Usable USB Backup

Trying to work from Ladan’s side I have used a number of old, second hand laptop computers that have been on their way to the the microchip graveyard. When a computer dies, be it a recoverable error or not, it often takes a while to get a system up and running with my email and important data in place, especially if I am in need of another computer.

Acronis True Image Home 2010I decided I needed a solution that would enable me to get working quickly from any computer, and i bought a 4GB USB Disk to try to set somehting up. Now, had I bought a 2GB disk I now realise I could have done something a little more clever that would have worked without the need for WIndows being installed, but I may well come back to that in a future post, for now I have a 4GB disk and am very happy with what I have got, which is this…

  • An encrytped, password protected, briefcase of my most important documents
  • An encrypted, password protected, backup of my Outlook email folders and settings
  • A one-click facility to synchronise my public and private documents, and email, with any WIndows computer (in the case of email it needs to have Outllok XP or better installed)
  • All my essential applications installed on the USB disk and launchable from there
  • A nice launcher that sits in the Windows system tray and accesses all the facilities from the disk

So, not only do I have my data backed up but I can use almost all of it without interefering with another machine. If I want to use my email on a friends machine I will have to configure a user account under my name to use a fresh copy of Outlook, but I can use webmail for email too. I did consider using Thunderbird as my primary email client and then not needing access to Outlook on any machine (as I can run Thunderbird from the USB Drive), but I prefer Outlook for email management tools.

Here are the tools I am using, and hereby recommending…

  • Truecrypt – This creates an encrypted briefcase file that I can “mount” as a drive when I need access to it.
  • Allway Sync – A utility that can be set to synchronize between certain folders on the USB and the host computer]
  • PStart – An application launcher, like the WIndows start button, that can be configured to work for all the programs on a USB stick.

I also have OpenOffice, Firefox, Mozilla, FileZilla, Gimp, GeoClock, CCleaner, Process Explorer, InfraRecorder, VLC Media Player, Notepad++, Audacity, and a large number of other portable applications installed which can run from the USB drive. Using PStart I can open my briefcase as Drive J: with just one click, and carry out synchronization of Outlook between computers I use with just one click.

One note about Outlook and Encryption, if you are familiar with creating a new .pst file in Outlook then you will know that you are offered three levels of encryption for your messages… None, Compressible or Best… Outlook does not compress the .pst file itself so unless you are going to compress it then the Best option is best!

Most of my blog visitors are not that technical minded to want to know more details about this, so if you do want to know more please le tme know.

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