Acronis True Image 10 review
For those who don't own version 9, a few improvements should put this at the top of your shopping list
True Image 9 has been a permanent fixture on the A List since it won our backup Labs a year ago (see issue 137, p116), and it's so popular here that we nominated it in the Software of the Year category at last month's PC Pro Awards. Alas, backup remains a little too unfashionable for it to walk away with the prize, but if every PC had a copy of Acronis True Image 10 installed, the vital process would surely become second nature to all.
There's no immediate visual difference in this version compared to the last, and the changes under the hood are fairly minimal too - thankfully, however, they're all very worthwhile. Acronis has clearly listened to feedback and tweaked the user interface to focus on the options most people will need. Realising tasks such as cloning disks and manipulating images are seldom used by less experienced users, they've been relegated to the side menu. The latter tasks have also been renamed: you now "mount" rather than "plug" an image.
In their place, we get more sensible everyday choices. The left-hand menu has been expanded to include common options, complete with a separate Help panel. The active backup tasks now have their own pane, along with all the tools for creating, running and editing them. Scheduling also occurs here, with options for daily, weekly, monthly or one-off backups. It can also be set to run at logon, logoff, startup or shutdown, and this can be refined to once a day for PCs with multiple users.
Backing up directly to an FTP server is now a useful option, as is application integration. While True Image 10 hasn't achieved the Holy Grail of saving entire programs, it will store all your personal settings from a hefty list of applications in 14 wide-ranging categories. Outlook and Outlook Express are dealt with separately from the rest; it will save your archives, personal folders and user settings, as well as your Windows Address Book if you have one.
Acronis has caught up with the consumer-focused competition by making it simple to select all your music, videos and pictures for quick backup. Finally, you also have the standard option of choosing individual files and folders or just imaging the entire drive for the ultimate in data protection - a feature that still isn't universal among standalone backup utilities.
All the rest is still present from version 9, so if you're familiar with the ins and outs you'll have no difficulty adapting. The Acronis Secure Zone caters for PCs with no external storage by partitioning off a portion of your hard disk, which is isolated from the rest to guard against viruses and other malware. It won't protect you against physical disk failure, but it's a useful way of backing up on a budget.
The Snap Restore feature can amazingly get you back up and running in seconds after a disaster by immediately loading the essentials, while the rest of the system is gradually restored in the background. Plus, the Recovery Manager can be accessed without bootable media once it's been enabled in Windows, so you don't have the headache of keeping track of recovery discs. Differential and incremental backups are available to suit your needs, and Acronis will automatically manage the size and distribution of the backup sets based on the disk space rules you set.
Its weaknesses are few, but some still exist: the basic password protection isn't up to the advanced encryption of most of its rivals, and you'll still need third-party burning software to back up to DVD, although plummeting hard disk prices are rendering that less of an issue. It's also very much a personal product; if you have more than one PC to back up you may be better suited to the Enterprise or Server editions of True Image.