Special Features

Backup Solutions for your Pocket PC
By: Dave - July 22, 2002


If you are like me, you live dangerously ... only in the sense that you backup almost nothing.  This really isn't a good way to live when installing almost any program could cause problems and incomplete driver updates could require a hard reset.  Pocket PC's are incredibly easy to backup and some solutions are incredibly fast.  Backing up data at the end of the day isn't much harder then a few taps of the stylus, a storage card slightly larger (in capacity) then the memory of your device, and a couple minutes.  Some backup solutions can even go as far as to automate themselves, requiring you to do even less to keep a backup of your data.  Instead of having to spend hours restoring your device (and in some cases never get your files back that you lost), spend minutes and get almost all the data back.  

Test Parameters
For these tests, I used a Compaq iPAQ 3640 running Pocket PC 2002. 6.77mb of the 15.94mb was in use. (Memory size was slightly increased when a solution had to be installed.) For an backups that ran on the device, had the backup was sent to a SanDisk 48mb CF Card in the iPAQ's PCMCIA sleeve. For each test, I preformed a soft reset before the backup to insure that only standard iPAQ tasks were running. 

Backup Solutions

Any Pocket PC device can use the ActiveSync backup solution. The solution is free, but unless you have a network connection for your device, it is of little benefit. ActiveSync took over 22 minutes to backup via USB. ActiveSync does give you the option of incremental back for fast backup the next time, but other then that it is slow and has a progress bar with no percentage shown.  On the plus side, ActiveSync is easy to use and free, and requires no additional memory on your device.  ActiveSync produce a 7.89mb file.
Artsoft's ArtSSave is a solution that isn't as well known as the others.  ArtSSave runs similar to other on device programs, though unlike others it installs itself on the CF card.  ArtSSave runs more like ActiveSync in that it does incremental backups of your device so that the next time it won't take as long to back.  This incremental backup feature is automatic, unlike ActiveSync.   Unlike any other option, ArtSSave also includes options to automatically backup when the battery is low or at a certain time each day.  There is no listing of what file is being backed up, though ArtSSave does tell you what it it doing and has a dual progress bar for the current task and the total backup or restore. ArtSSave took just over two and a half minutes to backup and produced an 8.09mb file.
Backup Manager
Sunnysoft Backup Manager is a more complicated solution that includes limited features.  Unlike other programs, Backup Manager does not have to be on your device to restore a backup.  You can create a small executable to extract the backup when needed.  Backup Manager has an tree style listing of what it can backup.  Unlike some solutions, you can backup direct to the device if you don't have a storage card and have sufficient space.  Backup Manager also includes a user feature for if you have multiple users of the same device and an automated backup feature.  Backup Manager lists what file it is backing up, though doesn't show you the overall progress of the backup (just for each file).  A full backup took just over a minute and a half
and created a 7.67mb file.
CF Backup/Restore
On various Pocket PC devices, the CF Backup/Restore program is included. This is a simple to use and free solution to users of those devices, though beyond that it really has little more to offer. The program has almost no options that can be set, requires you to have a memory card, and has no compression or encryption. To back up my device, it took almost 10 minutes and produced a 7.74mb onto a CF card.  To then restore this image it took almost four minutes.  CF Backup/Restore does not notify of any files that could not be restored.  The progress bar and percent listed in this tool is not very accurate.  It takes much more time to finish the last 1% then elsewhere.

Pocket Backup
Sprite's Pocket Backup is a simple solution that is now being included on the 3900 series iPAQ's. Pocket Backup runs similar to how CF Backup/Restore runs, though it has added options for what to back up and it runs much faster. It can also backup to your device if you have enough room available. Pocket Backup includes compression and encryption options, and like ActiveSync, shows you what file is being backed up (along with both a progress bar and percentage). Without compression on, Sprite Pocket Backup took a just over a minute to backup my device producing a 6.08mb file. With compression, it took just over two minutes and produced a 8.26mb file.

Test Results

  Backup Time Restore Time Backup File Size Connection Type
ActiveSync 22:40 28:55 7.89mb USB
ArtSSave 2:39 1:43 8.09mb Internal
Backup Manager 1:33 0:47 7.67mb Internal
CF Backup/Restore 9:57 3:58 7.74mb Internal
Pocket Backup 1:15 0:48 8.26mb Internal
Pocket Backup
(with compression)
2:08 0:52 6.08mb Internal

After taking a look at all these solutions, I found that anyone needing to do backup should probably spend the money and buy a solution.  All the solutions except ActiveSync and CF Backup/Restore have to be purchased, but for the money you get a product that is 10 to 20 times faster then the free solutions.  In the end, the solution I would likely choose would be Sprite's Pocket Backup, though I would also consider Artsoft's ArtSSave.  Sprite Pocket Backup is an incredibly easy to use solution.  When my device is full, I would like to have the compression option just to keep the backup size as small as possible.  The only thing I would worry about with Pocket Backup is that an uncompressed file would be much larger then needed but there would be no real reason to run Pocket Backup uncompressed when it only takes a little longer to run compressed.  My other choice, ArtSSave, comes instead of Backup Manager because Backup Manager was difficult to use.  Though it doesn't have as many screens as ArtSSave, it doesn't automatically allow you to backup to a storage card, but instead you have to setup association yourself.  Though it isn't really that hard to actually do this, it isn't as simply to figure out how to do this in Backup Manager.  ArtSSave's primary feature I most like it the automatic backups when your device hits the low battery warning or to have a backup created at a certain time each day.
Unlike you desktop system which could take upwards of hours to backup and a large amount of storage, Pocket PC's are relatively easy to backup.  Backing up your Pocket PC can mean the difference between having your data and programs when you need them instead of having to spend time restoring them.  The majority of these backup solution are like Norton Ghost.  They take only a short amount of time to save everything and an even shorter amount of time to restore it when you need it most.  

Feel free to email me about your own PDA, questions, comments, articles, rumors, and reviews.  I can be reached at dave@davespda.com.