As storage media grow in size, so does the number of files stored on them and, if you back up your precious data regularly, as you should, it won’t take long until you have a large array of, for example, external drives stashed away in various places, often labelled cryptically or not at all.

Backing up my files and mirroring them across several drives has become a habit that has saved my life several times already, but at some point, the sheer number of files stored away from my PC became overwhelming, especially when the data backed up from an internal disk had to be spanned across several external drives, several times. The core library of music ripped from my collection, for example, resides on a 3.8 terabyte partition on my PC and is backed up across several 500GB, 1TB, 1,5TB, 2TB, 3TB and 5TB drives regularly, some of which should be reaching their end-of-life cycle pretty soon.

It has always boggled my mind that Windows or other systems don’t offer a built-in backup management solution (with mirroring) that is safe, user-friendly and can quickly and easily help you find and retrieve any files quickly and securely without packing them into (often compressed) backup images, so for years I have been running my own solutions that were usually more – but often less – successful. No matter how anally retentive I was about keeping notes, at some point a quick last-minute backup to be on the safe side remained unlabeled and uncatalogued and screwed things up when trying to find the latest version.

In steps WinCatalog (2016), a program I ended up with rather quickly after extensively sampling the various other free and commercial disk cataloging programs available. Essentially, WinCatalog reads and catalogs any internal or external media you throw at it and stores a catalog of whatever it finds on those media in its own database. As any good database application should, it then helps you to view, organize (for example in virtual collections) and label the information it stored and, if used properly, helps you to find any file you are looking for very quickly via various search algorithms that help you to narrow down what you are looking for on the many external media you have. If those are then labelled properly, it is a piece of cake to restore – for example – a single song you accidentally deleted or pictures taken on a certain day that somehow disappeared from your internal drive.

WinCatalog – around, regularly updated and supported since 2001 – has quickly become a core component of my very own backup strategy that also consists of other software* that I use to securely store several identical uncompressed backups of all of my files externally and I have no idea how I have managed to exist without it for so long.

Highly (!) recommended.

Thank you, Michael Rusakov.


*I’ll cover the other programs that have become essential in future posts on this site.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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