Backups (making, verifying, viewing and restoring)

and Data Checks

Backing up your data

When starting to use the software and making entries you may wish to keep regular backups. It only takes a few seconds to make a copy of the data onto a special folder in your hard disk. If you do this every hour, for example, or before doing something you are not sure about,  you then have a copy you can go back to if you make a bad mistake or something doesn't work as expected.

C-Law software now has a slightly different system for defining backup destinations than our earlier versions, and allows you to define a separate place (if you wish) for daily backups and monthly backups. It also allows a place to be set up for temporary backups (eg: on the hard disk) where you can make backups quickly so you will be able to go back and recover your situation at any prior stage if you wish. It also allows you to make a "one off" backup to any other destination accessible from your computer that you wish.

You can now make backups to virtually any Windows drive you choose such as a CD or Zip Disk or USB Memory stick etc. Floppy diskettes used to be the norm but although still very useful (C-Law data is so compact it often only needs one floppy for a backup) they have become overtaken by other devices and some computers don't have a floppy diskette slot.

It is recommended that you make security backups every evening. These can conveniently be onto a USB stick but you can choose other removable media or a remote drive on a network if you wish. 

If you choose to use diskettes we recommend that you make a backup every evening on a rotational basis - ie: have 5 diskettes and use one for monday, another for tuesday etc. Then you always have several to resort to if a problem arises. 

If you use a USB stick the backups are fast and you can have many backups on the one drive. We suggest that you could keep one for daily backups only and every so often delete them from the USB stick to free up space.

You definitely MUST do a backup at least once every month. This backup is done as PART OF THE MONTHLY ROUTINE (if you are an old hand and used to the older versions of C-Law make a note that you no longer do a backup manually BEFORE you start the monthly routine). 

The monthly backup will be prompted for you during the monthly routine (just before it starts the routine) to make sure that you can't omit the essential backup by mistake. Also monthly backup file names start with the letter M whereas the daily backup file names start with the letter A which may help you to identify which is which (eg: where you don't use separate folders).

If you use USB sticks we suggest you keep one for the monthly backups. Then copy the contents of your USB drive to another removeable or distant storage medium every so often. USB drives can fail.

Always label removable media appropriately so you will know easily and quickly what is the correct media to use or refer to.

Using CD's to store backups

We do not recommend CD's. Computer produced CD's have proved not to be very permanent in actual practice. Did you know that they can be completely erased and rendered useless if left in strong sunlight for a few hours?  

However if you wish to use a CD-RW or other removable device please be aware that the CD must be formatted so as to appear to Windows as a drive  ie: be capable of having data files written to it on a one off basis. This software does NOT come with Windows so it may well not have been installed by your computer supplier. You or your supplier MUST have installed the special software that came with your computer - specifically with your CD or DVD drive. This software is technically called "packet writing software" and it allows a CD-RW disc in the CD drive to be used just like any other drive on your computer - you can add or delete files to and from it just like any drive.

Unless this software has already been installed this usually means you must insert the set up CD that came with your CD drive and ask to install the software that allows you to create data CD's that will appear in Windows Explorer as a drive. There are various sorts with various software packages. They usually come free with your computer.

We used to describe this in more detail here but now that USB drives are so much easier to use (and CD's can be bad news) we do not do so.

Other backup destinations to consider

USB 'memory sticks'  - probably the norm nowadays. But do make regular copies of all monthly backups to somewhere more permanent.

USB external drives - can be plugged in and removed and kept elsewhere

Network storage drives  - these appear as a drive via network based software. They sometimes have a 'RAID' system set up which allows a mirror of each file to be kept on a seond hard drive. Then if one hard drive fails there is still a reserve.

Servers - these sometimes have automated backup software. But if using a server do use C-Law backup for keeping monthly backups in a special folder on the server so they all get backed up and do not get lost. You cannot ignore C-Law backups just because the data is on a server..

"The Cloud" (here meaning an internet accessed server somewhere). There may be data security issues to consider - but subject to this not a bad idea.

We definitely do NOT recommend you use Drive C: for monthly backups (unless you have the data on a network drive) since if this fails you will have lost your backups and your essential data as well.

Hard Drive Backups and C-Law

Do not be misled into thinking there is no need for backups because your office does daily backups of your hard drive. This will NOT usually satisfy Law Society requirements for accounting systems where you have to be able to restore a backup for any period or month end within a reasonable period to run of client balances. You MUST make appropriate monthly backups from C-Law onto media you can reasonably quickly lay your hands on if the need arises.

Starting to make a backup

To make a backup copy you need to click the backup button at the right of the main screen.  

OR on the cashier menu select Backup-Verify-View-Restore and then Backup.

You will then see a "Backup Data" window with two buttons "Start Backup" and "Exit".

Above these buttons is a combo box entitled "Type of backup" and you can set this to either a Daily backup or a Monthly backup.  Or you can choose a Temporary backup eg: to your hard drive. All these will be sent to default destinations you need to set up on a one time basis in advance (see below) - or you can choose "Another destination" for a backup for a one off "ad hoc" purpose eg: for a temporary backup to a particular destination you want to choose at the time.

When you click on either the Daily or the Monthly or Temporary settings the default destination that has been defined for the chosen type of backup is shown in the box below in red. When you click on the "Another destination" option you are presented with a "browse window" which allows you to choose a folder. By default this will be set to the last folder you used for this type of backup so if you wish to continue to use the same folder for these backups you need to just click OK. Otherwise navigate to the folder you wish to use and click OK using the procedure set out below under "Using the Windows Open Dialog"

Defining the default backup destinations

To do this you need to be on the backup window as shown above and click on the menu item "Where /how to store" and then on the item "Define Backup Destinations"

You will then see another Window which shows the default destinations for the Monthly and Daily and Temporary backups with browse buttons alongside each as shown in the example below.

To define the destination for any particular type of backup click on the appropriate "Browse" button for the type of backup in question.

You will then see a screen similar to the one shown below:-

If you are merely wishing to set up a local drive as a destination then you need just select it in the drop down list box  on the above screen headed "Local drives". If you click the 'down' arrow you will get a list of the drives on your computer. The one shown below is an example of what you may see - but yours will almost certainly be a bit different.

(In the above example drive A: is a floppy diskette drive. Drives C: and D: are hard drives, drive E is a virtual disk in memory and drives F: and G: are CD-ROM type drives)

To select one or other of your listed local drives as a destination for the chosen backup type just click on it to highlight it and click the OK button. You will get a message asking if it is a CD drive and if it is click Y.

However you will may not wish to select removable media in this way eg: a floppy diskette or a CD drive or a Memory or a Zip drive. This is because you cannot select other than the root folder on the drive you select. You cannot with this list box find network drives, or set up or define a folder on a hard drive or network drive.  If you wish to do this you should click the BROWSE button at the bottom of the screen. This will give you the standard Windows open dialogue which you can use to define or create a folder anywhere on your computer or network for backups - whether locally or over a network.

Note that if you use removable media (eg: a floppy diskette or a CD or a zip disk or memory stick) the media must be present and attached to your computer for the list or the Windows Open dialogue to find the drive. You will need to exit back to the main backup screen and reselect the selection screen to be able to see a drive you have only just inserted.

We do NOT advise the use of the same hard drive that your data is kept on for storing daily or monthly backups. If this drive fails you may lose the backup as well as the data.

Using the Windows Open Dialogue Window

This is the dialogue box that is used within most Windows software for finding and opening a file. However in the scenario in which it is used here in C-Law you are merely defining a folder and you do NOT use it to define the file. You use it to simply to navigate to the folder that you wish to use which should be showing on the "Look in" line. Leave the file name set to "Allfiles". An example of the Windows open dialogue you will see (taken from a computer running Windows XP) is shown below. Note that this is in this example we are "looking" at a folder called Claw but it could be any folder or drive that you choose on your system. Navigate by clicking the down arrow at the end of "Look in" or clicking on folders (if any) in the box below. To select the current folder you are on simply click on the "Open" button.

Note that you can use the Windows "Open" dialogue box to create a folder. In case you do not know how to do this you need to click on the Icon of a folder with an asterisk top right as shown below (which is taken from the Windows XP example above).

NB: If you "hover" the mouse over this icon a tooltip will appear saying "create new folder" as shown below but it is not necessary to see this. Simply click on the icon.

After clicking the icon you will see a new item appear in the window with "New Folder" as the name. An example of the effect of having done this using the Windows XP example above is shown below.

You will see that a folder icon has appeared with the name highlighted in blue. It should be possible to change this name when it is highlighted in blue (as shown above) just by typing when the characters will appear in the new folder name box. If not and the highlighting is not there you may need to right click the mouse pointer on the new folder icon and select "Rename" and then the blue highlighting will appear and simply overtype the name you want in the little box and click the mouse on a blank area beside it. You can then navigate to this new folder (to define it) just by double clicking the mouse on the folder. 

If you simply want to use a CD then you do not need to create a folder on the CD - you can just point the open dialogue box to the CD drive using the drop down "Look in" window at the top - find the CD drive and click on it and then click on OK.

Note that you MUST NOT in any circumstances choose as a destination for any backup the C-Law data folder itself (usually SOLSDATA) which must be on its own with no sub folders or backups in it. The software will usually refuse to accept this as a destination. But you can create a folder within the parent folder (the default is C_Law) alongside Solsdata if you wish for storing temporary backups.

After you have defined the various destinations click Exit and you will be asked if you wish to save the destinations you have defined. You will be warned about changing an existing destination

If you are setting up a new place for backup files to be sent and have previously used another place, C-Law will not be able to find these files after you have changed the destination setting. In this instance you might wish to set up the old destination as a temporary destination.

Verifying backups

The current versions of our software have a check box on the Backup Window for "Verify".

If this is ticked and you are backing up to a floppy diskette you will be asked to take out the floppy diskette and re-insert it after making a floppy diskette backup. It will then check that the computer has written the data file correctly. Note this is not the same as a data check - it merely makes sure the computer zip file can be read and appears to be in order - this is not checking your data.

It is strongly advised that you verify backups to floppy diskettes as floppy diskettes do sometimes fail to write properly or cannot be read. Particularly if they are old. It might pay to re-format them. If you do not verify you might not know there was a fault until it was too late. If you keep getting faults with a backup diskette it is best to discard it.

You can also verify any backup data on any media at any time - whether on a floppy diskette or a hard disk or any other media - by going to the restore/verify screen from the Cashier menu and selecting the backup file you want to check (same prcedure as under the "Restore" section below) and clicking the "Verify" button.

Backup System

Backups in C-Law are made using a compression system which sends the data to a ZIP file using third part "zipping" software. Until recently we used a well known proprietory DOS command line utility. The fact that it works in DOS does not matter to the user as the command line internals are handled by C-Law software code.

However although it usually works well it is a bit "clonky" to have to resort to using DOS for backups - and the backup files created cannot store long file names. As from the end of November 2003 C-Law software incorporates more modern proprietory zip software which has the advantage that it works within the Windows environment and does not need C-Law software to exit to the DOS command screen. It also handles and stores most normal long file names. This software seems to work well in practice and is now the default in C-Law. It means that the standard C-Law progress bar can be used to show the progress of the backup - and an abort button on the progress bar allows the user to abort a backup or verify if it seems to get stuck or have a problem.

The old DOS system is still available in C-Law software and can be selected as the default if so required from the "Where/how to store" menu item on the menu bar in the C-Law Backup Window. If you get any problems with the Windows type zip system try using the DOS system.

In our experience many problems that arise with data errors on floppy diskette backups are in fact caused by defective floppy diskettes or defective or faulty formatting of the diskette. Old diskettes in particular can suffer. Freshly formatting diskettes before use often solves such problems.

Zip Compression Ratio

If you use the new Windows zip system you can choose the degree of compression with which the software compresses your data to store it in the backup file - using maximum  compression will result in the backup file being slightly smaller. However in C-Law the data is very compressed anyway so this setting does not make an enormous difference.

Floppy diskette capacity screen

When a floppy diskette is used as the medium (now becoming rare) it is necessary to check whether the chosen diskette has sufficient capacity on it. The C-Law software has a floppy diskette capacity "meter" which will be activated as long as you have chosen to use the Windows zip system and there is data already on the floppy diskette.

It will not be displayed for other removable media - which will usually have a much larger capacity than a floppy diskette.

This on screen capacity meter will show you graphically on screen the percentage of the floppy diskette used and the file names and dates of other files present on the diskette.

Old unwanted files can be deleted if required from this screen before starting the backup by double clicking the file you want to delete in the listing and confirming you wish to delete it.

If you decide you want to take out the diskette and insert a new one then you must click the "Test new diskette" button.

NB: If the floppy diskette inserted is blank then this screen and capacity "meter" is not seen.

For those users who need multiple floppy diskettes for their backup it is strongly advised to have a supply of blank formatted diskettes available. Do NOT try to use up space on existing diskettes without deleting all files on the diskettes to be used as whilst it may work it can cause problems in restoring backups - and keeping them in order.

NB:  If your backup goes onto two or more diskettes it may be time to consider using CD-R's or CD-RW's to store your backup files on.

Encrypting backup data

If you are worried about client data security there is a facility in C-Law to encrypt the backups you make with a password.

On the Backup Windows under the Verify option is a check box for encrypting.

If you click the Encrypt checkbox you will see the following information box

If you wish to set up C-Law to encrypt backups click the YES button.

You must set up a password as your encryption key. Click the menu item "Where/How to store" and "Encrypt Backups"

You will then have a dialogue box where you can enter a password.

The password should follow standard password convention and should not be something obvious. C-Law cannot be responsible for the security of data encrypted with a password. It uses the industry standard zip password system and is not absolutely secure in that it could probably be cracked or hacked by someone with expert technical knowledge of the workings of zip files or prepared to get software to do this off the internet. But it will keep the data safe from the casual (average) computer user who will not be able to see other than the folders and file names that appear in an encrypted zip folder unless they have the password to decrypt the files.

The password is not intended to be secure internally within the firm (it can be easily be read from the C-Law data files). But if a backup encrypted with the password is sent outside your office then it can only be decrypted (unless cracked) by someone with knowledge of your password.

As long as the password is present on your computer data C-Law backups that have been encrypted can be easily restored or viewed. But if the computer goes down and the password becomes lost you may not be able to access your backups without re-entering it so PLEASE KEEP THE PASSWORD SOMEWHERE SAFE - or use a password that you will always remember. We cannot recover it for you from your encrypted backups.

Restoring backup Data

If you have made a backup and want to revert to it, you can if you wish jettison your current data and revert to the backup data. You might want to do this because you made a mistake in entering details and/or a data error has arisen for come reason.

If you just want to view or printout details from a backup do not do a restore - use the "View" option (see below) - then your current data will not be affected. The view option was introduced in November 2003.

Select the Backup/Restore option on the Cashier Menu and then click Restore (or View if you wish). You will then see a Screen Window as shown here. (The View menu is very similar except the RESTORE button is replaced with a VIEW button.)

Select the backup source required from those listed eg: Daily, Monthly, Temporary or Another place. Make sure the appropriate backup media (if removable) is present.  Then click the CHECK SOURCE button to look for any C-Law backups present at this place.

        (This button was called CHECK in earlier versions)

This will cause a search of the chosen source to take place and any files recognised as being C-Law backups will be listed in order of creation. If none are found then a screen message will warn you of this.

As from C-Law version 2005 the listing appears in chronological order with the earliest backup first and with the most recent (or only) backup listed last and highlighted. You can of course click on any earlier backup shown in the listing to highlight and select it if so required.

NB: The chronological sort of the backups in the source media chosen is on the basis of the date the backup file was created as per the Windows computer file date stamping stored with the file in Windows - not the C-Law date of operation - although this is shown in the listing details for you.

Once you are sure you have selected the required backup click the RESTORE button and the data will be verified for you and if found to be in order will then be extracted.

WARNING: Restoring destroys your current data and any changes made since the backup date will be lost. Therefore if you might want to return to your current data you MUST make a backup of the current data before proceeding. This is VITAL and it is your responsibility to do this. If you have restored over the top of current data it will be lost. (In fact it may not be lost but you will need to contact C-Law Solicitors Systems instantly to find out out how to retrieve it. It will usually mean going into Explorer and changing the folder name C_law\Solsdata to another name and renaming C_Law\Solstemp to C_Law\Solsdata).

If you only want to view a backup without affecting your current data then don't use the Restore option. To view a backup you must click on the 'View' option in the Cashier Menu under 'Backup/Restore' and then select the backup as above and click the VIEW button. This will extract the backup and allow you to view it - see the description in the next section.


If you are on a network you MUST tell all users and get them to log off C-Law BEFORE restoring. You must also warn fee earners and any C-Law Executive users that they may lose time data they have entered since the last backup was done as a result of your restoring data.

Viewing old Backup Data without affecting current data or restoring

If you wish to view the contents of any backup- eg: in order to make a printout of something or to look up details then you do not want to change or lose your current data - particularly important on a network where other users may be looking at current data or working with it.

C-Law 2005 allows inspection without affecting the current data. The backup will be restored to a temporary folder so you can look at it from there.

Choose the Backup-Verify-View-Restore option from the Cashier Menu and in the sub-menu you will see you have a "View backup" option.

Click this and you will be taken to a View screen - a similar screen to the Restore screen.

On the View screen you can choose the backup to view - as described above under the Restore section - and then click the "View" button.

The backup will be verified and if all is well will be extracted to a temporary folder and C-Law closed down. When you start up C-Law again you will be using the temporary folder and looking at the backup data - the main screen will be coloured (violently!) to warn you that you are not looking at your current data. The caption on the main screen will tell you the date of the backup data you are looking at.

Warning. Do not make entries or change anything on this data (which you cannot afford to lose) as you cannot store it or back it up. Apart from this you can use it as normal and make entries or do printouts.

When you eventually close C-Law down after viewing the data you will be asked if you wish to revert to your current data - if you ask for this then the next time you start up C-Law it will once more be using your current data.  The temporary viewed data will no longer be visible and any changes you made to it will have been lost for ever.

The View option is an important one to remember to use on networked systems as it enables other Executive or Inspector users to continue to have access to the current data whilst you look at older backup data for inspection or to do printouts etc.

Keeping Backups

You MUST make the backup of your data before each month end routine end and keep them for at least 6 years as you may need these to be able to produce balance printouts at a prior month end to be able to comply with the Law Society Accounts rules.

Note that all data storage media is subject to deterioration over time. Floppy diskettes can develop faulty sectors just by lying in their box, and CD's can suffer from "Laser rot" and lose data. There is no ideal. Memory sticks are probably not a good idea for long term storage as by all accounts they will eventually cease to work. There is frankly not a lot to beat a good new floppy diskette stored in a suitable place. As it is a "one off" you are unlikely ever to accidentally delete a backup file as you might with other mass storage options on removable data such as CD's or Zip disks etc. C-Law data is very compressed so mostly even medium sized firms can get their complete accounts data onto just one floppy diskette!!

If old data is important be aware of the risks and check your data media every so often and if need be copy it to fresh media. Old fashioned paper printouts have a lot to commend themselves. If you don't do them (and current Law Society rules are that you need not) you should be aware that electronic storage is not infallible and could let you down when you most need it. You must take the risk of whatever type of media you choose to use for backup storage and C-Law does not recommend one over another. It is for you to decide.

Data Checks

C-Law software allows you to perform a check on your data. This reads all the computer files and also checks that the journals and ledgers balance. It also re-links and sets up the main index file in case this has become corrupted or faulty.

The data check reads nearly all data. But please note it does NOT check or verify the VAT report file.

A message will be displayed saying if the data is in order and a report can be viewed and/or printed showing the status of the data and whether there are any problems.

If a fatal problem is discovered you will not be allowed to make more entries or do anything with the data. You may need to restore old data if this situation arises.

In this case you will be locked out from the cashier menu . You may wonder how to make a backup or restore a backup.

If a fatal problem is discovered you will find that the File menu on the main C-Law screen has a Backup and Restore option on it which you can use in place of the one on the Cashier menu.

Please note that the Datacheck in C-Law tries it best to rescue data with faults and will apply various corrections. We are adding these from time to time. The ability to correct problems is however not guaranteed and may fail if the data cannot be repaired in which case it is suggested you contact C-Law Solicitors Systems for advice  - or restore a backup.

There is in the newer C-Law systems an option for a NORMAL data check or a FULL data check. The normal one is usually quite ok for most purposes but the full one carries out some careful checking for duplicated or missing entries and takes rather longer as a result.

It will warn of any problems it finds and can self correct some problems but not all. Use this option before archiving or deleting matters.

Rogue Entries

You may have minor heart failure when you see a report after a data check that so many rogue entries were found and corrected. For some reason entries sometimes get left in the data which are not "linked" internally to an account and these do not affect the integrity of the accounts data but need to be removed or at least flagged for removal as they are "floating" without any purpose in the data file. The message is telling you that such entries have been found and flagged for removal. It is not a cause for immediate alarm and despondency as the data is not corrupt or irretrievably damaged.

But if you keep getting this message time and time again it may be best to contact C-Law for advice and C-Law will welcome being told and being sent a backup of your data before the data check was done which produced the message.

       Back to Index             Previous Page            Next Page