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Travel With Your Backups

Travel With Your Backups

We all try to do regular backups of our files, don’t we? (I mean, just wait until your computer crashes unexpectedly and you’ll see the results if you don’t!)

But, even though we do that, the problem is that in most cases, the backup you have is the current version of the file you have been working on. Now, that is fine, but say you would like to have a look at a previous version before you made any revisions. Maybe you made some changes in the latest, but now, you would like to see what you did originally. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “travel back in time” to get to those older files? Yeah, I thought you might agree.

Well, now you can with a free utility called File Hamster! It’s possible and it’s very simple to do.

Allow me to explain the steps to take.

The first is, of course, to download a copy from File Hamster’s Web site, which can be found here. This is the screen you will be greeted with:

Go immediately to the Download page, which is where I need to point a few things out first.

The first is that you need .NET Framework 2.0 for this program to operate. Now, most new computers will come with this installed already, but if you don’t have it, just head across to the Microsoft download site and get a copy for yourself right here. (Actually, more and more applications are using this, so it’s a worthwhile investment in time and effort to install it on your computer anyway. Plus, it’s free!)

Secondly, you are offered a choice of downloading File Hamster as an .exe file or a .zip file. To keep it simple, select .exe. That way, you won’t have to get involved in installing files in the right places.

Thirdly, if you scroll down a little ways, you will see a list of plug-ins that are available for this program. This article will not deal with those, but I have circled several in which you might like to investigate once you are more familiar with File Hamster.

The installation process is straight forward and should present no problems, after which the following screen appears:

You will be asked to select a directory in which you want your revisions to be stored. You can safely select the defaults offered, unless you have any strong reasons not to.

If you are using a firewall (and if not, why?!), you may see a warning appear (see below). It is quite safe to allow this program permission. I promise!

So, if you have installed File Hamster correctly, you will then see this screen appear:

Now, it is worth taking the “QuickStart” tour. That will show you the basics of the operations.

However, to clarify exactly how it works, just continue below.

The next screen you’ll see is this basic one:

Right click on the Default Backup Library (or whatever else you may have called it) and select Add Directory Watch. (If you have a very limited number of files that you wish to monitor, you can go for the Add File Watch instead).

This will then give you an Explorer view of your computer, enabling you to select which directories you wish to monitor. (I have blocked out some of my own directories for the sake of confidentiality).

At this point, you may either select the whole disk or just specific folders, like this:

You will also be asked to specify which types of files you want to monitor. (If, let’s say, it’s just Word files or Excel files you wish to monitor).

Here’s the screen:

As you can see, you can choose to watch everything in this folder, watch this type of pattern (I have chosen Word .doc files as an example) or you can even choose the “Ask me as I go” option, which means you will be asked each time if you want to keep the revisions the same.

When you click OK, File Hamster will then take your directory and build a database of relevant existing files, like this:

You are now just about good to go, but let’s make one or two fine adjustments for your convenience.

First, let’s go to Option, Preferences and have a look at the screen that appears:

Make sure that at least the box of Autostart is selected, so that it will start every time you start Windows and it will keep monitoring in the background.

Also, right click the folders you are monitoring and select Options.

Now, on the box that appears (see below), go to MaxRevisons and change that to the maximum number of older copies of the files you want to keep.

That’s about it!

But, what happens when you want to go back to an older revision?

It’s simple.

Go to the list of folders and files in the File Hamster window and scroll until you find the file in question. Click the little + (plus) sign and you will see all the available copies.

Select the one you would like to view and right click it. Then, select Open from the drop down menu.

The program will then open a Read Only copy for you to look at.

That’s it!

Yes, there’s a lot more you can do and plug-ins you can use, but this will at least give you a working overview of an excellent program that will undoubtedly “save your life” on more than one occasion!

~ David Woodford