The results are in: which Disk Imaging Backup software is best?

Dennis Faas's picture

Recall --

Following with our recent theme on "backup software", I announced last week that I be compiling an in-depth review on a disk imaging software. In a subsequent newsletter, I asked Infopackets Readers to send me their opinions (good or bad) on their favorite imaging program.

Responses have been strong, with about 60 opinions to date. Based on those opinions, the consensus is that Acronis True Image is ranked as the favorite recommendation, providing best overall feature set and the least amount of bugs and incompatibilities. One other strong point brought to my attention was Acronis' sound technical support via email and user support via an online web forum.

In second place is Symantec Norton Ghost v9.0, which recently took over PowerQuest Drive Image (a personal favorite of mine). Notwithstanding, however, many users have also reported that Ghost v9.0 was unreliable and difficult to use.

This article is a bit lengthy, but best represents the majority of comments I've received from Readers. Without further adieu, below are some of the comments I've received.

Infopackets Reader Ron S. summed it up best:

" Acronis True Image is my choice. I have used it since version 6, it is now at version 8. It does everything, including placing the backup image onto a USB external hard drive. Using the True Image boot CD, my external USB hard drive is recognized and I can proceed to restore my system (when I need to). I've tried it and it works great.

I used to use Powerquest Drive Image (under MS DOS) before switching over to Acronis; Drive Image worked well -- but there are too many bugs now that company got swallowed up by its main competitor [Symantec / Norton Ghost].

I have also used Norton Ghost (mainly at work). It did not work with USB when I bought it (True Image at first did not either); Ghost is far less user-friendly. It has its share of bugs that are not easily overcome, if at all.

True Image has had some bugs, but unlike the other 2 products I have used [Powerquest Drive Image and Norton Ghost], the company is very responsive at correcting them. One such bug caused several phone calls and email exchanges, but the fix happened fairly promptly. It is very user-friendly, even more so than Powerquest Drive Image. "

Infopackets Reader Jeff H. writes:

" I've used Norton Ghost for a number of years and found it to be difficult to work with, forcing me to look for alternative solutions.

With my recent upgrade to Windows XP, I decided to give True Image v8.0 a shot. I should have done it long ago, because it is significantly easier to use than Ghost. I'm current doing incremental imaging to CD-Recordable, and full cloning to an external USB 2.0 hard drive. I can clone my 160GB hard drive to the external drive in about 40 minutes. My vote goes to Acronis True Image, hands down. "

Reader Daryl N. put it plainly:

" I have had excellent luck with Ghost products. I recently purchased version 9 and love it, as I can create images, even while running Windows. "

And, Justine R. compared Ghost to True Image:

" I tried using Norton Ghost 2003 and found it confusing and ineffective, notwithstanding its massive online manual -- I then purchased Acronis True Image (then version 6, now version 8). With one small exception, I found it quite understandable and usable, and it has saved my bacon at least 3 times (I.E., restored my system to a previous state). "

Infopackets Reader Dri-Anna from Washington writes:

" I had some intermittent problems True Image with my older Win98SE system, but have since formatted and upgraded my computer, and have not had a problem since.

Once a month, I do a complete Mirror Image of my 120GB C Drive to my external USB hard drive (200GB). In between a monthly 'full' Mirror Image, I do a weekly incremental backup (which only updates new files and saves time and media). For this Gazette Geekette wanna-be, I have found Acronis True Image very easy to use and understand, and the scheduling option also works great. And yes, I have tested the restore function and it faithfully performed this task, too. While I have not yet upgraded to Acronis True Image 8.0, I certainly can recommend Version 7.0. "

Infopackets Reader JS provided insight to the Acronis True Image official web forum support:

" Dennis, your articles are excellent -- keep up the good work! If you decide to review Acronis True Image, please direct your readers to the Acronis web forums, as there are frequently asked questions posted there. I understand that many others have used this product with no problems at all, but, as the forum indicates, there are many users that do experience the occasional glitch. "

Keith B. commented on his backup strategy when imaging his hard drive:

" After several bouts of data loss, hard drive failure, etc. the easiest, quickest, most foolproof disk imaging method for me was to purchase a second (slave) hard drive [or an external USB unit via USB connection].

Now I copy the entire contents (including the operating system) of the master drive to the slave. If I need to, I simply swap hard drives by disconnecting the master drive and boot from the slave. This allows me to revert my system to my latest backup without without the hassle of issuing an immediate restore, and I'm back up in no time flat. "

Ross C. provided some statistics:

" I use Acronis True Image v8 to make an image of my OS partition (one copy stored on the data partition of my main HD, a second written to DVD). True Image works great, and is also handy for when you need to upgrade from a smaller hard drive to a larger one (I used it to copy the two partitions on my old 80gb drive to a new 160gb drive, and to later copy the contents of a friends 40gb onto my no-longer-needed 80gb drive). In both cases the exercise was completed in under 20 minutes, and the computers were bootable with their respectively new drives immediately. "

David K. also recommends True Image:

" I've been using Acronis True Image 7 for over a year. No problems at all. I had to restore the image twice because of other software glitches and the restorations worked without a hitch. "

John B. agreed with David K.:

" I have tested PowerQuest Drive Image, Norton Ghost, and Acronis True Image. With Windows XP Pro [Service Pack 1], I used Drive Image 7, but this became unreliable after installing XP Service Pack 2. Norton Ghost 9 [which is actually Powerquest Drive Image re-branded], I have found to be unreliable if SP2 is installed. I now use Acronis True Image 8 which works great with SP2. "

Jerry S. and a few others recommended 'Image for DOS':

" I use Terabyte Unlimited's 'Image for DOS.' At $19, it's dirt cheap and fits on a floppy disk. In addition, it's very simple to use without reading the manual. It will create image files to a second hard drive, and then you can use your favorite CD or DVD burning software to back your images up. The floppy also contains the 'restore' function and a 'validate' feature. "

My comments: $19 for an imaging solution is definitely attractive, but unless you can verify the image once it's been transferred to another medium [CD, DVD, external USB hard drive], it is not possible to be 100% assured that the image will restore. And because MS DOS is a legacy operating system, many users will be surprised to find that their hardware [CD, DVD, external USB hard drive] is not supported when it comes time to make the restore!

Jim H. pointed out some of the powerful features that True Image offers, such as incremental image backups -- a feature that isn't found in many disk imaging solutions:

" I've used Acronis True Image for some time and, in theory, am quite pleased with it. I say 'in theory' because I've never had to use it to restore a failed system. It's kind of like life insurance -- you want it but don't want to use it! I like the Acronis attributes of incremental backups, and that it is a True Image of 'everything' on your system. I'll keep using it and hope never to need it. I'm looking forward to your reviews of backup programs. "

Robert G. commented on Norton's GoBack (previously Roxio GoBack):

" I had a problem with my computer of unknown cause, but preventing use of any programs, internet, or email. I attempted to use Norton's GoBack, and it failed to remedy the problem [as you pointed out]. I tried to use Microsoft's System Restore, and it would not correct the problem. I then used Acronis True Image 8 which I had just installed a week earlier to produce a copy of my HD on an external hard drive bought for this purpose. I was able to access True Image in Safe Mode, and restore the backup image to my hard drive with success. It did the complete restore process of 45 GB (including check for errors) in about 2 hours. Earlier trial of TrueSync software took 13 hours for a backup, whereas True Image took only 1 hour. "

John B. claims that True Image is an essential utility:

" It would not be fair for me to say that other imaging programs are no good as I have only every used Acronis True Image. I have only ever used Acronis because it does everything that I want (system partition images and data partition images) and has yet to fail. Very few programs can be called essential -- True Image is one of them. "

Unfortunately, Anthony B. had problems with True Image, but at the same time, commends Acronis' technical support.

" I am in a long dispute with Acronis over their True Image version 7.0. To my surprise, they no longer support True Image version 7 [as version 8 has replaced it]! I have 20 CDs full of backup using their system, and now I have no way of recovering the data or updating it due to some incompatibility issues. As the application does not do what is claimed, I believe I have a fair case to ask for my money back. While the support has been forthcoming it has not solved a problem that developed though the use of their program. "

Jim X. wouldn't be without True Image:

" Have used Acronis for some time [version 8 now] I wouldn't be without it. I want to be very clear about this -- for me, it has been more than worth every penny I spent on it. "

Heriberto M.

" I have restored my full system (from an Acronis Boot CD) about 7 times since I bought the software, and have no problems at all. I have read about Norton Ghost and Drive Image and other Imaging software on web forums and have read a lot of people complaining about Ghost not working properly under the Windows environment. In my honest opinion, Acronis True Image is the best imaging software nowadays. "

Thanks to everyone who wrote in -- and don't forget to stay tuned as I will be compiling an in-depth review of True Image v8.0 shortly (hopefully this week). Until then, you can read a previous review of v6.0 here.

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