Thank you for the suggestions - I am looking at some of these programs now, and my thoughts are shaping up.
ppass, I know about the "differences" screen in SyncbackSE (useful screenshot though, for anyone else reading). The problem is that each time I use SyncbackSE, once my destination drive is plugged in, the whole process of scanning, comparing and writing can take up to 15 min, for my three main backups, since syncbackSE scans everything all over again. It's the scanning that takes a long time. I have some large folders of too many small files (worth discussing in another post sometime - let's just say scrapbook extension for firefox), my thunderbird mail folder is very big, and other odd files are distributed in various places within large directories. I've tried a system of keeping "new stuff" in one place to help the backup along but I find I can't organise my work with temporary folders and remembering to "file away" later etc. So I am stuck with the filing system I've got, which works for me, except when it comes to regular backups. There are various reasons why I don't keep the thumb drives plugged in all the time; security, the fact that they sometimes don't play with with hibernation, the fact that I only have three usb ports which are mostly in use (mouse, phone and second "foreign" phone) and I've not yet managed to find a hub that works consistently (perhaps I have a hardware problem there?).
Therefore I'm after something which will "ready" the scan on the source side, by monitoring, and will then copy changed files across when the destination is plugged in. Unless they are used to restore, these backups are always one-way in my routine life - the only part which needs syncing is matching deletions, which I don't need to do so often.
I agree, ppass, that using two programs might be a bad idea - if I do adopt a FileHamster+SyncbackSE combination I will test it first for how it deals with various scenarios.
I had previously considered using a monitoring program to backup only changed files, not copying them into a complete backup, and doing complete backups less often, since that system at least would protect all my new data. but after having had two laptops break down on me during my long trip abroad earlier this year, I really wanted a system where I could almost instantly continue my work from usb drives so I can use other computers if/when mine fails. Perhaps this isn't feasible and perhaps I should stick to this previous idea (which FileHamster would acheive rather well). But the seamlessness of having all my portable apps ready and backed up onto the thumbdrives to take on a short trip has already paid dividends in my life.
What I am after is an imaginary adapation of syncback where "pure backup mode" is set up, where syncbackSE monitors in real time, so that the "differences" screen is being prepared constantly and dynamically, and when my destination drive was ready I could press "go" and the writing would take only a short time.
I shall carry on looking at these programs, but I am considering other solutions, like sorting out the firefox scrapbook monster, like consolidating everything onto a larger portable drive and keeping it plugged in, like having more and smaller SyncbackSE profiles and somehow tracking which ones need to run when ... filehamster might very well help with this latter idea simply as a "cue" program for myself to remind me where I've been creating or modifying files. Also tweaking my SyncbackSE profiles and making sure I'm not making it slower for myself.