View Full Version : Changing the archive bit

01-02-2007, 05:47 PM
I have a backup program that has an option "Reset archive bit" (sic).

2 questions:

Does this mean turn it on or turn it off?

Am I the only one who thinks this option is about as ambiguous as it could be?


01-02-2007, 06:37 PM
maybe this'll help you


Graham L
02-02-2007, 10:39 AM
The Archive bit when set (on) indicates that the file in its present form hasn't been backed up ("archived"). Backup software clears ("resets") the bit; the OS sets the bit whenever it writes to the file. It's there so that backup software can (if desired) back up only files which have been changed ort created since the last backup. That gives an "incremental backup" .

So to your questions:

(1) "reset" very definitely means "turn it off". In hardware and in software a set bit is on, a reset bit is off. (In the hardware side, a set bit might be at a high voltage and a reset bit at lower voltage. Or vice versa. This confuses many people. But "active low" logic is a very good system with a lot of advantages;) )

(2) Probably not. :( But see above.

The term used when the action causes a result which depends on the initial state is "toggle".

02-02-2007, 10:20 PM
Graham L, your logic is impeccable, but this quote from the start of the MS KB article cited by drcspy would seem to me to imply the reverse!

Archive Bit Is Not Reset When a File Is Renamed

View products that this article applies to.
Article ID : 178414
Last Review : November 1, 2006
Revision : 1.3

This article was previously published under Q178414

When you rename a file on an NTFS or FAT partition, the archive bit is not set to indicate the file has changed. As a result, utilities that rely on the archive bit, such as backup utilities, do not correctly handle a renamed file.

The title of the artice says "archive bit is not reset", but the body says "the archive bit is not set" (which to me definitely means turned on), so there still seems to me to be confusion. Why people can't say "turned on" and "turned off" or "set" and "cleared" I have no idea. "Reset" seems to me to be totally ambiguous, although in a strict hardware sense it may have a well-defined meaning.

02-02-2007, 10:24 PM
BTW, I never got a notification of GrahamL's post - wasn't someone else having similar troubles the other day?

Graham L
03-02-2007, 01:18 PM
That headline probably uses "reset" as made up from "set" with the prefix "re" to mean "set again". ;) :(

There are a lot of technical terms which are well defined, yet when sloppily used by the ignorant seem to be "ambiguous", or just nonsense. The computer field is just one which suffers from this. Journalists and, especially, advertising and marketing life forms seem to be the worst offenders.

One of my peeves is "form factor". Why can't they use "size"? That's what they mean. A "factor" is a number you multiply by. A "form factor" has a definite electrical meaning: the relation between two ifferent ways of measuring quantities. A "small form factor" case is just a small case. I'm sure they don't multiply the price by "small".

03-02-2007, 07:31 PM
That headline probably uses "reset" as made up from "set" with the prefix "re" to mean "set again". ;) :(I think your "pedant and proud of it" moniker is showing through. :) I am sure you are strictly correct, but doesn't the KB article exactly illustrate the problem? While "reset" may have a technically precise meaning, in popular usage the meaning can depend on the context. While most people who would be reading the article or indeed looking at the app which started all this off would be reasonably technically knowledgeable, I (for instance) was not aware of the precise definition you provided. "Set" and "clear" are equally precise, and have the benefit of also being unambiguous.