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Backup and restore drivers with DriverBackup 2

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

We’ve probably all been there at some point. Something’s gone majorly wrong with your PC, and you’re left with no choice but to reinstall Windows. If you’ve not backed up your files, you’ll weep for a while at their loss, before summoning the strength to slam that installation disk into the drive and watch as the progress bar crawls across. However, an issue you’re likely to encounter, especially if you’re still using XP, is missing drivers. I know from experience that XP never seems to find all the drivers I need, resulting in hardware not working, and the display only accepting a tiny resolution until I hunt down the disks or download the necessary drivers using another PC. With XP approaching its ninth birthday, it’s likely to become harder and harder to find the drivers you need next time you have to reinstall, so keeping a backup of them would be a rather smashing idea. Luckily there are a few smashing bits of software that will do just that for you. I’ve been testing out one such utility, called DriverBackup 2, and it’s rather jazzy. 

Once you've picked what drivers to back up, there are a few simple options to choose before starting.

 The first thing to note is that it doesn’t need to be installed, which is a nice timesaver, though I would rather just be able to run an installer and be done with it. Instead, you just need to grab the files, and run the .exe called ‘DrvBK’ once they’ve downloaded. If you’d rather have it installed like all other software, just make a new folder in your C:\Program Files\ directory, and then copy or move all the files over. You can then make a shortcut in your Start Menu or desktop to the .exe file and access it like any other bit of software. Dull  bits out the way, let’s delve into the thrilling world of backing up drivers. 

If you’re using XP, you’ll just need to start the software like any other, but Vista and Windows 7 will likely want you to right-click and choose ‘Run as administrator’. DriverBackup will then scour your installed drivers, before presenting a lengthy list of them under their relevant categories: ‘Processors’, ‘Keyboards’, etc.  A small but nice touch is that the software will display the default Windows icon for each item, making it easy to visually distinguish between the multitude of different types. Little ‘+’ icons appear to the left of each category and device, allowing you to expand and hide devices and individual drivers for each device. 

 There is also a checkbox by each entry, allowing you to pick and choose which drivers you want to backup. Whilst Windows will find a good number of the drivers by itself  at install – particularly for important devices like the processor, hard-disk, and graphics card – I’d rather have them all backed up so I know I’ve got them all safe and ready to use if something should go horribly wrong. In addition, clicking on a device or individual driver file will give you more information about it, such as manufacturer and release date, which may help you decide whether you need to include it in your backup. 

Once you've picked what drivers to back up, there are a few options to choose before starting.

Once you’re ready to begin, click the ‘Start Backup’ button near the bottom right of the software. You’ll then be confronted with a window that looks a bit daunting. You can just ignore most of it, except ‘Path’, which instructs the software where to save the backup. I prefer to create a folder on my PC for the backup, and then copy it manually to an external disk, USB, or hard-disk, but if you’d prefer, you can just make the backup directly to an external device like the ones listed above. Wherever you’re sticking the files, click the ‘Browse’ button, and navigate to that location. The second and final thing that you need to alter on this screen is the checkbox down at the bottom left: ‘Generate files for automatic driver restoration’. Ticking this will ensure that the software creates an additional file that allows you to restore the drivers using DriverBackup 2, which means you won’t have to use Windows’ built-in Device Manager to install them all manually. In addition, it might be a good idea to keep the DriverBackup 2 files around on a disk, since you might not be able to connect to the Internet to download the software again until you’ve got your drivers sorted. Irony, eh?

Drivers can also be automatically restored using the software.

Finally, let’s venture into the dangerous, disturbing hypothetical world of doom. Your hard-disk had just exploded in a small ball of flames, or a less disastrous but equally disturbing error has befallen your beloved PC. You’ve gotten it fixed or replaced the faulty part, and now you’ve reinstalled Windows. However, some of your devices aren’t working correctly. So long as you can find the dust-covered disk you stored the drivers on, you can restore them in one of two ways. The first is the slower, more nerdy way – manually using Windows device manager. The second is the faster method, which involves using DriverBackup. Since you won’t have it on your cleanly installed PC, if you copied it to your driver backup disk, you can just copy it back onto your PC, or if you didn’t, you’ll need download it on another PC if you can’t access the Internet, and then transfer it over. You can then run the software as before, but this time change to ‘Restore mode’ using the second button at the top of the software, and select the backup file (provided you opted to create one when you backed up your drivers.)  Click the ‘Open backup file’ button, navigate to and select the relevant file. As with the process of backing up, you can then tick and untick those that  you want to restore, before finally clicking the ‘Restore’ button at the bottom right to pop the drivers back onto your PC.  DriverBackup will then beaver about, restoring your drivers to their rightful place. You’ll probably need to restart before you can check that everything’s working okay.

Since the download available on SourceForge is, by default, in Italian, and it take a bit of hunting to find the multi-language version, I’ve uploaded the English-only version to MediaFire, which can be accessed here: http://www.mediafire.com/?rwawglidj1z. I’ve zipped up the file to make it smaller, but Windows should be able to extract it using its built-in tools. In summary, DriverBackup is a smashing little bit of kit that could help save you a great deal of time next time you need to reinstall Windows or something goes wrong with your drivers. It just falls short of a 5-star rating due to the kerfuffle of having to look through the folder for the right file to run the software, and the lack of automatic method of installation for the software. 

Keep copies of websites with BackStreet Browser

Before you groan and trundle back off to wherever you were going, this isn’t a review of some obscure, naff browser. Despite its name,  Backstreet Browser doesn’t serve the purpose of being another browser which vies for your usership when browsing the Web. Instead, this application is a rather nifty way of keeping a copy of a website on your computer (or CD, USB key – anywhere you desire.)

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

I’m preeempting that you are thinking one of the following two questions: ‘why would I want to save a copy of a website’ and ‘can’t I just save the pages as I normally would?’ Starting with the former. You might find a website which contains some rather smashing information or content, but you fear that it won’t be around forever – it might be a really old website which is likely to be taken offline soon or have its domain name registration run out and not be renewed. Keeping a copy of the entire website would be rather snazzy way to avoid this problem. As for the latter question – you could indeed save the webpages individually, however, this is likely to be a long and rather difficult process. I tried it, and organising the various saved webpages into a reasonable order in a folder is a bit of a difficult process. You might also end up losing images or other content this way or missing certain pages.

In addition, what sets BackStreet Browser apart from the manual method of saving the pages is that it retains the links. If you were to save each webpage separately, the links that page would still go to the original location on the Internet. This would force you to open each page you want to visit from your files. With Backstreet, you can simply open up one of the pages that it saved, and all the links will point to your own internal copies of the site. It’s like browsing the website on the Internet, but from your own local storage. There’s no risk of it disappearing unless you delete it or something goes kaput on your beloved computer.

You tell the software which website you want to download by clicking ‘New’ and then telling it the URL. You can then tell it how far to drill down into the links. For example, you may only want the top, most important layer of a website – the ones which are linked to from the homepage, so you would just choose ‘1’ for the link depth. Alternatively, if you want to nab everything, you could set the link level to a higher value. You can also choose whether you want the software to save copies of external pages to which your chosen website links to – eg, if a website links to a Wikipedia article.

I think my only criticism would be that the software is a bit dated; the interface has the potential to be confusing and difficult to use. In addition, the datedness of the application shows more clearly in the fact that the choices for the way the software identifies itself to websites consist of ‘Backstreet Browser 3.1’, IE 5.1, Netscape 4.5, or Opera 6.05 . This causes me to wonder whether things will display correctly when it downloads them. I think anything you download from newer, more advanced websites should be fine provided that you open the downloaded pages in a modern, capable browser.

This is a great bit of software for keeping backups of websites which you think might dissapear sometime soon, or something which you think might prove useful to you in the future, but you might not be able to find again. You can download from the official website at www.spadixbd.com/backstreet, or from Download.com.