Backup to more than one external USB drive

I'm considering purchasing a USB external drive to work alongside XP Pro's Backup utility.  I want to perform a full backup once per week, then each day perform a differential backup to the USB drive.  Ideally I would like 2 external drives however, one to leave in the office and one to take home for safety.

What is the best way to backup to 2 external drives?  I would prefer not to have to perform the backup twice over (one for each drive) but aren't sure of the most pain-free option.

I've put 250 points on this question, but if it gathers a lot of useful suggestions I'll up to 500 and split to all involved.

Thanks in advance :)
LVL 25
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Either perform the backup twice or include a little script to copy from one disk to the other.  You can't write to two drives simultaneously (XP Doesn't support Mirroring, and even if it did, you'd have to setup the mirror each day and break it once the backups were complete).

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
RouchieAuthor Commented:
>> include a little script to copy from one disk to the other

I know how to write a batch file to do this, but would writing it in VB make the process any faster (i.e run in a dos-free environment)?
Also, wouldn't the script make the data pass from one drive to the other via the pc?  If so, are there any external hard disks that can be linked together in some way to emulate this mirror functionality...??
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
There are some devices, but it would require more of your time.  Keep in mind XP does NOT use DOS - what you see is simply a command line environment and a batch script is all you need - vbscript, for copying a file, will not be any faster.
Ultimate Tool Kit for Technology Solution Provider

Broken down into practical pointers and step-by-step instructions, the IT Service Excellence Tool Kit delivers expert advice for technology solution providers. Get your free copy now.

USB devices require a host of some kind, so I think you need a PC.  Perhaps you might consider free synchronization software, such as Cobian Backup?
RouchieAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the rapid answer there leew.

>> There are some devices, but it would require more of your time
Could you please give an example of such a device, and clarify why it would require more time?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I was thinking of NAS devices - little ones that I would otherwise NOT recommend.  Or you could get a SATA RAID controller and some drive carriers and use the RAID controller's software to hardware mirror the drives.  In the NAS situation, you'd have to go to a web page an initiate the mirror.  I just really would not do this.

I don't see why the script would be a problem - except for the full backup... but for the differentials, this is small and should only take a few minutes - unless you're doing video editing with hi-res files on a regular basis.

If you had a server, you could enable volume shadow copy and have backup copies of modified files automatically every few hours.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
There is simply no reasonable way to avoid either backup up twice, or copying one drive to the other.    There are several good automatic synchronization utilities -- I like SyncBack (, but Cobian Backup (as suggested by Callandor) is also good (   I'd just set up an automated backup using either XP's backup utility or SyncBack; and then run a SyncBack profile to synchronize the two external drives.

If you really want to avoid the synchronization time, you could do this:   Instead of USB drives buy THREE external e-SATA enclosures and drives.   Add a SATA-II RAID card to the system and setup a RAID-1 mirror using two external enclosures.   Now you can freely remove one of the e-SATA drives (which will break the mirror) and replace it with the 3rd one (which will rebuild the mirror).   Just don't remove a drive while the mirror's rebuilding :-)    Depending on which RAID card you use, you may have to initiate the mirror rebuilding process ==> but with a good card that will be fully automatic.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... note that with the e-SATA RAID option you wouldn't HAVE to use a 3rd drive;  you could just leave the array in an "at risk" state much of the time.   But using a 3rd drive would let you "pull" the "take home" drive anytime you wanted with no wait time (for a mirror rebuild).

Why not just make two Scheduled Tasks, one to back up to device #1, and the other to backup to device #2 later?
Check out the SilverSATA II from Wiebetech.  This more or less sounds like exactly what you are looking for.

It is a dual bay external RAID unit.  It also has both SATA and USB ports.

You will want a truely foolproof method to prevent accidents when messing with an array.  If you mirror the drives in the wrong direction,  poof!  timewarp and your data is set back to last backup date.

Some other useful software,  these would be able to automatically make copies of the backups if used for non raid setups.
Second Copy,
BackupOnDemand,  SyncOnDemand,

All the software mentioned have free demos for download and are worth looking at.  These are nice options for doing simple backups.  If you need to do full image backups I would suggest looking at Acronis True Image,,  works great and is very easy to use along with useful features.

I am not a big fan of the NAS route as that would use a network connection which is much slower than even a USB link.  The external SATA is the way to go as it is just as fast as an internal drive.  Of course if your data requirements are small then the interface speed is not so much of an issue.

Something else to keep in mind for taking drives offsite is the security of that backup.  You may also want to look into encryption for the backup if the software you use does not provide this.

Here is a really handy drive cartridge unit that provides encryption automatically on the fly.

This could be used interal or external though it is not as slick as the RAID unit above.  Though it would work fine for a copy situation or a SATA RAID 1 array mirrored to an internal drive or a 2nd cartridge unit.
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.

Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.