Better Backup Tools—Free!

A few months ago, a friend got his laptop stolen out of his checked bag somewhere between the gate and the carousel—an incident made all that much more painful by his failure to have backed up his system in the past six weeks. It reminded me that I don't back up enough either, mostly because I'm cheap and lazy. Apple's free Backup annoys me because it stuffs everything into a proprietary format that you need the program to unstuff again. Then I found Silverkeeper, a free application from hard drive-maker LaCie. No complicated fancy features you'll never use—just give it a folder to copy stuff from and a folder to copy stuff to. After the initial backup, it'll only copy new files (unless you tell it otherwise) on the schedule that you set. It'll even wake your machine from sleep to do a 2 a.m. backup while you rest peacefully, knowing that if your machine goes kablooey or gets snatched, a copy of the important stuff is safely stashed elsewhere. Silverkeeper is Mac only, but PC folks can check out Karen's Replicator, a similarly competent bit of backup freeware. (And if you don't have an extra hard drive to back up to, see our guide to building your own in the March issue.) —Mike Haney