invent the wheel? rsync is the right tool for the job. Available as part of the Cygwin distribution, and also elsewhere. You just need the client. Great for incremental backups too, or to remote servers, etc.

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