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Last post Author Topic: Settings backup software?  (Read 11049 times)

app103

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Settings backup software?
« on: September 01, 2007, 02:20:33 PM »
Is there an application that will work for Win98/ME/2K/XP that will back up a bunch of various Windows settings that will allow you to check off what settings you want and make it easy to back up and restore them all and/or just the specific ones you want?

And if so, are there any FREE ones that will do this?*

Bonus points if it also lets you back up settings for a bunch of popular applications too. (MS Office, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, etc)



*If it doesn't exist, please don't offer to make it. If this turns out to be the case, this may be my next project.

Josh

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2007, 05:02:09 PM »
This isnt free, but Genie-Soft backup manager pro allows plugins to backup various settings from your configuration. It also allows you to backup various windows settings with its built-in functionality. I highly recommend it!

tomos

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2007, 05:24:17 PM »
the new backup4all plugin system would cover some apps.
posted about it here apparently you can write plugins, well I probably couldnt :)
Tom

Armando

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2007, 10:19:15 PM »
App, out of curiosity, and if it's not indiscreet to ask : why do you want to backup Windows settings? (Sorry if it seems like a stupid question...)

Curt

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2007, 10:23:55 AM »
Today's GiveAway is offering some of it:

Quote from: GiveAwayOfTheDay
East-Tec Backup 2007 backs up and protects the files and data you care about (files, folders, documents, emails, photos, address book, and settings from your favorite programs such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and more).

edbro

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2007, 11:04:45 AM »
This has already been discussed thoroughly here:
http://www.donationc...60.msg65858#msg65858

KenR

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2007, 11:34:34 AM »
Today's GiveAway is offering some of it:

Quote from: GiveAwayOfTheDay
East-Tec Backup 2007 backs up and protects the files and data you care about (files, folders, documents, emails, photos, address book, and settings from your favorite programs such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and more).

Nice post Curt. Thanks for letting people know. Backuping things up is always an ongoing need and it's always good to bring such offers to people's attention.

Ken
Kenneth P. Reeder, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Jacksonville, North Carolina  28546

Darwin

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2007, 01:08:56 PM »
Free Download a Day has Areca Backup highlighted today. Might be worth a look...

Also, see my post about Winalysis in the thread to which edBro pointed.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

app103

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2007, 02:33:33 AM »
App, out of curiosity, and if it's not indiscreet to ask : why do you want to backup Windows settings? (Sorry if it seems like a stupid question...)

I have had a few mishaps over the years that were easily fixed and some only because I had enough sense to eventually backup the registry settings for a specific application.

I am sure there are those that aren't as skilled at figuring out how to fix some things that go wrong and if it's just one little thing it would be great to have a small tool that can do it for you.

I can remember a time waaay back when I had no clue how to fix my taskbar when I accidentally dragged it to wrong part of my screen. Took me about 2 hours of dragging it all over the place to accidentally get it back to the way I wanted it.  :-[

People take a lot of time customizing things to get it all just the way they want it. It would be nice to be able to make it easy for them to save just what they want...and even nicer to make it easy for them to restore it too.

What if you just want to play around with all your settings and mess with colors, cursors, sounds, etc. Wouldn't it be great to be able to go back to the way you had it all with just a click or 2?

I am sure there is more than just the basic appearance settings that we'd all like to be able to easily save.

If this is the kind of tool I would end up making, I'd probably ask everyone for their input on just what settings are a pain to have to remember or fix when it goes wrong.

This has already been discussed thoroughly here:
http://www.donationc...60.msg65858#msg65858

I have looked there and nothing is quite what I had in mind. They all require you to know what registry keys to back up. I was thinking more like being able to select an application from a list and check off a bunch of boxes that explain what each setting is, to make it easy for those that don't understand.

This wouldn't really be for power users that are comfortable with the more complicated tools that would require you to know what you are looking for. This would be for the less computer savvy average pc user.

I mean, I am perfectly happy with diving into the guts of my registry and messing around, exporting the keys I want & need. But is everyone else?

tomos

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2007, 02:36:36 PM »
I mean, I am perfectly happy with diving into the guts of my registry and messing around, exporting the keys I want & need. But is everyone else?
absolutely not !!
Tom

Carol Haynes

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2007, 03:51:03 PM »
Even if you are happy tinkering in the registry it is really hard to back up applications settings as there is no easy way to determine what needs to be backed up.

I suppose one way you could do it is to use Total Uninstall (or similar app) to monitor the registry while you set up and configure an application. Once that is done you can check through the resulting backup to find out which folders it creates, which files it adds/removes/swaps and which registry entries are altered/added/removed. It would then not be a difficult task to write a plugin for Genie-soft's Backup Manager Pro - they are just text files with a list of what to back up.

There isn't any obvious automatic way to do this - short of someone writing all the details you require for every application as almost no two programs do the same thing in the same way.

This is one of the big headaches of the Windows System - everything gets scattered about all over the place as the programmer see fit. OK there are guidelines set out by Microsoft about what should and shouldn't be done but MS is often on of the worst culprits at breaking those guidelines - some MS apps add literally thousands of registry entries - the thought of trying to track them all down is a nightmare. Some of these registry changes (like entering serial codes and activation details) are often hidden from registry monitoring apps - and some don't even seem to use the registry at all (or files accessible to the Windows File System).

Whoever designed the stupid registry system should be shot - resuscitated and then shot again! It would be much simpler if every application had a simple structure - one folder containing all necessary files, individual INI files to store each users settings stored in an easily accessible place within each user's profile or a user defined place. Specific user data (such as email archives) store where the user wants them. The only reason for any sort of central registry is for registering an interest in shared activity (such as OLE applications) between applications and services and for filetype administration - though the latter could probably be done more effectively with an effective system tool.

Trouble is backward compatibility means we are stuck with the mess ad-inifinitum - as shown by the pointless inclusion of SYSTEM.INI etc. in current versions of Windows.

edbro

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2007, 04:07:44 PM »
Carol, it only gets worse with Vista. In Vista, all the ini and other config files that programs write to their program folder get redirected to a virtual "program files" directory. You end up with some configuration data in the registry, some in the virtual folders and some in "ProgramData" folder. You have to hunt all over the place to find things like plugins, *.cfg, etc.

I advocate using TotalUnistall also. I use it for most installs. It is especially good if you download any of the GiveAwayoftheDay (http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/) software as you can record the registration information for reinstallations. I still use the older, freeware version of TotalUninstall. It still fits my needs.

Josh

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2007, 05:23:38 PM »
edbro, surely you cant blame microsoft for developers not using the proper setup for their file storage right? I mean, microsoft made user profile folders in NT for a reason, so that user specific settings could be stored in a central place. Developers still used program files for storage because microsoft never FORCED you to store it elsewhere. Well, now they do, and rightfully so, so that users can have a single place to look for settings.

edbro

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2007, 06:41:17 PM »
I didn't blame anybody. I'm just saying what the situation is.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2007, 06:50:02 PM »
Josh, the problem is that if you go back to Windows 3.1 onwards there have been a variety of solutions. Until recently vendors were supposed to write software that was compatible with Windows 9x, NT, 200x, XP and now Vista. OK most are now dropping support for pre-NT systems but until recently there were no consistent user profile folders and INI files were the norm for settings in Windows alongside registry entries.

Microsoft is entirely responsible for the mess that now exists - they designed it and have forced backwards compatability decisions on their own code and other software vendors.

IMHO a rational approach for XP, Vista or the next version would have been to draw a line under history and design a new system from scratch. That way a rational and efficient system could be put in place and the present hideous mess dropped for good. An optional abstracted compatibility layer (almost a built in Virtual Machine - like VMWare or VirtualPC but more tightly integrated) could be included for a couple of versions of Windows with advanced notice that support will be removed at a specified date. That way developers would perhaps have two versions of Windows in which to port all applications to native mode and the compatibility layer could be dropped in a future build altogether. Users could retain the right to run an older version of Windows for long term legacy apps - or run them under a VMWare type solution not integrated my MS.

In case anyone thinks this is a far fetched idea it is precisely what Apple did with MacOS when they move to 'nix based OS and they even dared to do it again when they moved to the Intel platform. You don't hear Mac developers or users bellyaching over this. There would be a short term head scratching in the 'doze community but they'd get over it and see the benefits. It would also probably mean that Windows wouldn't need 8Gb of disk space just to load the installation!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 06:53:20 PM by Carol Haynes »

Josh

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2007, 06:57:16 PM »
Thats just it, Microsoft didn't realize that the business OS, then NT, would take off and be as popular as it became. Yes, backwards compatibility is forced, but that is because if they didn't retain they would be screamed at for breaking applications and the way they operate. People can't complain about Microsoft not putting in backwards compatibility, then whine when they do and things like this happen. Microsoft is finally fixing what should have been done properly by developers since XP became the primary code-base (dropping the 9x line of code). I surely don't blame Microsoft for leaving compatibility modes in place, and I don't blame them for changing the system to force developers to code properly now as they have with Vista. Its like the whole w3c fiasco, if people had coded properly from the start, we wouldn't have the standards wars going on right now for web browsers. Likewise, if developers had coded their applications to take advantage of proper setting storage, we wouldn't be where we are now.

As I said, I don't blame Microsoft. The system has been in place for years (since Windows XP's release and the demise of the 9x code base
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 07:00:45 PM by Josh »

Carol Haynes

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2007, 07:13:33 PM »
Sorry - I think we are talking slightly at cross purposes - I am not referring to 'compatibility mode' in the Windows sense.

The problem with every version of Windows is that it contains every previous version back to MSDOS. OK they have now dropped DOS support in NT based systems - but even NT still carries legacy of previous versions of Windows. By trying to make Windows work so that an application written 10 years ago should install and run without problem on the latest and greatest version they are completely stuck with the hotch-potch of decisions made over nearly 30 years.

Personally I think it is time for MS (and all users) to bite the bullet and be really radical.

The next version of Windows (IMHO) should go further than the usual of cycle of minor bug fixes, security fudges (that drive everyone mad), DRM fudges (that drive everyone mad), Windows Genuine Advanatage (that drives everyone mad) and yet another minor update to Internet Explorer (which drives everyone mad) and a new graphical paint job (that wastes massive resources to look pretty).

Instead they should say Windows XP and Vista will be updated and supported for the next 10 years - and when the next version of Windows is released it will be a completely new system designed, built and coded from scratch. for an interim period they will provide something similar to VirtualPC (seemlessly integrated, running Windows Vista/XP whatever) as a freebie - but when the new OS has had time to bed in and become established (say 2 releases) drop support of older systems alotgether and force an orderly move to the new system by developers.

If people still want backward compatibility they should run a dual boot with a relevant version of Windows (XP/Vista).

The new OS would then be much leaner, properly designed for purpose (rather than something that was literally designed in 48 hours on the back of an envelope like MS-DOS was - and largely lifted from CP/M without credit) and would be so much faster  and save on wasted clock cycles just trying to deal with software written for 10 different versions of Windows simultaneously.

Just one example - who thought shared DLL files were a good idea and then implemented DLL hell as we have it now? If a new version of windows insisted that all shared files were placed in one central repository and version checking was performed by installation routines you could guarantee that only the latest version is installed. As it is now how many apps have DLLs in their application folders with the result that multiple versions exist of the same file and it is pot luck which one ends up in memory half the time?

Josh

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2007, 07:35:46 PM »
Carol, that post is a very well thought out one and I whole-heartedly agree. My compatibility mode reference was more at MS maintaining "Backwards compatibility" for the sake of users who use old software. This has been a problem daunting the Windows platform for years. Yes, Microsoft needs to drop support for older versions. Yes, this will annoy a lot of people, but in the end, it will be better since we can truly rid ourselves of old, insecure code and grow on a more secure baseline. Developers need to start realizing that with Vista, previous thoughts about storage are no longer going to work. Storing settings in the program files folder is unacceptable. There is a reason we have user profiles, lets use them.

But yes, I agree with your post. Great job :)

edbro

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2007, 07:58:57 PM »
The problem with starting fresh with no backward compatibility is that the business world would revolt. I know in my organization, we are very slow to adapt to new software. We wait until it has been out there for quite a while before using it. That goes for the OS as well as applications. I know most business' would not be willing to do a wholesale swap for a new OS and new application software to go with it. It is too expensive and too risky.

Let's face it, MS makes most of their profit from the corporate world. Not too many consumers are buying $500 Office suites. Business' have too much invested in legacy software to simply change everything.

Josh

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2007, 08:01:23 PM »
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with why we cant ditch the backwards compatibility code (reducing the size of windows itself). This again, is why I don't and can't blame Microsoft for thinking of the customers first. Businesses aren't the only ones requiring backwards compatibility, I know several home users which use old software on a daily basis and refuse to upgrade.

Armando

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2007, 12:42:31 AM »
@ app103 : thanks for taking the time to answer.  I asked because I find that backing up and restoring registry settings are often an... "uncertain" enterprise. I've pretty much given up on it (as a routine). But of course I do see (and know...) how it can/could sometimes be practical for very specific situations (like the "takbar situation" you describe). I've now become lazy and use Acronis (and before that : Partition Magic) whenever I need to restore something...

Whoever designed the stupid registry system should be shot - resuscitated and then shot again!

humfffff.  :o Poor guy. But... Odly maybe : thanks carol.  :-*  Yes, strangely it feels good to hear you say that. I hate -- with a deeply rooted passion -- the way the registry is handled.

Even if you are happy tinkering in the registry it is really hard to back up applications settings as there is no easy way to determine what needs to be backed up.
[...]
This is one of the big headaches of the Windows System - everything gets scattered about all over the place as the programmer see fit. OK there are guidelines set out by Microsoft about what should and shouldn't be done but MS is often on of the worst culprits at breaking those guidelines - some MS apps add literally thousands of registry entries - the thought of trying to track them all down is a nightmare. Some of these registry changes (like entering serial codes and activation details) are often hidden from registry monitoring apps - and some don't even seem to use the registry at all (or files accessible to the Windows File System).

I expressed some similar views there
IMO, the registry -- if any -- should be for the OS exclusively.

With the great advancements of virtual solutions and todays more powerful machines, I agree with you guys (Josh and Carol... and Edbro?) : the best way would probably be to get rid of the old code, and start from scrtach. Yes, Mac took that risk a few years ago and it was a great move...

Carol Haynes

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2007, 05:58:23 AM »
The problem with starting fresh with no backward compatibility is that the business world would revolt. I know in my organization, we are very slow to adapt to new software. We wait until it has been out there for quite a while before using it. That goes for the OS as well as applications. I know most business' would not be willing to do a wholesale swap for a new OS and new application software to go with it. It is too expensive and too risky.

Let's face it, MS makes most of their profit from the corporate world. Not too many consumers are buying $500 Office suites. Business' have too much invested in legacy software to simply change everything.

I'm not so sure - if businesses are slow to evolve in terms of OS and software then those companies provide limited income to MS anyway. I would guess the bulk of MS income these days comes from OEM installations on personal PCs - that's how they managed to get such ridiculous sales statistics on Windows Vista and Office 2007. You can't tell me that businesses around the world have suddenly dumped old hardware to upgrade to the demands of Vista. Similarly most businesses will have avoided jumping onto Office 2007 because of the retraining issues inherent in the new design. If the business world is really MS's major market they are doing a funny job! It isn't as though they don't innovate between versions - it would just be easier to innovate and steal a march on Linux and MacOS if they went back to basics first. From a user perspective things wouldn't have to change much at all - all the changes would be under the hood - and I'd guess many developers would relish the idea of reworking software in a more coherent and less convoluted environment. MS could even provide porting tools so that software written within proper specs for current Windows would just need to be recompiled - it's presumably what Apple did when they moved to Intel.

That's also why I suggested something like a 10 year transition period where there is a VirtualPC-like layer integrated seamlessly into the new version of Windows so that legacy apps can be run during the transition. I suppose there may still be some businesses using Windows 3.1 and Office 97 out there but if there is MS isn't getting revenue from those customers and why should the rest suffer so they can stick with Word 97 until the year 2100 ?

Corporate Customers who use the MS licensing system to continuously upgrade wouldn't be that affected because they will probably either stick with a version that does the job or just move on with MS. Software houses that provide other software would have to port their products to be compatible with the new OS (as they do now anyway - it would be a one off major updating process).

I don't think people should be forced to lose legacy apps but if things continue the way they are going now then in the next 10-20 years Windows will become so ungainly that MS will lose support anyway from most people. Already you need to have hardware for MS Vista that would only have been dreamed of 20 years ago (somewhat higher spec than the IBM mainframes of that time). There must be a physical and theoretical limit to how far hardware can be developed on the current basis and the way Windows releases grow exponentially it will outgrow hardware's capacity to cope. As I said above for people who don't move on perhaps continue to maintain Windows XP and Vista (at least in the security sense and making use of new hardware) for the long haul (say 10-20 years) so that people have a long time to make the transition.

Lashiec

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2007, 09:10:55 AM »
The funny thing is Windows doesn't really have that great backwards compatibility. Maybe when it comes to business apps they do (for those wishing to run Wordstar or whatever other dead app they fancy), but for games it surely don't. It's not by coincidence that some gaming sites had these huge compatibility lists with solutions for games that refuse to run here or there, that the world of virtual machines is in constant development, wether it's for providing real solutions (DOSBox, VirtualPC or VmWare) or for showing fancy features with no use from a usability point IMHO (VmWare's Fusion or Parallels Coherence) and that there are constant talk in tech sites about hypervisors and their impact over virtualized systems.

The world is moving to the point that VMs will be absolutely necessary, not only for developers, but also for end users who sometimes are tired of tweaking this or other app to run like it should, or who want to try out software without compromising the computer or leaving debris behind (OK, this could be solved with an alternative for the registry system). I don't think we'll reach the point that some gurus wanted, that was coding a program for a specific machine and then providing a VM with the program installed (it doesn't make feel very comfortable), but Microsoft will provide a VM solution built into Windows soon or later. Windows 7 would probably the last typical SO from Microsoft in that regard, and Windows 8 would be a new codebase with much of the legacy code rewritten or left out of the equation (again, unless the incessant talk of 'software as a service' gets a real implementation). I think Microsoft was waiting for the VM business to be mature, both in user awareness, and in technical development, with the appearance of highly optimized hypervisors (as hypervisors are a bit older). Both the latest chips from AMD and Intel provide instructions tailored for improving VM performance, and in the future they're talking about adding some others that combined with hypervisors would transform the use of a VM in something a bit more demanding that running the real software in a real OS.

For the business part and the adaptation timeframe, I don't think it would be such huge issue. If enterprises don't upgrade, it's OK, but if Microsoft provides a flexible framework to easily virtualize old apps (like, for example, launching an specific VM for each app, customized for it), they can upgrade without the usual problems derived from it. I mean, if they did it with the Mac, they can do it with PC as well, although I understand that most Mac software used in business was rewritten to take advantage of OS X capabilities first, and Intel chips later.

(Phew! ;D)

app103

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2007, 05:54:15 PM »
OK...now let's get back on topic here...

Would anybody be interested in an application that will do what I suggested? Starting with Windows, and then adding other applications 1 at a time as their registry settings can be deciphered, supporting more & more applications with each release?

Or maybe something with a plugin architecture that will allow the user to be able to add plugins for the extra applications that they have, and allow others to write and submit plugins for it. (I think this is better as I don't think any one developer can possibly be able to include all the important settings for every version of every application that exists)

The more I think about this idea, the more complex it becomes and it is at the point in my mind that it has become something I don't think I am qualified to create. It is becoming a power registry 'decoder' and backup/restore/repair tool...done in a way the common person can understand and use.

mouser

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Re: Settings backup software?
« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2007, 06:17:47 PM »
some backup tools have this feature, using plugins so they can add new programs.
for example Genie Backup Manager has a page of plugins: http://www.genie-sof...ting/ScriptSrch.aspx

Screenshot - 9_5_2007 , 6_13_16 PM.png

In fact they look like they have a TON of settings-backup "plugins", which is another reason Genie is such a good tool for backing up this kind of stuff, imho.