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Sprite Backup Premium 3.14 for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Pocket PC Phones

Review Posted June 2005 by Tanker Bob

There are two kinds of people: those that have good backup habits and those who someday will wish in the worse way that they had them. The best advice anyone can give you is to not find yourself in the latter category. Tanker Bob has robust backup schemes for his desktop, his Palm, and has found a winner on the Pocket PC platform—Sprite Backup Premium. HP, Samsung, and LG Electronics all chose Sprite Backup for their OEM solution, making a test drive even more irresistible.

We tested Sprite Backup Premium on a Dell Axim X50v with a 1GB Sandisk Extreme III SD card and a 512MB Kingston CF card. The desktop runs Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 2 installed, and has more background processes loaded than the moon has craters. For those of you with Windows Mobile MS Smartphones, there's a version of Sprite Backup for that platform as well, though we didn't test it for this review.

Backing up your configuration

Sprite Backup sports a new, simplified Basic mode for backups and restores. It automatically tells you when it last backed up your system and offers the most recent file to restore. Most users can live with this level of detail, knowing that Sprite backed up their entire storage memory contents and the all-important registry.

 

Sprite Backup screen shot

 

 

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The advanced mode allows you to select the files to backup as well as the target location and file name. The Options menu contains many settings to enhance the backup experience and performance. Amongst them sits the opportunity to stop all processes for the backup. This will close all running programs to ensure that your entire setup will be backed up. You may also exclude files or file types from being backed up.

 

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Part of Sprite Backup’s power comes from its many advanced features. Backups may be compressed, and may also be encrypted, but the password can only be set on the handheld. Backups may be scheduled in time (daily or weekly), and saved sets limited in number so as not to overwhelm your backup medium. Sprite can be scheduled to stop all processes before it backs up and to automatically soft reset afterward. Backups can be set to initiate at a user-settable battery level so that your system can be recovered intact in the event of total battery loss. Backup sets can also be auto-named based on the date and may be made self-executing. The only desirable feature missing is the ability to do differential or incremental backups which can save time and space.

Restoring your system

The user restores through a display virtually identical to the backup screen. Choose individual files or groups of files to restore. Choose the backup set from which to restore. You can also stop process so that all program files may be replaced.

Sprite Backup boasts a particularly critical feature in its Device Upgrade Mode. Sprite explains the procedure for recovering from a firmware update here. It requires a free, downloadable program called GetUpgradeFile to take a snapshot of your system immediately after a hard reset, firmware upgrade, or of a clean new device. Put the generated file on a card so that it won’t be affected by a hard reset. Sprite uses this file during the restore after upgrading your firmware or buying a new device. It ensures that new register settings and system files are not overwritten. The value of this goes beyond words, as I’ll demonstrate later.

Managing your RAM and more

The Premium package includes Space Detective. On the surface, it simply displays the space usage on your device, including cards and built-in storage. However, tapping on the Program or Storage Memory icons brings up the OS memory-partitioning screen. Tapping on the total memory or drive icons brings up a list of folders in memory or on the card respectively, sorted by size in descending order. Tap on a folder and Space Detective displays a list of files in the folder, also sorted in descending order. This handy drill-down approach helps users easily find large files eating up space on the PDA. Tap and hold on a file to bring up a context menu from which you can cut, copy, paste, delete, or check on the properties of the file. Alternately, the user may use the icons on the bottom bar to access these functions. Space Detective has been well thought-out and works great.

 

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Monitor your storage and more

Pocket Monitor also comes with the Premium package. It ties into the Today screen, providing visual feedback on the memory, non-volatile storage, backlight, and battery’s status. The memory and storage icons each rotate between their underlying components. The memory icon jumps between Program and Storage Memory, the storage media rotate between the SD, CF card, and the built-in storage. I’d personally prefer if these icons could simply be set to the items desired by the user, as I found the constantly changing icons to be distracting. Pocket Monitor also makes icons available to access Sprite Backup and the Today screen setup.

 

screen shot

 

 

Desktop interface

In addition to backing up your Pocket PC to a card or built-in storage, the Premium edition will backup directly from the PDA to the desktop or a network through the ActiveSync link. It also has a desktop component, in which the procedure and options are similar to backing up on the handheld. It lacks a few niceties like the ability to exclude files or folders (like excluding your music and/or pictures), but will backup all your non-volatile storage to your PC. It can also backup your handheld automatically upon placing it in the cradle the first time during a day. This desktop component provides a critical backup in case something happens to your PDA and its cards. With the backup on the desktop or network and GetUpgradeFile, you can recreate your lost handheld exactly in only a few minutes.

desktop screen shot

 

 

The rubber meets road

So, how does all this work? Incredibly well. Backing up an X50v with about 19.09MB in Storage Memory to an SD or CF card takes about 2.5 minutes. Compression isn’t all that impressive, though, as this option reduced the backup file only down to 14.0MB of space. Sprite claims up to 50% compression, but I routinely saw only about 25% or so over several weeks’ worth of daily backups. Backing up my Axim’s entire 495MB data set, including the built-in storage and SD card, took 1:06:41 (H:M:S) (622KB/sec) and weighed in at 462MB with compression. Most of the data on the SD card was already in some kind of compressed format (mp3, ogg, jpg, iSilo, etc.), so Sprite wasn’t going to compress it much if at all.

Daily backups occurred exactly on time and the post-backup soft reset has your Pocket PC ready to go automatically. Backing up from the PC works equally well. I suffered a hard reset once at work, and the automatic SD card backup from that morning restored the Axim perfectly in just minutes. Sweet! I recount that experience here.

The Device Upgrade Mode proved absolutely awesome. I upgraded the X50v’s firmware from A02 to A03 and used this option to restore the Axim’s setup afterward in accordance with Sprite’s instructions. It worked perfectly, preserving the upgraded features and settings while saving many hours of reloading software. Tanker Bob cannot tout this feature highly enough.

Lastly, Sprite Backup comes with an excellent manual and help files, both on the handheld and the desktop. The FAQ on Sprite’s support site also has detailed instructions for a variety of important situations. I encountered no difficulties in quickly finding the information I needed to fully exercise the software.

Conclusion

Sprite Backup Premium 3.14 sets a high bar for the Pocket PC backup software market. Its flexible scheduling options, speed, compression, encryption, desktop and handheld support, and outstanding Device Upgrade Mode set it way apart. The Device Upgrade Mode alone is worth the price of admission should you ever change devices or upgrade your firmware. At $29.95 with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can’t go wrong. Sprite Backup holds a permanent place in Tanker Bob’s Pocket PC world, making life on the dark side far more secure.

Pros:

Fast
Basic and advanced modes
Highly configurable
Excellent scheduling options
Backs up to any non-volatile storage and network shares
Desktop-side backup/restore agent, including for non-volatile storage
Device Upgrade Mode for firmware upgrades or device migration
Perfectly reliable over a month of rigorous testing

Cons:

No detailed exclusion settings on the desktop side
No incremental or differential backups

 

$29.95

 

Web site: www.spritesoftware.com

Price: $29.95


 
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