Symantec Norton Ghost 12 review

Price when reviewed

Don’t be confused by Norton Ghost’s jump from version 10 straight to 12: Symantec chose not to release the annual update last year, preferring instead to fill the gap with the pared-down Save & Restore. But with Vista now firmly established and Ghost 10 beginning to look a bit long in the tooth, Symantec obviously felt the time was right to unleash its revamped software.

Symantec Norton Ghost 12 review

Its main contender remains Acronis True Image 10 (web ID: 102270), which has occupied a spot on the A List – if you also include version 9 – for more than a year-and-a-half now. We were therefore interested to see if Ghost 12 could improve sufficiently on its predecessor (web ID: 81428) to steal that crown.

Ghost 12 is all about automation, with an initial setup that makes a good fist of establishing your backup schedule in one go. You’re given an immediate choice of backing up your entire PC – recommended upon first running – or choosing individual files and folders.

Each “recovery point” can be independent, or part of a set for what’s essentially an incremental backup in all but name. Particularly pleasing is the option to automatically revert back to a full recovery point, and thus consolidate an existing incremental set, after a specified period of time, say at the start of each month. This, along with the option to limit the number of incremental points in each set, should keep your backups to a manageable size.

If you’d rather specify individual files and folders, Ghost 12 now allows you to choose them by file extension or a broad collections of file types – audio files, say – and we couldn’t see any common file types missing; if they are, you can quickly add your own to the list. The usual backup options are all present: compression can be set to medium or high; usernames and passwords for logins can be preconfigured; and command files can be set to run at several key points in the backup process.

More interesting is the option to have backups run upon preset triggers. At a basic level, this can mean upon any new program installation, but it can also be extended to run whenever apps are launched. We’re not sure many people will want Norton to start beavering away every time they launch Photoshop, but it’s a potentially useful feature. On the plus side, though, we can see the logic in triggering a backup when a certain amount of new data has been created. You won’t want 500MB of important new files hanging around all week for the next scheduled backup, so Ghost’s data threshold trigger is a welcome addition.

Another of Ghost’s most useful features is the ability to convert your backup sets to various formats: take a full backup of your system and convert it to a VMware or Microsoft Virtual Disk, and you have a perfect way to restore a system that dies without the rigmarole of application recovery and the like. You can also copy sets to DVD or CD, and move them around onto external hard disks or zip disks.

Backups can be protected with up to 256-bit AES encryption – that’s a 32+ character password in case you were wondering, so the usual pet’s name probably won’t cut it. During any backup, you can adjust a slider back and forth to throttle the performance, and as a result the hogging of system resources, although we were pleased to note that Ghost didn’t noticeably slow us down as we continued working through a scheduled backup. And sets are fully searchable once complete: either do so through the Ghost application, or allow it to integrate with Google Desktop if installed for a more user-friendly way of finding files among huge backups.

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