Acronis True Image 9 review
Where Acronis really pulls away from Norton’s Ghost 10 is in its sheer speed and power. This is particularly evident when it comes to restoring images, taking around a third less time than Norton’s offering in our tests.
There’s also the unique Snap Restore feature, which lets you boot directly from the disk image while the image is still being restored, and gets you up and running again in seconds rather than minutes. This works by booting a small Linux kernel to restore enough data to reboot into Windows before proceeding with the full restore process. It’s even intelligent enough to note if you’re trying to launch an application that isn’t fully restored yet, and make that restoration a priority.
Disk imaging alone isn’t enough when it comes to a data backup and recovery strategy for the home or small business, and Acronis addresses this by incorporating more holistic features. You’ll need to plough through the documentation, though, as Acronis doesn’t provide the friendliest of interfaces. The Management window, for example, is too cluttered, with none of the point-and-click focus of Ghost. Yet, by sticking with the tried-and-tested wizard approach, it soon becomes second nature.
Most important of the new features in this version is the arrival of a full backup system, with the new ability to back up individual files and folders, as well as the full disk image. This works so well there’s no need for additional backup tools – unlike Ghost, which has to be seen within the context of a bigger backup strategy. True Image also adds features that simple backup tools would be hard-pressed to match, such as the cloning feature to migrate an entire drive to another, and the ability to both format and partition new drives
Whereas Ghost can only perform full and incremental image backups, True Image has upped the stakes and introduced full differential support. While it results in larger images than an incremental backup, it does ensure you’ll always have all the files needed to perform a restore in one place. Talking of which, the Startup Recovery Manager configures your PC to boot up and restore to the most recent image without the need for a separate boot disk in the event of some catastrophic Windows failure. Once enabled, you can then press F11 during bootup, be taken into the application and restore an image from any local or network location in a matter of minutes.
Data verification is well supported, both after creating an image and before restoring one, and images can be saved to just about any media. This includes both USB and FireWire drives, a network and writeable CD or DVDs. True Image doesn’t come with any built-in DVD packet-writing capability, though, and currently only officially supports Roxio and Nero software. We didn’t find this a problem in practice though, as most UDF DVD packet-writing software worked fine in our tests.
True Image offers comprehensive OS support, covering most workstation versions of Windows from 95 upwards as well as non-Windows environments such as Linux and Novell NetWare. Unfortunately, the coverage doesn’t run to supporting remote installation or central management – True Image 9 is strictly an individual product and you’ll need a corporate workstation version of True Image 8 for that. Also, you have to look back to server versions of True Image 8 (or Ghost 10) to get support for dynamic disks.
While these issues won’t affect the average consumer, there are other potential areas of irritation – particularly when it comes to archive management. Whereas Norton will quickly list and automatically delete old backups based upon your parameters, True Image requires manual deletion. Also, the ‘locate by filename’ approach can be tiresome when dealing with multiple daily archives.