Getting the most out of the backup log

Windows Server 2003's backup utility has a log feature that allows you to keep track of what happened during your backup. Used properly, this log can be a potent troubleshooting tool.

The first step is to enable the log and log every backup. You can do this at the summary setting so you're not overwhelmed with data. Print a copy of the log for every backup, and keep them in a notebook near the system. This not only aids troubleshooting, it helps you locate where files are in the backup in the event of a problem.

Normally the log is set to provide only summary information, such as failure to open a file or when a tape is changed. However, the log is capable of recording a lot more data. If a backup fails, one troubleshooting step is to set the log to record much more information and attempt the backup again. Click the Copy Full Detail button in the Options dialog box in the backup utility.

Full Detail includes a record of all the files and folders backed up, as well as the date, time and file attributes. By examining where the backup fails (particularly if it fails repeatedly at the same point), you can often determine what caused the failure. Note: When using the Full Detail option for troubleshooting, it is particularly important to make a printed copy. The log file tends to be somewhere between large and enormous, and it will be much easier to review something that size on paper than on a computer screen.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage

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since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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This was first published in December 2005

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