A Free Accessible Backup Option for Blind Computer Users

David Griffith finds a hidden gem in a Dos Bat file in Windows.

Blind computer Users have a greater than usual reliance on secure digital data. Paper copies of important documents have obvious access obstacles. You may need sighted help to find and retrieve the relevant document before the struggle to read it begins. It is much easier to store all your important documents digitally. On a computer tablet or phone a simple file search will reveal your document ready for reading with access software. The downside is that data loss for any reason is much more disastrous for us. So a secure and regular backup strategy is essential.

A mainstay of many Blind computer Users over the last 10 years has been the excellent and accessible freeware utility Karen’s Replicator. I was disappointed then to discover that Replicator would no longer install after an update on my Windows 10 PC.

Google revealed others had encountered this problem and that sadly this programmer had passed away. There was no chance of an app update.

Initially I tried another freeware utility called Cobian Backup. Whilst it is sort of usable it is by no means straightforward for a Blind User. I was able, largely through trial and error, to create a Backup Job but I found too many of the controls were unlabelled in terms of what function they provided. It did work but the big downside was that it appeared to copy complete folders of files and directories, no matter what the archive attribute was set to.

Computers set “archive” attribute on files to enable backup programs to avoid having to continually copy every file when a backup is launched. With this feature only those files which are new or which have been changed are copied. So you may have 2,000 files but if only 4 are new or have been changed your backup program should only copy across those 4 files and leave alone the 1,996 files it has previously backed up.

Disappointingly when I ran Cobian it proceeded to overwrite and copy all my documents across to the backup drive even though it had been previously backed up by Replicator. I needed a backup that only copied new or changed files.

It may be that Cobian can be tweaked to prevent this happening but I decided to look elsewhere.

Another option suggested is Syncback Free. This may well suit some and certainly some blind people are using it. However I found the interface is a little unintuitive. You can set up a new profile but the wizard on the first screen at least does not talk to you and simply says edit. I assume you can type or paste a source to back up from here but it is not immediately clear. However with a bit of sighted help or experimentation you may well find this app useful. You can get free or a paid version. For most home users I think the free version would suffice. You can download the program from;


In the end though I have personally decided to use a tiny one line Dos bat file script. I will copy the command line I used below at the end of the blog. So far it seems to be working flawlessly in performing the job that Karen’s replicator used to do with one caveat.

Unlike Replicator it not an app scheduled to run at a certain time automatically in the background. Researching on Google, though it appears possible that this can be set up as a task in the Windows 10 task Scheduler. If I achieve this I will report back on this blog.

Another option would be to place the Bat file in the start-up folder. This will mean it will run automatically every time windows start. As I say I will report back on options.

So to create this backup bat script is easy.

You need to create a text document using Notepad and use the command at the end of the blog. In this command line you will need to replace what is currently my own source drive and backup directory locations with your own. In this script my main documents folder on drive D that is “D:\Documents” is copied to a backup folder on drive K, that is, K:\Backup\Docs /. Replace these terms with your own folder paths.

The easiest way of getting a folder path is to use a free utility called copy path. Using this you simply right click or bring up the context menu on the folder you want to backup and the full path of the folder or file is copied to the clipboard when you select copy path from the resulting menu. You can then paste it into the script.

Do the same to get the path for the destination backup drive folder.

Below is a Dropbox link to the free copy path utility.


So open notepad and copy and paste the line at the end of the blog and then edit this line to put in your own desired source and backup folder locations.

When you save the file simply give it a file extension bat rather than the default txt. So for example you could call it backup.bat.

That is pretty much it. Now pressing enter on it anywhere in explorer should run the script and your backup should be created. The next time you run the script it should simply update the backup.

It appears to work absolutely fine here on my Windows 10 system but of usual the caveat with these things is to use it at your own risk.

This script copy new /changed file and directories from one drive to a Backup drive and set the attributes so that the folders and drives will not be further copied unless they have been modified.

There are a lot of command switches in this one line script. It will be too long to copy all their functions here but will do so in another blog if it is required.

A few further notes.

If the script line is split in whatever you are reading this blog in then join it back together in your bat file in Notepad. There needs to be a space between each part of the command so check this if you have to join it back together again.

However if there are spaces in your actual folder path I believe you need to surround it with quotes. It might be easier just to rename the folder you are backing up so it does not have spaces in it.

Using Jaws you can monitor the file backup by using the jaws cursor to read the command window which comes up after you have started the bat file. All this will generally tell you in the name of the file being backed up at that particular time but at least you will know it is working and has not gone to sleep.

Lastly although this seems to me suitable for blind computer users it is of course readily used by anybody, sighted or not.

So finally here is the command to be copied.

xcopy D:\Documents K:\Backup\Docs /D /E /C /R /H /I /K /Y

I hope it is useful for some.

David Griffith


Blind Mailing – Some tips on Accessing windows Mail

When Windows 10 first appeared there were several parts of the OS which did not work well with Access technology. Even now many of the Windows Store Apps remain difficult for a Blind person to use. It is only now that core features like Edge are becoming serious options for a Blind Computer User.

One App that has definitely come a long way is Windows Mail. This App, virtually unusable, with the first version of Windows 10, is now increasingly supported by both the Jaws and NVDA Screen readers. There was a time when it was impossible to hear what you were typing in Windows Mail. No longer. It has become an important part of the Blind Accessibility Tool Kit.

Personally I am increasingly using Windows Mail for the quick perusal of emails. It is very snappy and I particularly like the automatic preview reading. This helps me easily get rid of the annoying short one liner chatty emails from email lists without having to open them.

It has effectively replaced Thunderbird for me as my second email client after Microsoft Outlook.

A Blind computer user’s enjoyment of Mail can be greatly increased by adopting just a few useful strategies. These tips may be obvious to some people, especially to those who have some sight, but the following realisations have helped me a lot.

1. Regaining focus.

Reading an email in mail it seemed initially a little weird.

After reading a message I press escape to close the email. However I am not then returned to the Message list as I would have expected but the navigation button. Originally this resulted in my tabbing around trying to find the message list. Eventually I realised that the Navigation Button was just one tab element to the right of the message list. This is obvious to someone who can see but not to a screen reader user. Now I routinely press shift tab after pressing escape and I am immediately and reliably returned to the message list again. This is part of my muscle memory now.

2. Loading Message.

From time to time Windows Mail will announce loading – which once more seemed to get me lost and inhibit the reading of emails.

However yet again simply press shift tab and you will be instantly

Returned to the message list.

3. Managing and deleting threads.

It took me a while to get to grips with managing threads. Windows Mail automatically opens threads as you focus on and move down the list of emails. As a consequence I Initially found it difficult to delete whole threads because of this behaviour. As soon as you focus on the thread it opens to individual emails. I like the ability to delete whole threads that I am not interested in. . The solution is easy. Focus anywhere in the message threads and press the left arrow repeatedly until you hear Jaws announce collapsed. As soon as you hear collapsed press the delete key and the whole thread will be deleted.

4. Use Outlook Shortcuts.

Finally I have discovered that actually many of the shortcut keystrokes that work in Microsoft Outlook also work in Windows Mail. For example use control Y to bring up the list of email folders, this is vastly easier than tabbing repeatedly to the function you want. Control plus enter will send an email just as it does in Outlook and control R for reply etc. Nearly all the shortcuts are here.

So Windows Mail is a little bit of a toy app but with these strategies it is very easy to use. It is a breeze to set up. It respect and reacts properly to security standards of all the major email providers like Google and Yahoo. I personally find it very quick and responsive and I am increasingly

Using it.

David Griffith


More Dumb Lifts Across The Pond

It is always interesting to get feedback on the blogs I write. The wonderful thing about the internet is that this feedback can come from thousands of miles away. I was fascinated to learn from Dan Weiner that we are not alone in suffering the problem of Dumb Lifts in the UK. Dan is a guide dog user From the USA who contacted me to share his experiences.

To recap there is a problem Blind People experience where there are banks of 2 or more lifts. It is not at all easy to tell which lift has opened its doors and you can play mad musical lifts dashing from one to another trying to feel the open door before the lift closes. I argued in my last post that all our lives could be made much easier if lifts were that little bit smarter, and announced not just that they had arrived but which lift had arrived, for example Lift 3, Doors opening.

Dan lives in Florida, and at the time he describes he was working on a very big Military Base in Maryland. With his permission I have copied his account here. Dan takes up the story.

“David a very nicely written blog. I’ll address the issue of lifts, or as we here like to say elevators–smile. I can only hear in one ear and I’m not good at sound localization, therefore the old thing about telling a blind man in this case, me "follow my voice" doesn’t work. So when I was working there was a bank of six elevators, count them, six, and they were somehow at angles to each other, it was almost a circle shape with elevators spread out. So you’d hear the ping but by the time I located the right one it had closed. I’d ask for help and many times I’d be given such wonderful rejoinders as "why doesn’t your dog find it" or "can’t you hear where the elevator is". One lady told me that a lady, Andrea, worked in the building, she’s blind and had no problems so why did I have to ask for help. My pride had to combat with my need for help and I explained that I’m happy for Andrea (who I happen to know is partially sighted) but that I have a hearing problem and I needed her help, then she asked the formerly mentioned question "why won’t your dog find it" by this time we had both missed the elevator but apparently it was more important for the lady in question to make me feel that I’d done something wrong or my dog was inadequate–lol. I said in frustration, "good question, why don’t you ask him, he’s standing right there.”

I suppose we’re just inefficient or lazy–smile after all why should I ever want to do anything myself when people are just so helpful–sarcasm alert.

Anyway, that bank of lifts was a nightmare and if I thought it was bad with a dog, the days I went with a cane because my dog was sick and having an operation ended up really showing me how hard that bank of lifts was.

That’s one thing I don’t miss about my job, those gosh darned elevators, actually Evan, my hound at the time, was getting great about finding elevator open doors but by the time we got there, they’d closed–smile

So, thanks for the blog and I’m glad you’re on the list.

Great to meet you.”

Great to meet you too Dan. Many thanks to Dan for sharing his experiences. I think he describes the problem much more vividly and entertainingly than I did. It only goes to show that although thousands of miles separate guide Dog Users we often share hauntingly similar issues. It is time for guide dogs as an organisation to take this up I think.

David Griffith.


Dumb Lifts and Idling Cars-A Blind Man’s Lament

David Griffith explains why some lifts are dumb and some Car drivers are even dumber.

The other day I was standing in front of a particularly difficult bank of 3 lifts. I decided to call out for help- as recommended by guide Dogs.

“Is anybody there?”

A cool middle class female voice replied from behind me –“No-there is nobody here.”

I thought of writing a Cartesian Philosophical piece on why somebody should consider that they are a nobody but instead I thought I would focus on why I needed help in the first place.

As I am blind I cannot see lift doors open. As I am hearing impaired I most often do not hear them open either. The solution I use normally is to place my hand on the actual lift door so that when the door opens I can feel it has arrived.

This works fine for single lifts but serious problems emerge when there are more than 1 lift servicing the floor. On this particular floor in question there were 3 lift doors each separated by a gap of about 8 feet.

To be fair the lift announce when they arrive by saying doors opening and then lift going up or down.

However in one crucial respect they are completely dumb. They do not announce which of the 3 lift they are.

As a consequence I normally have to play a mad game of musical lifts chasing between each lift and feeling each door to identify which lift has arrived. A Depressing amount of time I arrive at the correct lift only to hear the fateful announcement “doors closing”. On a bad day I can miss several lifts

On the Ground floor there are normally people around who can help but on floors 6 7 or 8 you are much less likely to find somebody who will admit to being somebody who could help.

Actually this can be a problem not just for blind people. One day I tried to catch a lift in the company of a woman using crutches. Even though she could see she could not make the distance to the lift in time before the door closed. In the end after both missing some lifts we made a deal. She directed me by voice to the requisite lift door and I held the doors open until she could join me.

All this hassle could be overcome by a teensy weensy adjustment in the software of the lift announcement program. Instead of a bell sound to announce the lift coming it should simply say Lift 1 going down. Adding a lift number to the announcement could make all our lives easier. So Lift 2 Doors Opening is massively more helpful for me than simply a vague Doors opening announcement.

So my appeal is for lifts to stop being so dumb and become just that little bit smarter.

Which brings me neatly to idling Car Drivers. They are well documented reasons why Drivers who sit parked, idling their engines are causing entirely avoidable harm to the environment because of pure laziness. They do not want the hassle of stopping and starting a car engine. There is another less well known reason as to why this behaviour is profoundly anti-social.

Idling cars are an issue for nearly all blind pedestrians whether they are using a Guide Dog or not. An idling car can, especially in my case mask the sound of another car coming down the road. The general advice then is not to cross a road where a car is idling. On some crossings you have no safe alternative however.

I have a guide Dog that is very cautious and will simply not cross the road if he hears a Car nearby with its engine running. I could try and override this caution but if I did I would in turn be taking an unacceptable risk. What if my dog is not simply responding to the idling car but has spotted a more dangerous moving car beyond it.

The other day I was stuck for 5 minutes at a crossing until a driver opened his door and leaned out to shout it was OK to cross. I had to shout back that his idling car was causing anxiety for my dog and he finally, grumpily turned his engine off where upon Nyle was perfectly happy to cross the road.

At least this car driver talked to me. Apparently according to other sighted pedestrians many drivers respond to my waiting by their idling cars by either waving their hand furiously or flashing their headlight to indicate I should cross. I hate to be critical of Drivers but flashing headlights and waving arms at a blind person does seem to me amongst the dumber attempts at communication I have heard of.

Most idling drivers simply hoot their horns at me, not realising that all Guide Dogs Owners are strictly taught not to cross a road on a hoot. Hoots are not directional, and a Blind person has no safe knowledge that the hoot is meant for them. It could just as easily be another car hooting to warn a pedestrian to get off the road.

So my appeal for the day is to have more smart lifts and car drivers.. With a little more intelligence all our lives could be made a lot easier.

David Griffith

Sent from Mail for Windows 10