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Backing up a mixed OS X and Windows 2000 Home Network

  • Introduction
  • Strategy
  • Dantz Retrospect Professional  (Windows)
  • Hard Drive Removable Vantec Bay and Cartridge (Swap Rack)
  • Links
  • History
  • Footnotes
  • Rev: 19 Jul 2005.


    This took me a while to figure out. I think it might be worth sharing. If you know the terrain, the information here should help you. It's not intended for a novice user.

    I first wrote this in 2003. Then I backed up about 12GB of data and an additional 18GB or so of applications. Now I backup a complete set of about 70 GB. Blame it on iPhoto and iTunes. If I buy an 8 megapixel SLR in late 2005 that would easily exceed 100GB. With the video I've started doing it will soon be a TB data set. The 2GB DAT tapes I used in the 1990s don't cut it any more.

    I have a mixed LAN with one XP workstation, one legacy Win2K workstation (soon to be replaced with a G5 iMac) and a Mac iBook running OS X.When I added the iBook to my network I tried finding a solution that would let me backup the iBook data to a Windows 2000 SMB share. Nothing was satisfactory, in part because of the fragility of Windows SMB shares with an OS X client, but mostly because of problems with file name representation and handling of Macintosh resource forks.

    I wanted a single solution that would backup everything, I wanted it automated, fast, and painless. I considered DVD backup and decided that was at least 6 months away and the capacity was insufficient. Ultimately my only choices were backing up to an external Firewire or USB 2.0 hard drive or using a removable IDE drive. For various reasons to do with cost, capacity, simplicity, availability of interrupts and PCI slots, I went with removable IDE drives. I also ended up going with Dantz Retrospect Professional for Windows.


    In addition to the following I create a Retrospect emergency recovery CD periodically.

    1. I will use 3 drives, an internal 200GB drive and two external 200GB drives in USB enclosures. (I would like to switch to drives that support hardware encryption, these are just coming out.)
    2. The internal drive holds the single Backup Set Retrospect works with. It also holds alternative backup solutions (mirrored images of my iBook, data backed up using Microsoft's Backup, etc). The truly paranoid person prefers to have more than one Backup approach -- and I don't trust Retrospect all that much.
    3. Once 2-3 weeks or two I bring ONE of the offsite USB enclosures on-site. I copy the encrypted backup set from the internal drive to the USB enclosure drive. Once it's safely copied I recycle the Backup Set on my internal drive.
    4. Another 2-3 weeks later I bring the SECOND of the offsite USB enclosures on-site and do as above.

    Since Retrospect does incremental snapshot backups, I can restore changed files to any daily state. I have 3 complete backups at all times, each containing iterative versions of my data. The oldest backup is about 8 weeks old, the second oldest is 2-3 weeks old, and the newest is a day old. In addition I burn CDs and DVDs of my image library and store them in a safe deposit box.

    My data is not truly impregnable, but it is far safer than our family photo albums. Were the house to catch fire, the computer would be of far less interest to me than the photo albums.

    Dantz Retrospect Professional (Windows)

    Dantz made great Macintosh backup software in the 1980s and early 1990s. No longer This is not great software. I think the most recent versions have been rewritten by drug crazed gerbils. Buggy with cryptic and usually misleading error messages. Perhaps because of this Dantz charges a LOT for technical support. A single support call costs more than their software, which is available for around $80.00. To put it mildly, they discourage calling tech support. You need to know that ahead of time. In their favor you get a month or so of support calls after new product registration (but register promptly).

    Dantz does have a very good and frank customer forum where you can learn a great deal, and a mediocre knowledge base and set of technical documents. Some advanced functions require add-ons to the base software (such as backing up locked files).

    Nevertheless, for what I'm doing, this is (sadly, still as of 7/05) the only game in town. I backup up all the data from all my machines nightly to my hard drive data store file. It takes less than an hour. I do a full backup of everything once a week to the same store. The client software installs on the old Win2K machine (Windows client) and my iBook (Mac client). The client sits DEEP in the OS, and you can access ANYTHING on those machines from the server using a simple password. The HOST software can backup the local machine and any network drives. The base package allows use of two clients, so I can backup my three machines.

    Here are a few things to know:

    Hard Drive Removable Vantec Bay and Cartridge (Obsolete)

    Hard Drives and Controller

    I use two Western Digital 80 GBWD800JB ATA 100 Caviar hard drives with ATA 100 (80 wire) cables configured to use ATA 100 throughput.. They are identical which means I need fuss with only one set of drive utilities, one set of jumper configurations, and there are no surprises with device support. I recommend having two identical drives.

    I have an internal Promise Ultra 100 Tx2 IDE controller for historical reasons [2]. The only thing connected to it is the Western Digital drive. Consequently backup is very fast and I can use the machine during a backup if I choose to. (I usually don't, backup occurs at night.)


    Update: As of 7/05 I'm still using the Vantec's, but I don't recommend this approach any longer [3]. I would instead recommending buying two identical well cooled USB enclosures and matching drives, then rotating the enclosures. I've been happy with one I recently purchased.

    I'll retain my review here for a while for any who might come here looking for more information.

    I use a Vantec EZ Swap MRK 103F (review is of a fancier version, mine cost only $25) removable IDE cartridge (rack swap) I bought through Sidewinder Computers. These devices are used mostly by people who need to frequently swap boot drives, but they work well for my purposes. They are all made in Taiwan and appear to have been invented there. Some of the older plastic ones would cause high speed hot hard drives to melt down, the Vantec has a good reputation and is aluminum (so conducts heat) with a working fan. It is supposed to support ATA 133 7200 RPM drives. These pictures tell the story, comments and tips are below. Click on thumbnails to see larger images.

    Note: These are not robust devices. The cover that's supposed to flip down when the drive bay is empty fell off when I was pushing it open. The fan in the drive bay has been malfunctioning after a few months of use. It's best to buy at least one extra drive bay.

    IMG_1472.JPG (278862 bytes) IMG_1474.JPG (333607 bytes) IMG_1477.JPG (213988 bytes)
    Drive bay and cartridge Bay and catridge, separate Drive installed in cartridge
    IMG_1476.JPG (151093 bytes) IMG_1478.JPG (121569 bytes) IMG_1475.JPG (93894 bytes)
    Drive bay and cartridge in case
    note limited clearance!
    Case exterior, cartridge removed Case exterior with
    cartridge/drive installed




    [1] The drive would backup to about 14MB then stop when I used NT passthrough settings. When I used ASPI instead it stopped at less than 1 MB. It was supposed to be supported, but it is ancient. Retrospect isn't perfect. It did work with Windows 2000 Backup. (Old Veritas software)
    [2] My workstation is an ancient Pentium II and the BIOS wouldn't support a large drive without ugly hacks. The Promise controller was inexpensive and it's worked well.
    [3] I outgrew my 80GB backup drives and confidently ordered two 200 GB Barracude ATA drives. I was sure it would be a half hours work (max) to swap out the 80 from the Vanted and put in the 200. Wrong. The 200 GB Barracudas don't work in the Vantec cartridge, though they work fine as regular drives. I hear a "zuttt" sound every few minutes when these drivers are powered up in the Vantec. On startup the system pauses for a minute or two just prior to starting XP, then it gets to the XP splashscreen and hangs. This is apparently the behavior seen in a master/slave dip switch error, but I've experimented with both master and cable-select dip switch settings and gotten the same behavior.

    Ultimately it turned out to be a heat problem. The small and seemingly pointless fan on the Vantec had failed, and without that fan the 200GB drives overheated. I ended up installing them separately.

    Author: John G. Faughnan.  The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. Pages are updated on an irregular schedule; suggestions/fixes are welcome but they may take weeks to years to be incorporated. Anyone may freely link to anything on this site and print any page; no permission is needed for citing, linking,  printing, or distributing printed copies.