Wild File's GoBack cures hard drive headaches

Wild File Inc. claims that GoBack is a product that saves users from all of the worst headaches that can strike computer users. Other utilities tidy up many of the problems of daily computer usage, but some of the big problems, such as loss of critical system files, overwriting important documents, virus attacks and software upgrades gone awry, have been untouchable.

GoBack promises to protect systems from all these calamities. And our testing shows that GoBack delivers on its promise and does so with no evident trade-offs. We had expected it to slow system performance or prove unwieldy to use, but neither was the case. GoBack gives users an apparently ironclad way to recover from the most feared disasters.

GoBack works by creating an image of a PC's hard disk drive and constantly updates it. It might seem likely that such a plan would demolish performance and soak up hard disk space. But performance was not visibly affected on our 233 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium II test PC, and the image file only uses about 10 percent of a hard drive's space. With the present low price of hard disk capacity and the high cost of recovery from problems, that is an insignificant price to pay.

GoBack has a Microsoft Corp. Windows application for managing files and recovering previous disk states, but the hard work is done by software that runs outside Windows. This lets GoBack start up before Windows so that even if there are problems with Windows itself, GoBack will work.

Because of this, we expected GoBack to be a nuisance during boot-up. While boot-up does seem even more interminable than usual for Windows, it is a tolerable side effect. If users need to boot from a floppy disk to attempt recovery or to run a game, they only need to wait until they are prompted by GoBack to insert the floppy. To use emergency boot floppies for hard disk utilities such as Symantec Corp.'s Norton series, users first must disable GoBack.

Installing GoBack takes about 10 minutes. We ran into no problems during installation, although the product comes with an updates sheet that warns of potential problems. The CD-ROM includes a readme file that has other warnings of possible dire consequences. Any software that mucks with PCs at such a basic level as GoBack possesses the potential for serious mayhem. Fortunately, none of the caveats applied to our test PC, and we proceeded without incident.

GoBack is one of those fundamentally useful tools that probably will find its way into future operating systems. Until then, expect to see more PC vendors pre-install this utility to save their customers from the headache of lost files and mangled hard drives. Fortunately, there is no need to wait. Wild File says the product runs on 486 PCs, but a Pentium is probably better because a performance penalty becomes apparent on older systems.

GoBack runs only on Windows 95 and Windows 98, but the company has a Windows NT version in the works for release this year.

-- Carney is a free-lance writer based in Herndon, Va.***GoBack

Wild File Inc.(888) 945-3345www.wildfile.com

Price and AvailabilityAvailable for $60 from Tiger Direct [www.tigerdirect.com; federal sales (800) 625-5332].

RemarksGoBack is a valuable addition to the arsenal of any PC user in the war against frustration, wasted time and lost work. It lets users perform retroactive backups (virtually), and because the percentage of users who perform backups in advance is low, this is a useful tool.

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