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;

http://www.2brightsparks.com.

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.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/th7uywg94lif8s9/CopyPathSetup.exe?dl=0.

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

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