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System Backup and Portable Applications

June 9, 2008

Last Monday (June 2) I found some problem in my office PC (just 2.5 years old): it couldn’t detect the newly bought 2.5″ external hard drive (Asus Vento), while my old laptop (3.5 years old) could. In the beginning I suspected it’s the motherboard’s flaw, but, as it turned out, it’s the power supply instead. Not enough power, as the computer store told me. It’s a 420 W power supply! (This reminds me of an article talking about the fake power supply in China. Some even used carbon paper and plastic in fake electronic components 😯 ).

Anyway, I took my two hard drives off from my PC so that I could still work while waiting for the power supply being repaired/replaced (two weeks 😦 ). And I thought it’s time to reorganize and backup the files in my PC hard drives (that’s the reason why I bought a 2.5″ hard drive, to work at home).

System Backup

To carry out this work, I had to buy two things so that these two hard drives from PC can be connected with my laptop: a USB SATA hard drive enclosure* (for the newer SATA drive) and a SATA/IDE to USB adapter* (for the older IDE drive). Be very careful about the quality of these things. Don’t buy the cheap ones, because they often have problems of writing/reading errors. It will be a disaster if they can do the backup job properly and you think they do.

For the software part, I’m using Second Copy 7.1 (commercial one). However, there are two freewares that can do the most of the jobs needed for home users: SyncBack (free version) and SyncToy (also check with v2.0 beta). Here is the comparison between SyncBack freeware and SyncToy 1.4. SyncBack freeware seems to be the choice if you don’t want to spend money on the software.

Portable Applications

I set up some portable applications from in a small USB thumb drive (256MB) before but seldom used it. But this time the repair in my office PC and the fact that I have laptops working at home prompted me to take them seriously. Then I started to use Firefox Portable and Thunderbird Portable seriously. offers a Suite installation (Normal & Lite versions), including Menu and the Backup utility. You can customize which applications to be installed. You can also install other softwares, as long as they can be run from a USB drive, and add them into the menu manually.

It is better to use with TrueCrypt, especially if you are concerned the privacy issue in your emails and contacts etc). I mentioned how to use it in a USB thumb drive before.

Sync between Thunderbird and Google Calendar

I use Thunderbird for work emails and events (with Lightning add-on). Though our server also provides the web version, its interface is not good and browsing it in Firefox is troublesome (encoding problem). I might consider to get my work emails via GMail later. Before that, I tried to sync events between Thunderbird and GCal.

Followed the instruction from here. By installing Provider add-on in Thunderbird, one can set up the remote calendar to GCal. It’s quite easy. The drawback, you cannot use the task (ie To-do list) option in Lightning for the calendars from GCal, because GCal doesn’t provide this option. It’s kind of tricky to set it up, as the author said.

Another drawback is that I cannot use Rainlendar to read the iCal files from Thunderbird anymore. If I want to sync it with GCal, I’ll need to installl GCalDaemon, which also can sync many applications with GCal. I’ll think about it later.

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