November 2009


Hard drives almost always contain some potentially compromising information, such as credit card and social security numbers. You should always wipe a hard drive before turning it over to someone else. But that job is particularly difficult if the hard drive no longer works. (See Remove Sensitive Data Before You Sell an Old PC for wiping healthy drives.)

But why would you even need to secure a drive that doesn’t work? As rgreen4 pointed out in the original forum discussion, if the drive’s electronics are fried but the mechanical components are still working, someone could fix it without destroying your data, which could then fall into the wrong hands.

What you have to do is find someone who can degauss your drive. Translation: Someone who can erase it with a very powerful, very expensive magnet.

One thing you could do is talk to the people you’re returning the drive to, whether that’s the manufacturer (One of the Customer to whom I was providing the Support on his Cisco Router and he told that his drive died while under warranty) or a recycling center. They may offer a policy of degaussing drives when they receive them.

If they don’t, or if you don’t trust them, you can find a company in your area that degausses drives. The Customer went to http://anywho.yellowpages.com, searched for degaussing and his zip code, and found a place that would wipe the drive for $25. This link work if you are in US but if you are in India then you know that no online tool can explore the streets in our country. So I am sorry guys that you need to help yourself. And the best what you can do is, go to Nehru Place and find out some cool people who are included in such kind of stuff.

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We teamed with HD Guru Gary Merson again, this time to find the best TVs under $1000. This economy has really shocked prices. Forget the off-brands. You can now get a top-name good-looking 50″ TV for $700, and more…

Note: Due to the unprecedented price fluctuations seen on TV pricing this week from online retailers, don’t be startled if the prices we brazenly quoted here are off—by pennies or by hundreds. The model numbers are there for a reason, so you can check prices yourself when you’re ready to cash out.

Panasonic X1 Plasma Series

Plasma HDTVs provide the best picture performance and these 720p Panasonics—shown up top—are the value champs. Plasma screens have a wider viewing angle than any LCD panel, excellent contrast and color fidelity. The X1s include 600Hz refresh for full motion resolution, an SD card reader for digital photos and an anti-reflective screen coating (the shiny one). Available in 42-inch and 50-inch screen sizes. If you’re going to set it up at a distance of 9 feet or more, it’s almost silly to spend extra for more resolution.

The best deal is the TC-P50X1, a 50 incher selling for $689.98 at Electronics Expo (via Amazon).

Panasonic S1 Plasma Series

The S1s are Panasonic’s least expensive 1080p line to feature its energy saving, high contrast, deep black level Neo PDP plasma technology. In addition to the full 1080 line motion resolution and an anti-reflective screen coating (the shiny one), there’s an SD card reader. If you’re looking for a Full HD 1080p TV with the excellent performance and don’t care about features like internet connectivity or THX-certified picture and sound modes (which the step-up G10 line has), these are the HDTVs for you. Available from 42-inch to 65-inch screen sizes.

Under $1,000, your best shot is the TC-P42S1, a 42-inch set now selling for $797.95 at Amazon.

LG LH30 Series

LG’s LH30 is the first step-up from the baseline, maintaining a nice low price but delivering surprisingly good picture quality. This model has a wide-viewing-angle IPS LCD panel, dull-finish anti-glare screen coating (better than the shiny anti-reflective coating at cutting down natural-light reflections, but at a slight cost of contrast), pro color-calibration mode and “Picture Wizard.” They add 1080p resolution and Smart Energy Savings for low power consumption. Offered in a range from 32 inches to 47 inches.

We were impressed to find the 47-inch 47LH30 locally for $900, and on Amazon for $938.15.

LG LH40 Series

The LH40 line adds 120Hz to plenty of models below $1000. If that’s something you value, this is your best bet. Everything else here comes in the LH30 line, too. It’s available in screen sizes ranging from 32 inches to 55 inches.

Locally, we spotted a 47-inch 47LH40 for $980, though it was over $1000 on Amazon. The 42-inch 42LH40 may be the best pick: It’s currently $823 on Amazon.

Samsung B550 Series

This series represents Samsung’s top 60Hz 1080p HDTVs. They provide excellent overall performance without any of the fancy features found on its higher-end models. They incorporate Samsung’s Touch of Color bezel and its 6ms response time LCD panel, and are available in 32-inch to 52-inch sizes. Currently, the 46-inch LN46B550 is priced at $999 on Amazon.

 

“What gadget should I get?” is a timeless question. To answer it, here’s our leaderboard of favorite gadgets, from smartphones, laptops and cameras to vacuums, rechargeable batteries and earphones.

Last updated Nov 25th, 2009 but we’ll update this list as the new stuff replaces the old and crusty. We read and write reviews so you don’t have to!

Smartphones


• The Best Smartphones: We like the iPhone, the Motorola Droid because it runs Android 2.0 operating system, and the Palm Pre for people who have stuck with Sprint. We do not like anything Symbian or Windows Mobile 6.5, for the time being. (But are excited for Windows Mobile 7.)

• Cheapest Android Phones: Droid Eris and HTC Hero.

• The Best Smartphones, By Carrier: We sorted out theses answers on Nov 24th, but this category moves quickly so stay sharp when researching.

• Best Windows Mobile Phone We Wish Didn’t Run Windows Mobile 6.5: The HTC HD2

• Best BlackBerry: If you’re into phones with exceedingly reliable push email, the Bold 9700 is your phone. (We don’t like Blackberry’s touchscreen interfaces, so the Storms are no good.)

• Non-Smartphones: You mean dumbphones? No thank you.

Computers


• Netbook: If you must get one of these small, cheap and utterly slow machines, the HP Mini 311 with ion graphics is a good one.

• Netbook for Hackintoshing: Dell Mini 10v (and it must be the v) is the top choice. Here’s our guide to making it run OS X.

• Laptop: Our bias for OS X and Windows 7 becomes apparent in our choice of hardware that can run both without hacking. Macbook Pros. (Plus, we like unibody construction.)

• Best Non-Apple Laptops: Dell’s Adamo XPS may not be fast but it is “insane,” raising the bar on design and quality outside of Cupertino. We also like Thinkpads in general, like the X series and the new multitouch t400s. (It’s probably also worth noting that Asus and Toshiba recently came out on top in reliability.)

• Gaming Laptops and Desktops: Our friend Will Smith at Maximum PC likes these two laptops and two desktops. I personally like Xbox.

• All in One: We like the iMac, the HP Touchsmart and although we haven’t used it yet, the Sony Vaio L because it can double as a TV even when the PC is off. The PCs here have infrared touchscreens, so they do multitouch, but in a really shoddy way.

• MIDs: We hate MIDs. Always have, always will. Intel said they had the tech to make them; but the world never had the need. It either fits in a backpack and lets you do real work on a real screen and keyboard, or it fits in your pocket. There’s no real need for anything inbetween.

• Operating Systems: Windows 7 or Snow Leopard

• Network attached storage: We like the HP Mediasmart series with upnp, iTunes and Time Machine servers among other things. But the Iomega NAS is only a little less fancy and costs half the price.

Audio


• The Best receiver under $1000: We haven’t tested one in awhile, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say we like Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer gear. While some of our own testing is in progress, we’ll go with what our friends at Sound and Vision like: The Onkyo TX-SR706 7.1 receiver with 4HDMI ports and THX certification for $900.

• The Best High-End Portable Media Players: Zune HD and the iPod Touch. We Like the Zune pass system a lot, which allows you to keep 10 songs a month out of your unlimited downloads, even after you stop subscribing. But the iPod Touch‘s large app library makes it a powerful little computer.

• Best high-capacity media player: iPod classic is pretty much the only one left, since Zune has been discontinued and Archos is a mess.

• Flash Media Drives: We’ve always loved the screenless shuffle’s utility, but there are other drives to be had with more functionality for cheaper. Especially now that the buttonless iPod shuffle is sort of annoying to use. We like the Sandisk Sansa Clip+.

• Surround Soundbar: There’s only one series of soundbars that uses cold war submarine tech to bounce soundwaves off your walls for surround, and they’re made by Yamaha. I tested the YSP-4000.

• iPod Speaker Dock: JBL OnStage 400p (A winner from last year — I’m almost certain we should be retesting this category)

Video


• Best HDTV under $1000: Panasonic’s X1 series plasmas, and four more here.

• Best HDTVs, period: Here.

• 1080p Projectors Under $1000: The Vivitek H1080FD is one we like, although we have not tested many.

• Best Monitors: If your’e a Mac user, the 24-inch Cinema Display has a built in magsafe adapter. The Asus 23-inch VH236H is good deal at about $230, but Samsung and Dell are our solid choices for monitor brands, as well.

• The Best Pocket Projectors: There is no such thing, friend. Wait a generation or 3.

• Blu-ray player: The LG BD390 with WiFi with Netflix and DivX playback is awesome, but we’ll never leave out the PS3!

• Media Streamers for People Who Hate iTunes or Love Piracy: The WDTV Live is a good one for people who like it easy, but hackers will probably choose Popcorn Hour, both which did well in our battlemodo. (Stay tuned, cuz that $99 Asus O!Play may soon be the champ.)

Cameras


• Best Entry-Level Video-Capable DSLR: Canon T1i

• Best Midrange DSLR: The Nikon D90 has the same sensor as the D300 at a better price.

• Best Prosumer DSLRs: The Canon 7D is great at shooting video and has great low light performance for an 18MP camera.

• Best Flash Camcorder: The Flip Ultra HD.

• Best Quality Point and Shoot: We like the Canon G11 (which is pretty big, but pretty wonderful.)

• A Camcorder We Like: We haven’t tested any in awhile, but we tend to like DSLRs that shoot video or cheap flash camcorders. If you must have a camcorder, our friends at CamcorderInfo liked the Panasonic HDC-TM300 for ~$1000.

• Best Point and Shoot: We like the Canon S90, even though we’re sure there are slimmer cameras. This uses the same sensor as the G11 and a faster lens, so it takes great shots for a slim.

• Best Rugged Cameras: The Pentax W80 is the best all around camera because of it’s depth and temperature ratings and size. The Lumix has the best picture quality but is a bit of a wimp with low thresholds for dives and temperatures. Canon‘s the best for water only because of its huge nose. And the outstandingly rugged Olympus has a fatal flaw, which is its terrible video.

• Best Helmet Camera: We love the GoPro Hero HD Wide because it mounts anywhere, is really waterproof and lives in a protected case. Plus, 1080p for $250 bucks.

• Best Slow Motion Pocket Camera: Casio EX FC100

Random Stuff


• The Best iPhone Apps: Here’s our monthly list of iPhone Apps, as well as our weekly roundups of the best new releases.

• The Best iPhone GPS Apps: Motion X GPS is our favorite value GPS app, but ALK’s CoPilot is another cheap champ. Navigon is still the classiest, but it costs a lot. (We’re hoping for free Google Maps with Navigation to come to iPhone.)

• The Best Android Apps: There aren’t as many Android apps out, but here are the ones we think are worth checking out.

• Ebook reader: Until we review a Nook, the Kindle 2 is still king.

• USB drive: The Patriot Xporter is fast, but if you have cash to spare, the Corsair Voyager GT is slightly faster and has 128GB of space.

• The Best Video Game Console: Xbox 360

• The Best Video Service: Anything, really, combined with Hulu and Netflix (for free old stuff).

• Best mid-tier office chairs: Herrman Miller Setu and Steelcase Cobi.

• Vacuums: We will always be loyal to Sir James Dyson because he tried to sell bagless vacuum tech to big vacuum corporations and they shut him down motivated by the profitability of bag sales. Then he started his own company. His machines are loud, but you can’t argue with their industrial design. Here’s his latest handheld and ball vacuum.

• Routers: D-Link Dir685. I know it has a digital picture frame built into it, but it also has a HDD and a bittorrent client. And Jason says it’s been more reliable than the top line Linksys he tested it against. I also like the Time Capsule, but haven’t yet tested the one with 2x the wireless performance.

• The Best Headphones: For in ear buds, we like the Shure SE110/SE115, Ultimate Ears Metro.fi and Etymotics hf5 won our tests. (The Last updated August 2008, so look for updates to winners.) We like the Klipsch Image S4i earbuds for people who want to use the iPhone’s voice control or iPod shuffle’s Voiceover function. For Bluetooth stereo headsets, we like the Motorola s305.

• Rechargeable Batteries: Duracell destroyed Energizer, and kept up with the legendary Sanyo Enerloops.

• Mice: For gaming, the Microsoft Sidewinder X8. The Logictech MX1100 for regular mousing. And the Magic Mouse is not amazing, but it’s pretty good if you have a Mac—the best mouse Apple has ever made.

• Keyboard: We like the Logitech DiNovo.

We’re in kind of a golden age of DSLR cameras. They’re cheaper than ever, so they’re affordable, and they do more stuff than ever, so the time’s right to jump in. Here’s our DSLR picks for every (non-pro) budget.

Baby’s First DSLR: Nikon D3000

The D3000 is cheap. We’re talking a full kit (i.e., it comes with a lens) for just $460, making it the cheapest DSLR kit around. But what really makes it stand out for beginners is a built-in tutorial system that explains how to get certain kinds of shots—like shallow depth of field—in plain English.

Amateur Hour: Canon T1i

The next step up is Canon’s T1i. What we like is that it packs a bigger boy’s image sensor—it’s got the same 15-megapixel sensor as the pricier mid-range 50D—and 1080p video into a camera that’s $720 with kit lens. Also, for the money, it edges out Nikon’s D5000 on a few points, namely superior video handling and Live View.

Bigger Britches: Nikon D90

Nikon’s D90 was the first ever DSLR to shoot 720p video with manual controls, but that’s only part of the reason we like it. It’s got the awesome image sensor from the semi-pro D300, in a package that’s just over $1000. And at that price, it’s $100 cheaper than Canon’s competing 50D, which has the same image sensor as the cheaper T1i above, but none of the video benefits of either camera.

The Budding Auteur: Canon 7D

The only camera on this list that’s more expensive than its competition—the D300s—the 7D overwhelms with DSLR video that’s superior to every camera but Canon’s very pro 1D Mark IV (which costs $5000). It shoots in 1080p, with full manual controls, and it’s amazing what it can do in low light. Besides that, Canon’s somehow cheated physics with an 18-megapixel sensor that doesn’t explode with noise at high ISO settings, all while cramming a whole bunch of new features, and an actually good autofocus system. It’s $1900 with a kit lens.

Beyond here, honestly, you should already have a pretty idea of what you’re gonna buy without our help. And if you’ve got your own opinions about what’s best in every price range, let’s hear ’em in the comments.

Previously we have featured 16 colorful Windows 7  basic themes here. This time around, we have another set of cool basic themes for Windows 7.

windows-7 logo

There are a total of 7 basic themes with different colors including pink, light blue, grey, yellow, dark blue and purple in this pack.

 windows 7 basic theme

The pack comes with all the instructions and tools that you need to install and use these themes in Windows 7. Note that these have  been tested only on x86 version of Windows 7.

 

If you don’t like to play with Windows system files, then follow our simple guide how to easily install or apply third-party themes in Windows 7 to install these themes in a jiffy.

Download Themes

Few weeks back, we blogged about Vista Switcher, a cool replacement tool to the default Alt + Tab feature. Here is a similar tool that helps you switch between opened Windows quickly.

Switcher in action

Interesting thing is that Switcher doesn’t use Alt + Tab as the shortcut keys by default. Instead, it uses Windows + ~, Windows + Shift + ~, or the mouse to navigate between the windows.

switcher in tile view

Once you install and run this tool, an icon will be placed in the system tray area and the Switcher is ready to use. Use Windows + ~, Windows + Shift + ~, or the mouse to navigate between the windows. There are three views available in Switcher: Dock view, Grid view and Tile view.

You can also customize the animation and appearance of Switcher under settings option. You are allowed to customize the brightness, translation duration, selection duration and enable/disable window numbers.

Switcher Appearence

Unlike several other task switching tools, Switcher allows you customize the keyboard and mouse shortcuts. If you have opened tens of windows, you can use the search feature to quickly find the window. For example, you can type Firefox to find the Firefox browser.

Download Switcher

You back up your computers, or at least know that you should. But what about your smartphones? They carry massive amounts of personal data, and are subjected to life-or-death situations on a daily basis. Here’s how to back them up:

You don’t have to use a smartphone for more than a few weeks to amass a staggering amount of stuff on it, from text messages and phone numbers to personal settings and photo libraries. And as with your laptop or desktop, a significant portion of this stuff is stuff you want to keep, whether you know it or not. And cellphone backup isn’t just a matter of keeping copies of data that you consciously archive every day, like contacts, photos and notes—it’s about keeping copies of information that you didn’t even know you wanted. How many times have you needed to dig through an old text message conversation? Referred back to your received call list to recover a number you didn’t save? In a lot of ways, your smartphone is more closely tied to your personal identity than your computer is. So, people: back it up. You’ll feel better.

By platform:

iPhone

If you’ve got an iPhone, there’s a good chance you’ve already sat through—and been annoyed by—its backup routine. iTunes updates your iPhone’s backups at every sync, which makes users’ lives a bit easier, and guarantees some kind of safetly net by default. But! As with most fully automated systems, iTunes backup is kind of enigmatic. It just sort of… happens, and it’s not clear what you’re saving, where it’s going, and how to keep it truly safe.

What it’s doing is performing a full backup equivalent. In other words, instead of just mirroring your entire device as a big image file, it’s extracting all the useful bits, so it can restore your iPhone as if it had undergone a full, mirrored backup. This includes, among other things, bookmarks, app settings and data (including in-app purchases, but not the apps themselves), contacts, call history, Mail accounts, SMSes, videos and photos. In other words, pretty much everything. Backups are performed automatically, and restoring to one is a simple matter of plugging in your iPhone, alt-clicking on its icon in iTunes, and selecting “Restore from Backup.”

Crucially, this is different from selecting “Restore” in the device summary page: doing that will revert your device to a clean, factory-default image, which will delete all your personal data. Which isn’t what we’re trying to do here! (In fact, it’s the opposite!) If you attempt to do this, you will be prompted to perform a backup, which should be a red flag.

iTunes stores its backups as archived files in semi-cryptic directories, so if you want to pull them out of the closed iTunes system for proper backup, i.e. to an external HDD or online storage solution, you can find them here, as per Apple’s useful support page on the subject:

On a Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/

On Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

On Windows Vista: \Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

To add a backup to iTunes, simply copy it back to its default directory, and it should show up as a restore option, labeled by date, when you’re setting up a wiped or recently capital “R” Restored iPhone or iPod Touch.

Android

Google’s position Android backup and sync has been translucent, perhaps to a fault: Since it depends so much on web services, it doesn’t need to be backed up, right! It’s already backed up, in the cloud! We’re freakin’ Google, y’all! THIS IS THE FUTURE! (Carried to its logical conclusion, this is the Chrome OS ethos. Anyway.) To a certain extend this cloud-focused cheerleading is fine, and can be put to good use. Gmail and Gcal are always safe, and your contacts can be added to your Google account too—should you designate them to be saved as Google contacts, not just SIM or Phone contacts. To do this:

1. Open your Contacts list
2. Press the Menu button
3. Select Import
4. Tick the “Google Contacts” box

But for anyone who wants to back up more than their Google-service-based info, this doesn’t really help. For that, you’ll need to go third-party. There are lots of backup apps for Android, but most of them are paid, either immediately or after a free trial. I assume just go with the best free(ish) solutions, all of which you can find by searching for their names in the Android Market.

Backup apps on Android are split into two types: the all-in-one apps that sync your data to a single file, and the piecemeal apps. Unfortunately, the AIO apps tend to be paid; doing this for free takes multiple downloads. Download these three apps: SMS Backup and Restore, Call Logs Backup & Restore, and APN Backup & Restore. Each one backs up its respective data to your microSD card (in /sdcard/*appname*BackupRestore/) for easy restoration on another phone. Using these apps is self-explanatory, since there are only three buttons: Backup, Restore and Delete.

Astro File Manager fills a remaining gap: app backup. It’s a free file browser at heart, so the backup option is kind of hidden—once in the app, press the menu button, then click “Tools.” Select “Application Manager/Backup,” and you’ll be able to backup your apps to your SD card. To restore, just install this same app on the device, insert the old SD card, navigate to the same “Application Manager/Backup screen” again, and select the “Backed Up Apps” tab. Astro is also a solid file browser, you can can manually move your data—like photos and videos—to a microSD card, where you should probably be storing them by default anyway. [Pic via]

There! Sprite Mechanic does the same in a slightly simpler way, but I’m hearing reports that it’s a bit buggy on certain handsets (the Hero variant and Droid, specifically). Still, it’s free, so it may be worth a try.

Lastly, if you’ve got a rooted phone, Backup for Root Users backs up virtually everything, and it’s totally free. That catch? You need to have a rooted phone, or else it won’t work. Which is either a crying shame, or a great excuse to root your phone.

Palm Pre/Pixi

Where Android’s cloud-based not-really-a-backup system doesn’t feel remotely complete, the Pre’s is actually pretty good: Backup is performed automatically, every day, and linked to your user account. This just covers the basics, though. For example, a list of apps is kept server-side, but the app data itself isn’t backed up; browser bookmarks are remembered, but no form data or website passwords. Media isn’t backed up at all. Here’s the full list. The solution is a bit hackish, but it works fine for most data. From PreCentral, a brief guide on backing up using either Microsoft’ Sync Toy for PC, or with slight, obvious modifications, ChronoSync for Mac:

1. Plug in the Pre and select USB Drive.
2. Download SyncToy and install.
3. Click SyncToy on your desktop to run SyncToy for the first time.
4. Click Create New Folder Pair. For the Left Folder, Browse to the Pre’s Drive (maybe E: or F:)
5. For the right folder browse to your documents folder and create a new subdirectory such as PreBackup and select it.
6. Choose to Synchronize and name your folder pair something easy to remember like PreBackup.
7. Click Run.

What you’re doing here is essentially backing up the Pre’s internal storage, bit for bit. Unfortunately, this doesn’t back up settings and some application data, so restoring from this image won’t ensure that you don’t lose some data; just media, ringtones, etc.

Between this, Palm’s backup and the natural backup inherent in being tied to online services like Gmail and Flickr, the only notable things not really backed up properly are specific application data and SMS conversations.

Windows Mobile

Microsoft has always offered some kind of backup out of the box, and as of the release of version 6.5, there are multiple options. The core backup utility, of course, is Windows Mobile Device Center, or as it’s known in XP, ActiveSync. Pairing your device with these apps is quite simple, and gives shelter to most of the data you could want to back up, including contacts, calendar appointments and media.

In XP, download and install ActiveSync, and when you plug in your phone, start the ActiveSync app, which you should be prompted to open anyway. Set up a pairing relationship, select the data you want to backup, and you’re good to go.

In Vista, you’ll need to download Windows Mobile Device Center and do the same; in Windows 7, you should be prompted to install Windows Mobile Device Center as soon as you plug in a WinMo handset.

Now, let’s assume you’re not using a Windows PC, or you don’t want to bother with setting up a sync relationship with a computer. You’ve got two free options, which together back up even more data than ActiveSync, without and external machine.

My Phone, another Microsoft app, is available for free to any Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1 or 6.5 user. It’s a misleadingly basic-seeming little app, which backs up nearly everything you store on your phone:

[By default]: contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, photos, videos, text messages, songs, browser favorites and documents between your phone and your My Phone web account.

Restoring from MyPhone is just a matter of logging into your Live account from within the app. You get 200MB of free storage, after which you’ve got to pay. Still: pretty fantastic, especially if you set it up to do scheduled backups.

If you want to back up your phone’s data without a PC or a cloud-based service, there’s PIM Backup. This utility feels and looks kind of ancient, but it’s great at what it does. And what does it do? Everything:

– backup/restore appointments
– backup/restore call logs
– backup/restore contacts
– backup/restore messages (SMS, Mails, …) NEW !!!
– backup/restore speed dials
– backup/restore tasks
– backup/restore custom files

Best of all, it stores your backup in a single file, which can be restored on any device using the same app. The procedure is dead-easy: Download the PIM CAB file to your device, install it, open it, check the data you want to back up off the list, and go. To restore, you go through the exact same interface, selecting “Restore” from the app’s pulldown menu instead of “Back Up.” In the spirit of safety, you may want to back up PIM’s backup files on some kind of external storage. PIM lets you designate where you’d like to store its backups: select your microSD card if you have one, after which you can transfer it to any media your want. If not, you may want to transfer your backup to a PC or external storage device. (Unfortunately, the easiest way to do this is probably with ActiveSync or Mobile Device Center, since most WinMo phones don’t allow you to browse the root storage in Explorer.)

BlackBerry

RIM has made life easy for BlackBerry users, who can back up their entire devices using BlackBerry Desktop.

First, install the app.

Under “Backup,” select “Options,” where you can specify encryption and data type parameters (encrypt the data for safety if you want, but make sure to select “Back up all device application data.”

Click “Back Up,” and select the destination directory for your backup. It’s a single file, so it’s easy to throw on an external HDD, USB stick or microSD card for safe storage.

That’s it! Further instructions, including a detailed restore guide, are available here. [Pic via]

Symbian

Depending on which brand of handset and Symbian shell you’re using, your backup options are going to differ. The Ovi Suite will do the trick. It’s a full, automated backup suite, but it’s PC-only and works exclusively with Nokia phones. Using it is as simple as setting up a sync relationship—just install the suite and plug the Nokia phone in via USB, and follow the wizard prompts—and it’ll keep contacts, calendar items and media backed up. [Pic via]

Non-Nokia Symbian users—Samsung folks, listen up—can use a free app called The Symbian Tool. This will actually pull a full image copy from your Symbian phone, meaning that you can restore your phone bit-for-bit to the state it was in at the time of backup. There are also less severe options for basic media backup, or selective sync. More details here.

So, that’s it! If you have more tips and tools to share, please drop some links in the comments-your feedback is hugely important to our How To guides, and your collective troubleshooting efforts have SAVED HUNDREDS OF LIVES, possibly. And if you have any topics you’d like to see covered here, please let me know. Happy backups, folks!

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