Backup DVDs that find your photos

Verbatim has a neat idea: Backup software embedded into recordable DVDs. Gibbs likes the concept but thinks it could do with a little polishing. Oh, and he revisits his old DPC problem. Yet again.

Here's a neat idea: Verbatim has launched a backup system for photos that is embedded on Recordable DVDs. The product, called PhotoSave DVD, is for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Here's how it works. When you put a PhotoSave DVD in a drive that has autoplay enabled, the PhotoSave application stored on the DVD is launched. If you are wary of autoplay as I am, you'll have to launch the application manually. As PhotoSave is only 1.79MB it runs almost immediately on most systems.

Once loaded PhotoSave scans your drives and figures out how many image files you have and how much storage will be needed. You can then select to let the program do its stuff or manually select what is to be backed up. Verbatim claims that PhotoSave recognizes more than 80 image file formats, but I can't find a list of these formats anywhere.

What was remarkable was how fast PhotoSave finds images -- under about 15 seconds to find 6,392 images totaling 10.9GB on a two-drive, 1.8GHz P4 Windows XP Professional system with a total of 183GB of used disk space. This makes me wonder how PhotoSave can do that task so fast that when the same operation would take Windows Explorer at least 15 minutes to do. Anyone? Microsoft?

The first time I tried to perform a backup, PhotoSave reported that the process of backing up all of the images it found would require three discs – no problem, the disks come in three packs so I told it to do its thing.

I came back an hour later and PhotoSave reported that operation had been cancelled but I have no idea why. When I restarted the application it said a data-recording session had been saved on the DVD but it showed no files. You'd think that an empty session would be handled a little more skillfully because there's a limit of three sessions per disk. I did get the PhotoSave system to work on the next try and everything went fine the second time around.

The things I'd fault PhotoSave on are no support for OS X (what a strange omission) or Linux, no incremental backup, and no file recovery service (you have to go to the disks and find the files you want to recover).

Another issue is PhotoSave's ugly behavior when you cancel an operation. For example, if you cancel a backup you get spurious warnings about missing files, or PhotoSave carries on and creates a backup of the files found up to the moment you cancelled, which wastes a session. Gentlemen of Verbatim, "Cancel" means stop what you're doing, not go ahead with whatever you've got even if it's not what I want.

All that not withstanding, this is an interesting idea for your users who need to do backups where you aren't, for whatever reason, in a position to manage it for them – for example, field workers using digital cameras and working with images on laptops. As these discs are write-only there's a good chance your users won't wipe out their backups.

A nice idea and definitely useful, but limited and a little unpolished. I'll give PhotoSave 3 out of 5. A three pack of PhotoSave disks costs $9.99.

Finally, a follow up from reader Glen Klitz who came across my columns about the mysterious surge in deferred procedure calls that my Windows XP system experienced. Glen is seeing exactly the same problem on a white box with a 1.53GHz Athelon XP1800 with 608MB of RAM running Windows XP SP3 OEM (I had a 1.8GHz Pentium with 1GB of RAM running Windows XP Professional SP2).

As I told Glen, I never found the cause, and the problem went away as mysteriously as it had arrived. I'm still waiting for one of you geniuses to pull the rabbit from the hat on this one.

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