Category Archives: Windows

Microsoft Windows

Backup Drobo NAS Content to CrashPlan on Windows

Drobo 5N NASCrashplan, online backup

One of the advantages of online backup service, CrashPlan, is their ability backup NAS (i.e., network) drives to their cloud. While that is technically true, they do not officially support that feature from Windows. They do describe how this should work, but it requires you to reinstall CrashPlan (per user, rather than all-users). You might try that first, that may work.

If your NAS device is a Drobo, then easily backing it all up is complicated by the fact that it does not support a singular view of all its content with a single share.  This summarizes a few tips to get this all working.

View all Drobo Shares in a Single Share

First, let’s make sure that we can get a singular view of all the Drobo’s content from a single share. If we don’t do this, we’d have to map every of Drobo’s shares as a separate drive letter, on Windows. Not only is this tedious, it may not even work if you have too many shares since there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. If you do not care about this convenience, you can skip to the next section.

    1. In Drobo Dashboard, add Share, e.g., “AllShares”. It should probably be limited to specific users… read-only?
    2. ssh into the Drobo and navigate to /mnt/DroboFS/Shares
      ssh my_drobo
      my_drobo:~$ cd /mnt/DroboFS/Shares

      I know, this is the “advanced” part you’ll need to have set up your Drobo for ssh access and enable a Windows utility to perform ssh (unless you have added the Bash support to Windows 10—you can use putty).

    3. Delete the AllShares directory that Dashboard created:
      rmdir AllShares
    4. Replace Drobo’s expected directory with a symbolic link to the pointing to the parent directory of all the directories that are the source of each share:
      ln -s /mnt/DroboFS/Shares AllShares 
    5. You may need to reboot the Drobo for this to work correctly.
    6. And/or you may need to reboot Windows or restart Workstation in order for Windows to not be confused about user permissions (if you changed any).
      net stop workstation
      net start workstation
      net start "Computer Browser"
      net start "..."

Now that we have a way to see all the NAS’s content via a single share, we can configure CrashPlan to back it up.

Allow CrashPlan to backup NAS volumes

CrashPlan requires that files and directories being backed up, in Windows, be accessible via drive letters. Thus, network “shares” need to be mapped as local drive letters in order for the Windows version of CrashPlan to recognize them.

After getting my system working, I realized that I did not have to do any of the steps I documented below. According to CrashPlan’s own document, “Backing Up A Windows Network Drive,” CrashPlan can be reinstalled per-user rather than for all users, system-wide; then the CrashPlan application will recognize the users’ network drive mappings. I did not get a chance to verify that this works.  If it does not work for you, continue with the following steps.

If CrashPlan is installed for All Users—the default—then it cannot see the network drives mapped by a specific user, since it is running as a “system” application. We need to set Windows to map drives which are visible to system applications, then they can be added to CrashPlan’s backup set.

The following is a summary of the detailed, illustrated steps from “The Crashplan Network Drive Backup Guide.” I recommend you follow that guide after going through the summary I’ve written, here.

  1. Create batch file to NAS volumes as local drives.
    1. Create a batch file. It can be any name, but it must have a .bat extension. Let’s call it AutoStart.bat
      net use N: \\DroboNAS\AllShares /username:WORKGROUP\Bill password

      Pick the drive letter (shown in the example as “N”) that you’d like it to use. Replace “DroboNAS” with the network name of your Drobo device. “WORKGROUP” is the workgroup or domain name that it belongs to and “Bill” and “password” correspond to the user that you’ve set up to access AllShares.

      I had trouble, initially, being able to set user-specific access permissions. What worked for me was to ensure that both the Drobo and my Windows machines were using the same workgroup name. And, because Windows requires the name be uppercase, it seems I had to ensure that the Drobo also used uppercase characters for the workgroup name.

      If you have multiple shares for the NAS and/or more than one NAS drive, add more entries to the batch file for each drive, as necessary.

    2. The batch file can be anywhere; the CrashPlan installation directory is as good a place as any.  %PROGRAMFILES%\CrashPlan (e.g., C:\Program Files\CrashPlan)
  2. Schedule file to run at login via Task Scheduler. It must be runnable as SYSTEM.
  3. Reboot or create a one-time trigger to execute the batch file during the current session (as SYSTEM).
  4. In the CrashPlan app’s Backup tab, click the Change… button under the Files section.
  5. Add the new drive and select/unselect share directories be included/excluded directories, as you normally would for local files and directories in the CrashPlan application.


  • CrashPlan, “Backing Up A Windows Network Drive.”  If your version of CrashPlan is recent and do not mind re-installing CrashPlan per-user, then the instructions are short. Initially, it wasn’t clear to me why this would work so I didn’t take this path.
  •, “The Crashplan Network Drive Backup Guide.” This is the guide that I followed. While it is illustrated with an old version of Windows, it still works on Windows 10.

Windows 8.1 Tiled “Metro” Apps Stopped Working! Here’s a Fix

I own both Macs and PCs. I try not to be too much of a fan-boy and stay religiously neutral.  Both operating systems start to feel their age after being subjected to accumulation of apps and use.  I can run both for weeks on end without rebooting. But I have only been running Windows 8.1 for less than 2 months and I already ran into a severe quirk for which there was no obvious solution, none of the new, “Metro”, tiled applications would run. Trying to untangle this led to frustrating dead-end after dead-end. This kind of bad behavior is what gives Windows a bad reputation.

Jump down to the solution if you don’t care about the back-story. Continue reading Windows 8.1 Tiled “Metro” Apps Stopped Working! Here’s a Fix

Bring the Quick Launch Back (no need for “pinned” TaskBar Items)

Quick Launch Win8.1When I get a new product, I like trying out new features long enough to be able to evaluate whether they might be useful. Windows 7 introduced the “Pin to Taskbar” feature to replace the Quick Launch toolbar of prior versions of Windows. I found that the “Pin” feature provides no advantages over the Quick Launch toolbar and some disadvantages. If you have not used this feature before—in some XP installations, Quick Launch was not activated by default—you might try this out to see if it improves your efficiency in using Windows. Windows 7 and 8 have made this more difficult, so you’ll need to follow the instructions, following the break, to bring it back. Continue reading Bring the Quick Launch Back (no need for “pinned” TaskBar Items)

Retrieving from Old Backups (.bkf) with Windows 7

Okay, I know you have never used the Windows backup tool in Windows versions prior to Windows 7, so this article is not of any use to you. Windows 7 uses an entirely new scheme for storing backups and, out of the box, is not able to read the older backup files. (This might apply to Windows Vista, as well).

Just like VHS tapes and floppy diskettes, backup files that were created with prior versions of Windows are going by the wayside and are not usable, by default, under Windows 7. Fortunately, Microsoft has made a utility available for Windows 7 that can retrieve files from those old backup-files. First, you will need to get Microsoft’s program from Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7. Continue reading Retrieving from Old Backups (.bkf) with Windows 7

VMware: Running Your Apps Safely in a Virtual Environment

As a software/techy/geek, I love VMware Workstation for Windows (and Linux and Fusion for OSX). These products allow an operating system to run within the context of the operating system—a computer within a computer, so to speak. This allows a single machine to be used to run any applications without having to to use multiple machines, dual-boot, or reinstall applications. Continue reading VMware: Running Your Apps Safely in a Virtual Environment

Transferring iTunes Content

To retain all the playlist, podcast status, apps, and media organization in your iTunes setup do the following:

  1. Install iTunes.
  2. Make sure iTunes is not running.
  3. Copy all the media files from your old machine to the new. If all the media is in the standard iTunes location, copy to the entire iTunes directory.
    C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes

    In Finder, navigate to Home Directory, Music, iTunes.

  4. Copy any media outside the iTunes area to their same paths on the new machine.
  5. Start iTunes and let it rebuild its database.

If you are using iTunes to sync your contacts and other personal information with your iPod’s or iPhone’s, then be sure that the application that holds the personal data is installed and up to date before syncing the device.

Upgrading Windows 7, In-place

One cool, little mentioned feature of Windows 7 is that it can be updated to a grander version, as quickly and easily as installing an security update. You can simply enter the license key for the version of Windows 7 that you want to update to and let the system upgrade itself—an Anytime Update license, which can be purchased for an incremental price (compared to paying the full price), can be used as well.

  1. Right-click on Computer to bring up its context menu and select Properties or open the System settings from the Control Panel.
  2. Unless you already have Windows 7 Ultimate installed, the section at the top, “Windows edition” should have a link that says “Get more features with a new edition of Windows 7.” Click on that link.
  3. After entering the license key for the new Windows version, After inputing a valid key the upgrade files will be downloaded and installed on the machine. The machine may reboot a couple of times.

Migrating Skype Chat History

After installing Skype on a new machine, make sure it is not running. Then, the chat history from an old installation can be moved to the new installation. The Skype user directories in the new installation need to be replaced with the ones from the prior installation, adding them, if necessary.

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Skype\skypeuser
Win 7:

Username is the windows login name under which the given Skype installation will run. Skypeuser is one or more Skype user ids that will log into Skype under the given windows login. If you are using Windows’ Explorer, make sure that “protected operating system files” are shown. (I replaced the entire Skype directory and that also worked).

See Move Skype History From Windows XP To Windows 7, but realize that it says that only the “chatsync” directories need to be copied over… that will not work, however, the entire parent directory (skypeuser) must be copied.

Finding Free, Useful Windows Applications

Everyone has their favorite set of applications. Over time, these applications accumulate to the point that you do not realize how many of these applications have actually been installed… until they need to be reinstalled, that is. But if you are starting from scratch, either you want to dispense with the past and start fresh or you simply do not know where to start, to cull through all the cruft you’d accumulated on your old machine.

There is a great site that helps with selecting and installing an initial set of high-quality free applications at The web site presents commonly needed applications in categories and packages them up into a single custom installation executable that is downloaded and installed locally. After downloading, all the applications can be installed, running a single installation program. It’s also a great site to simply survey what applications you might want to consider. is another site for finding great applications. If you are familiar with an application but it is too expensive, its features not quite right, or it does not exist on the platform you need, this site will return all kinds of alternatives to the familiar one.
Continue reading Finding Free, Useful Windows Applications