I’ve written a number of times that I use Acronis True Image to do the real back up of my computer. By using Acronis True Image, I make an image of my C: drive (my C: partition) so that I can reinstall it in its entirety. This saves me from having to reinstall Windows, find all my device driver disks, find all my program disks and reinstall the programs, locating and installing all the add-ons that I want to use in Firefox, and many more such tedious tasks.
I’ve been using image backups of my boot partition since the Windows 95 days. I remember when I could back up a clean install, with all my extra drivers, Word Perfect, Netscape and my email program — and fit it all on one CDROM. If I needed to restore, from the start of booting a floppy to the final step of the restore, it took less than 10 minutes.
Of course, in today’s world, we have a lot more stuff on our computers. Sure, some of the stuff is the programs that we use regularly. Some of it is data that is critical to us. But, most of it is "stuff." Still, we don’t want the pain of losing it and starting over.
That’s where Acronis True Image comes in handy. I can restore the entire partition, or I can restore individual files and directories out of the backup image.
First, let’s take a look at the main screen that appears when we first start Acronis True Image.
Notice that it’s warning me that I have not scheduled a routine backup. I’ve been running it when I want to run it, by using the Backup and Restore selection. However, in this article, I’m going to schedule a system backup.
The process is almost exactly the same as making a backup now, but also has a setting to be automatically run (one of the choices is still to only run the "scheduled backup" manually, so you can safely use this option and still run it when you want to run it.
Obviously, our first choice is to select that we want to back up the system. Notice that "Validate" is also an option. If you’re going to run the backup automatically, I suggest setting up a similar session to Validate the backup a couple hours after starting the backup.
Then, you have the choice of backing up My Computer (you’ll get to pick which partitions), My Data (you pick which data), My Application Settings (you pick which ones) and My E-mail. If you pick My Email, ATI recognizes Outlook, Outlook Express and Windows Mail. It doesn’t handle Thunderbird or Eudora or any other email program via My Email, but will back them up as part of My Computer (as long as you back up the partition/drive that holds them, usually C:).
Now, we can pick whether to back up whole disk drives or just the partitions we select. Or, we can back up only Windows’ system state.
The latter will let you restore Windows and its system files and drivers, but not your programs and data files.
The next screen lets you choose which partitions to back up. Notice that I’m backing up only my C: partition, which is where Windows, my programs and my regularly used data are stored.
There’s a checkbox selection at the bottom of the dialog box. By default, Acronis True Image will back up only hard drive clusters that are in use. Clusters are a logical grouping of multiple parts of the disk that is the lowest level that most programs access and which are made up of smaller units called sectors.
This checkbox allows you to tell Acronis True Image to include all sectors, whether they being used or not.
The next dialog box allows us to exclude hidden files and folders, system files and folders, and individual files or folders. Notice that I have selected the individual files and folders option.
The first two that I exclude are the Windows virtual memory file and my notebook’s hibernation file. If I have to reinstall from a backup, Windows will re-create the virtual memory file and the hibernation file, if they’re not one the partition.
The next screen reminds me that I have to choose between a full backup, an incremental backup and a differential backup.
The Backup Archive Location dialog box has one big, confusing design problem. The line that says Folder must end with a file name, otherwise the Next button is grayed out. In this case, I have selected to store my backup across my home network, on the computer called Dadstoy.
The next screen reminds me of the difference between the two types of partial backups, incremental backups and differential backups. It’s also the place where I choose which type of backup I want — a full backup or one of backups that only pick up the changes.
I skipped over the first screen where I could set a password on my backup. Now, since I specified that I want to save my file onto another computer, I get to choose whether to try to log in automatically or to specify a user and password for the access.
The following screen lets me choose options for my backup, such as compression level.
Now, I get to schedule how frequently I want the backup job to run. Two things you should note here.
First, Manually Later means that we’re just defining the job now to make it easier to run any time we want to run it. This is a good thing.
Second, notice the "Wait until computer become idle" checkbox. Acronis True Image will use the shadow copy function in Windows XP and Vista to make a copy of a file that is open, if you like. But, I prefer to run the backup jobs when I’m not doing anything else. Why take a chance? If I have to use a backup, I want to make sure it’s perfect.
The following screen (not shown) allows us to set the time of day to run the job.
Our final step in creating a scheduled backup is to review our settings. At that point, we can Finish, or we can go Back and change some of the settings.
The final image is the Acronis True Image program window that is displayed when you finish setting up a scheduled job.
I’ve been very happy with Acronis True Image Home 11. I can backup directly to a DVD (or multiple DVD’s), to an external hard drive, to another partition on the same hard drive, to another hard drive in the same computer, or to another computer across my home network.
After backing up, I can verify that the backup image was a good copy. And, when I need to, I can restore entire partitions, entire hard drives, or individual files from a backup image.
If you have music collections, video collections, personal photos, business data, genealogical data, emails, web browser favorites, or just want to be able to restore your system and data easily if your hard drive dies, I think Acronis True Image Home 11 is the best solution.
Acronis True Image Home 11 has now been replaced by a newer versions with more options and an even nicer interfaces. The current version, as of October 2010, is Acronis True Image Home 2011.
Product: Acronis True Image Home 2011
Publisher: Acronis Inc.
License: Commercial software.
Operating System: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7.
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