PowerQuest's SecondChance

How often have you installed a program or downloaded a file from the Internet, only to later wish you could reverse the damage you'd unwittingly done? Even if you've only been inconvenienced once, you'll appreciate the instant-rewind capabilities of PowerQuest's $125 SecondChance, a powerful utility that can save you hours of troubleshooting and reinstallation time.

The idea is simple: SecondChance takes a snapshot (a "checkpoint" in SecondChance parlance) of your hard drive, then creates additional Checkpoints at user-specified intervals (up to one per hour); you can also create new Checkpoints manually any time with the click of a button. The utility records all incremental changes to your drive at each Checkpoint, so, when a software snafu occurs, you can easily restore your system to its previous, un-snafued state.

But does SecondChance really give you a second chance? As we found out in testing, it does -- but be prepared to sacrifice a bit of hard disk space.

Unlike most software packages, SecondChance will only install itself in your drive's root directory. While this enables SecondChance's DOS-based restore component to operate smoothly, it would have been nice to have some choice of destination directory. After the install, SecondChance creates an emergency boot disk for restoring your system from scratch. It also creates an initial Checkpoint to act as a baseline from which your data can be restored.

SecondChance can save you hours of troubleshooting and reinstallation time.

The program worked perfectly each time we restored our data, requiring about two minutes per restoration. If you don't want some files to revert to their previous version, PowerQuest includes a viewer utility so you can pick and choose. However, you'll need to know the specific file name containing the data you wish to retain. Keep in mind that file names can sometimes be arcane and elusive, particularly with respect to e-mail and contact manager databases.

The only catch: Because SecondChance saves actual copies of files that are modified and deleted after you create a Checkpoint, you could quickly find your available hard disk space has substantially diminished. Drives with less than 10 percent of their disk space free aren't good candidates for SecondChance protection. As a safeguard, the software lets you define the maximum amount of disk space allocated to a Checkpoint -- as well as the minimum amount of space you want to maintain on any particular disk drive. If you fill up the allotted space, SecondChance will discard the oldest Checkpoints as needed.

Also, since SecondChance can automatically record a Checkpoint as you work, system speed could take a hit. In testing, however, while working with standard business applications such as a word processor or spreadsheet, we didn't see any significant performance degradation.

SecondChance is not alone in the continuous-backup game. Wild File's GoBack does much the same thing. The main difference: SecondChance can only restore data based upon the last Checkpoint, while GoBack backs up your data continually through the day as files are modified.

Power users might prefer PowerQuest's Drive Image, which also replicates a disk drive's contents; that program is activated manually, though, and runs in the foreground, thereby not tapping system resources as you continue working. But SecondChance's automated approach, background operation, and easy-to-use interface makes it an excellent choice for general computer users.

PowerQuest Australia

Phone: (02) 9822 0999

http://www.powerquest.com

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