Sometimes a backup isn't a backup, especially when the file recovery fails.  So it's nice to have a trick in your back pocket, literally when it comes on a small, USB smart drive.

Sandisk CruzerAs anyone who is an IT Pro or sysadmin for their family and friends, you know how frustrating it can be when you have to manage multiple PCs at home... and even more frustrating when you have trouble recovering a previous backup.  So it's great when you find a small Swiss Army knife of sorts when it comes to making the process easier: in this case, it's Sandisk's CruzerSync software on the Cruzer drive.

Yesterday I noted that I completed a clean install of Windows Vista SP1 on to one of our notebooks at home, my wife's old Dell Inspiron 600m.  Installing Vista was the easy part. The challenge came when the last back up of her mail was corrupted and I found myself without her most recent mail.  Sensing a potentially difficult weekend in store should I be unable to provide nearly a month's worth of mail, I started on a recovery process that took me through various Outlook mailbox repairs (with a stint through using the Outlook Inbox Repair tool). 

That's when I recalled that in addition to a new installed Windows Home Server (to which I was just about to add the Dell), I recalled that I also had recently backed up some of the files to a little Sandisk thumb drive, and had also had the presence of mind to try out the bundled synchronization software.

In short, the CruzerSync software saved my migrating email bacon.

We have a couple of SanDisk Cruzer Micro smart drives at home after I started using them at work. The Cruzer comes with a number of preinstalled applications (with more available for download), including CruzerSync from Dmailer.  This small app allows owners to to simply backup and restore files on personal files on the computer as well as Outlook data.  It's part of the Sandisk U3 technology on the Cruzer USB drives.  From the Sandisk page...

"You can use U3 smart drives like a standard USB drive for copying and transferring files and documents. You can 'drag and drop' files from My Computer or Windows Explorer as before. But if you want to enjoy true mobility and Programs on the Go then you will find U3 as the ideal solution for carrying your complete personal workspace wherever you go."

U3 is an open-standard platform developed by SanDisk and M-Systems (and ultimately acquired by Sandisk).  (As noted in this SanDisk PR last year, Microsoft announced a business relationship with SanDisk to develop new hardware capabilities, including TrustedFlash security technology.)  In short, U3 allows customers to bring their applications along on smart drives and use them on a Windows-powered computer (as long as it has a USB port).

Back to my experience.

After doing a drag copy of files from the Inspiron to the smart drive before starting the clean install, I used the desktop-available CruzerSync to quickly synchronized all files on the computer.  After attempting a mail recovery from a previous backup that ended in failure, I remembered that I had backed up the Outlook data (and everything else, for that matter) using the CruzerSync software earlier in the week... and with a couple of clicks, I selectively re-installed just the Outlook mail data and contacts. 

Email saved. ;)

With CruzerSync, the added benefit is that once backed up, you can access your Outlook data on the smart drive from any Windows powered computer, even if Outlook isn't installed on the computer.  I haven't tried it yet, but the software allows you to access files and Outlook data, and according to the dmailer site, "send and receive emails with or without attachments, add a meeting in your calendar, change a contact, display your notes and tasks, edit a World or Excel document and even access to your Internet favorites."

Pretty cool.

Now, I'm off to install the Windows Home Server software on the notebook.

(A note that this is a personal endorsement: I'm a happy Sandisk customer and buy my drives like everyone else. ;)

More info on CruzerSync is available here.

Tags: Microsoft, Cruzer, Sandisk, CruzerSync, backup, utilities.