Archival Software -- WinZIP, WinRAR, WinACE

Dennis Faas's picture

Today I received an email from Rose J. who recently downloaded my video tutorial and eBook on How to Install / Reinstall Windows:

" I need to [copy your] video on to a disk, and I can't seem to do that. Can you explain the procedure in detail? "

At first, I thought Rose was asking about how to burn the files to a CD Recordable. I later out found that she doesn't have a CD recorder, and she wanted to use her floppy disk drive to back up the files. That makes things a bit difficult, since the tutorial is almost 19 megabytes in size.

Before I go into instruction on how this would be done, let me first say that backing up important files to a floppy disk is not a good idea. Floppy disks have an extremely high failure rate a low shelf life. If memory serves correct, I think a floppy disk failure rate is 1 in 100 and the shelf life is about 10 years. I tried searching Google for the exact statistic, but could only find evidence backing up my claim: that floppies don't make good backup medium due to high failure rates.

Even if the How to Install / Reinstall Windows eBook and video guide was able to fit nicely on floppy disks, it would still take 14 of them to get the job done. Don't forget: a high density floppy disk can only hold 1.44 megabytes of information.

And then, there's another problem.

Unfortunately, a file cannot split across disks without first using special software. This is techy term referred to as "spanning a file" and is commonly used in conjunction with backup or archival software. I talked about spanning before -- many times, in fact -- in previous newsletters (Winbackup Review). Spanning allows you to chop up a single large file and then fit it nicely on writable medium, such as a CD-R, ZIP disk, or even a floppy disk.

Here's a theoretical example: You have a 900 meg file on your hard drive, but a CD recordable can only fit 700 megabytes. If you spanned the file, you could burn it onto 2 x 700 meg CD-R discs.

Side note: When a file is spanned, it is only readable by the archival software that created it. You would have to un-span (restore) the file to make it readable again.

Typically, backup software is used to archive (glue) and compress multiple files into a single file. After the backup is complete, it is written to media -- such as a CD-R. CD-R discs make great backup medium because failure rate is *much* lower than a floppy disk, and storage life is about 100 years.

Most backup software allows you to chunk the archived file into manageable chunks so they will fit nicely on backup medium. On the other hand, archival software (typically) does not allow you to backup files: it only stores the archived file(s) to the hard disk. Most archival software used today allows you to span the files; if you want to use these files for a backup, you would have to use another application to do it (IE: CD Burning software).

Have you heard of WinZIP, WinRAR, or WinACE?

These are very popular archiving software titles used by many users on the Internet today. In fact, archival software is mostly used to store and compress multiple files into 1 larger file, so that it can be transported quickly and easily over the Internet (IE: download / upload).

Getting back to Rose's problem --

How is it possible to archive a 19 megabyte file on a 1.44 megabyte floppy disk?

It can be done, and I'll explain just how to do that in the next Gazette!

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