Computer Guide

Backing up

by George Skarbek - 5 February 2008

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Backing up

Q: For a long time I have been backing up to CDs and DVDs and now I am considering using a USB drive that will be kept off-site. Can you tell me if there are likely to be any problems with this and are there other alternatives?

A: Backing up to a USB drive has many advantages over a DVD. Generally it is faster as you should be able to add only the new or changed files and restoration can be fractionally easier. The only disadvantage is that using optical media results in having lots of CDs or DVDs as the backups would be done on a very regular basis. When using a USB drive there is a small probability that it can fail and your backups are lost. As long as this is detected before any data is lost there will be no problem but as the cost of lost data can be very high indeed. I suggest that you have two USB drive labelled odd and even and alternate their use.

There are some other alternatives such as USB connected hard drives that are small enough to fit into a shirt pocket and may have enough capacity to have a full drive image using a product such as Acronis. In case of a hard disk failure restoration of the entire hard disk will be very fast and easy.

Yet another alternative that a business may consider is to backup to the Internet using a trustworthy source. Such a service encrypts your data and stores it in a secure data centre.  The backups occur in the background with no noticeable effect on performance. Restoration of individual files or folders is quick and easy. One such company is Carbonite that charges $60 pa. See: for more details. Note that such a service requires you to have a virtually unlimited monthly plan with your ISP otherwise the excess Internet costs may be very high.


Office 2007 docs

Q: We currently run our computers on Windows 2000 Pro and use Office 2000. Most of our regular contacts also use versions of Office prior to Office 2007. If we receive communication from someone using Office 2007 we cannot access it. I feel reluctant to purchase Office 2007, because of the cost and the fact that many of my contacts could not then open my attachments. What should we do?

A: There is no need to purchase Office 2007 as there is a free fix to allow you to read and write the new Office 2007 formats and it supports Word 2003, Word 2002, or Word 2000. This consists of a 27 MB Compatibility Pack for the Office 2007 patch that can be downloaded from: After downloading and installing it will allow you to open all new Microsoft formats and edit some as well.


USB port limit

A: These days computers come with a number of USB ports and I believe these can be daisy-chained to give over 100 ports. Is this so, and is there any limit to the total power drain?

A: There is a theoretical limit of 255 USB ports and this should be far more than adequate for most users. However the power drawn per USB post is a maximum of 500 mA and the voltage must remain above 4.75 v. If you daisy chain many devices by using a non-powered USB hub you may find that even a couple of devices may exceed the power capability of the USB port.

My recommendation is that you spend a little more money and purchase powered USB hubs as in this way you are certain that the devices that you plug into that hub will work.


Outlook Express Security

Q: I have a document file that is an attachment in an Outlook Express email. It appears in grey rather than black when you click on attachments but I cannot save it. I have upgraded to IE6 and utilise AVG Free, Zone Alarm and Spybot. How can I open it?

A: This is a part of Outlook Express security settings and as a result of the default settings in some programs it is making life harder for the users to so their normal tasks. To open or save that file do the following steps. From Outlook Express click on Tools, Options, Security and remove the tick from “Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus”


To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here