HD Guard Pro

HD Guard Pro


Introduction

Along with the huge increase in speed and complexity of today's computers and the internet, protection against boot failures and malicious viruses is becoming all the more needed to safeguard valuable data, not to mention the nightmares of failed windows boot ups or CMOS errors.

In this world-exclusive review we're going to be taking a look at the HD Guard Pro from EksitData, a small PCI card, which promises that a PC restored from lost data, fatal windows crashes and/or CMOS errors or virus infection, is just a reboot away.

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Unlike software solutions, the card doesn't create a huge image file of your hard-disk, effectively halving its capacity, but cleverly records just the changes to the data on the drive, using on average under 1.5MB per 12GB of data. It's also independent of Windows, so it can even recover your data and installation if your PC fails to boot.

This system is designed for applications where a many users have access to PCs, and may cause damage affecting other users in the process. Internet Cafe's and Educational establishments would find this sort of product ideal, as after each reboot the system could be restored to an original state - removing any tampering from the system.

Specifications

The specifications (according to the manufacture) are as follows:
  • Supports IDE SATA and SCSI hard disks.
  • Supports PIO, DMA33, DMA66, Ultra DMA66, ATA-100, Ultra ATA-100 IDE, ATA-133 and S-ATA interfaces.
  • Supports FAT16/16E, FAT32/32E, NTFS/HPFS partitions and file systems.
  • Supports up to 256GB hard disks.
  • Supports Partition Magic and multi-OS booting by System Commander and multi-bootable-partition booting by Boot Magic.
  • CMOS/BIOS Protection.
  • Supports DOS, Windows 3x/95/98/ME, Windows NT/2000/XP.
  • Remote administration software included.
Included Items

The HD Guard Pro comes in a modest box containing:


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  • HD Guard Pro PCI Card (in anti-static bag)
  • Floppy Diskette containing manual and driver-and-utility software
Installation

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Installing the Windows software

Installing the card was very straightforward. First we needed to install the software from the floppy disk before fitting the card itself. Shutdown, unscrew our testing machine case side and place the card into a free PCI slot.​


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Fitting the card

After the PC was switched on we needed to nip into the BIOS to check "Boot Virus Detection" was disabled and that the first boot device was set to "LAN". After saving the settings and rebooting the machine we were then presented with an installation screen...​

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We installed the card with the default settings, setting the card to restore the hard-drive every boot-up and to protect the CMOS...​

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Because we might want to save files to the disk that we want to keep after rebooting, we only protected the primary partition on our hard-disk where Windows and other important system files reside, leaving the secondary partition for general files and unimportant programs.​

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After hitting OK, the installation was complete and the system booted. Time to see if the card lives up to its claims​

Features

When the system boots you're presented with the "HotKeys" menu...

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From this menu you can select which mode to boot the PC in, Protected mode is the default setting, and protects the selected partitions from any change until the next restore (by default the next reboot). The other mode is Supervisor, this boots the machine completely unprotected, so files on the partition can be updated, removed or added, if you have protected your main partition you will need to boot in supervisor mode if you wish to install any software permanently.

Of course having everything restored every time you reboot might not sound that appealing to some users. You can use the 'save data' option to make occasional changes you make to the protected partitions permanent after a reboot, or even disable the auto-restore features entirely (by hitting 'set-parameters'), using the 'recover data' feature to instantly restore it as it was at the last boot-up, should you suffer from lost files, a virus infection or just a failed boot up.

ISRSNSet Software

The driver software for the card is called "ISRSNSet", it sits in the taskbar and runs in the background.

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Although the added functionality of this software will not be very beneficial if you're a home user with one machine and one card it is a powerful administration tool for anyone running a network with several machines protected by the HD Guard Pro, such as you'd expect to find in an internet cafe, school, office or similar set-up.

Performance

As much as we trust the guys at EksitData, it was time to test their claims that the card could completely restore a data damaged system simply by rebooting.

Our test machine specifications are as follows:
  • 2100+ AMD AthlonXP CPU
  • ASUS A7N8X-Deluxe Rev1.x Motherboard
  • 40.1GB IBM ATA100 Hard Drive
  • Windows 2000 Pro
This is where the fun begins, for the first test we tried to completely trash our Windows installation. We simply deleted as much of our "system32" folder and registry as Windows would let us and then rebooted the machine. Without protection there is no doubt that this will produce a failed boot-up, yet when the system rebooted, Windows booted fine, the card had restored all of the files.


For the next test we decided to pit the card against a worm virus. We disconnected the machine from the internet, ran one of the few-hundred 'MyDoom' files in our email inbox, and then used our free online anti-virus to confirm the system was infected. Next we rebooted and ran the check again, the hard-drive had again been restored and the virus gone.


For the last test, we decided to check the cards CMOS/BIOS protection function, we shut down the machine, switched it off at the mains and removed the battery on our motherboard for a few seconds, clearing CMOS settings. Booting the machine back up revealed that the settings had been restored.

The card does have some flaws however, it greatly increased the boot-up time on our system and also affected general system performance. The manual quotes this performance decrease at around 5%, however I'd guess that it was a little more, depending on the type of hard-drive used and of course, the speed of the system.

Conclusion

The card is an excellent device for the data-dependent user or network, offering huge peace of mind and good configurability to adapt to individual situation or user preferences. However, due to the system slow down caused by the card, it's not going to appeal to everyone, particularly performance or gaming users and best suits a public access system. As such, this would be particularly valuable to internet cafes, schools and offices as it would protect them from costly system downtime.

Author
Matt Jason H
First release
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