Product: Acronis True Image Home 2011
Class: Hard Drive & Partition Backup Program
License: Commercial product. Free trial. Upgrade pricing (from earlier versions) available.
Operating Systems: Windows XP Home (x32 only, with SP3), Windows XP Professional x32 and x64 (both with SP2), Windows Vista SP2 (all editions), Windows 7 (all editions)
Version Reviewed: v2011
I was impressed. Acronis True Image Home 2011 was released on a Tuesday. I bought a copy on Wednesday for my desktop, and so I could do the review. On Thursday, I bought three more licenses — for my notebook, my other desktop and my wife’s computer. Yep, I liked it…
Installation was simple, but followed the usual requirements of utilities. Uninstall the old version first, mandatory reboot, install the new version, and the mandatory reboot after installation.
In the old Windows 98 days, you had to reboot after installing almost any kind of program. That’s because Windows only read (loaded) the values from the Windows Registry into memory as part of the Windows boot (startup) process.
Since Windows XP, however, the Windows reads the registry whenever it needs to. Now, the reason for mandatory reboots, which mainly occur with utility-type programs, is that portions of programs that Windows has loaded as drivers or services can not be uninstalled except when Windows is shut down. Another reason is that programs that run as Windows Services generally are loaded when Windows starts.
So, in the uninstall process, files needing to be deleted get flagged as "to be deleted" and then Windows handles the deletion in the early part of the next start-up cycle.
After installing the new utility program, the reboot does any replacements of files that are necessary, and then the starts up any newly-installed Windows Services.
From the very beginning, I liked the new version. The previous version changed the user interface in a way that made it less intuitive for me. The new version is a lot more simple and easier to figure out.
The initial startup screen doesn’t really do anything, except act as an introduction and route you to some functions you can get to via other routes. Fortunately, there’s a checkbox at the lower left, which lets you bypass this startup screen.
The next image is the "main screen" in Acronis True Image 2011. It has a much cleaner feel than the 2010 version. It’s also easier to use.
Before we click on the Disk and Partition Backup link, let’s click on Tools & Utilities, and take a look at the many functions available there.
First, and most important, I’ve pointed out the Rescue Media Builder. After all, we’re backing up our hard drive by making image files. We can restore entire partitions, the entire hard drive, folders and their contents, or just individual files. Each of those, with the exception of restoring the C: partition and the entire hard drive, can be accomplished with the original Acronis True Image Home installation on our computer.
But, what happens if the hard drive dies? Remember, there are two types of hard drives…
That’s when we need to replace the hard drive. We’ll boot the CDROM that we make using the Rescue Media Builder, in order to run the Acronis True Image Home installation on that CDROM. That will let us restore from our backup onto the new hard drive.
Other neat features of the Tools & Utilities menu are the Acronis Drive Cleaner (wipe everything from the selected hard drive), the File Shredder (delete individual files and folders), and System Cleanup (which was the real surprise).
System Cleanup provides the ability to easily delete many of the old files that take up hard drive space (e.g., files in the Recycle Bin and temporary files). It also lets us clear some of the personal history that Windows stores about our activities.
Of course, Windows is storing this information to make our subsequent activities easier. For example, saving User Credentials may prevent you from having to log into a site or network. The Recently Used Documents List enables us to open a recently used file without remembering quite where we stored it (ever had that problem?).
The System Clean-up options let fine-tune how Acronis True Image’s System Clean-up works.
Now, I’m back to the main menu and ready to let Acronis True Image Home 2011 back up up my system drive. In my case, since I split my hard drive into two partitions, Windows 7 Ultimate created another 100MB partition that it uses for its booting information.
This is the first partition we see below ("System Reserved").
ATIH has automatically selected the System Reserved partition and the Local Disk (C:) partition (I didn’t give this partition a name, so it’s labeled Local Disk).
Since I didn’t select the Data (D:) partition, ATIH has defaulted the destination to D:\My backups (it created this directory, too).
Before I start the backup, I want to change the Destination, the Schedule, the Backup Scheme, and the Backup Name. I also want to tweak the Disk Backup Options, as I’ve indicated below.
First, I clicked on the Turn on link to open the schedule. That way, I can have this backup occur automatically in the future, rather than just being a one-time event.
The Daily option is the default — backing up every day. That’s a good idea, but not my choice since I’m using Karen’s Replicator to back up my changed data files every night, and since I’m storing my data files (including My Documents, etc.) on my D: drive.
I’ll also set up a scheduled ATIH job to back up my Data partition, even though I’m using Karen’s Replicator to get the daily file changes. For large scale restores, ATIH is a easier to use and a lot faster.
In order to set my backup schedule for specific days , the Weekly option is the one I needed. The default was today’s day-of-the-week. To add another day, or to remove a day from the schedule, just click the day name, e.g. Mon to add Monday to the schedule.
Note also the Advanced Settings dropdown. This shows the options to wake up the computer to run a backup and to run a missed backup (i.e., the computer was turned off) when the system is restarted. Both of these were selected by default.
Next, I changed the Backup Scheme. The default was interesting, but I wanted to set up a custom backup schedule.
In my schedule, the system will create incremental backups when run, except the first will be a full backup (incremental backup will always create a full backup if there’s not a full backup with that backup name. Then, every 15 incremental backups (roughly once a month), it will create a full backup.
I also changed the Destination option. I’m backing up to a directoy on the computer Dadstoy, which is on my home network.
Finally, I set the Backup Name that I wanted to use. Although it’s not shown on this screen, I selected the option to add the date and time to the backup’s file name.
Now, I’m back at the main Disk Backup page, with all the settings modified the way I want them to be.
So, it’s time to click the Back Up Now button.
Now, after the backup is complete, we’re back to the main screen of Acronis True Image Home 2011.
Notice that it shows the backup is complete (it shows "Updated: Today at 4:33PM"). At this point, I can open the backup file and see what’s in it, by using the Explore and recover link.
After we click on the Explore and recover link, we get a display where we see tabs for Disks and Partitions and for Files and Folders.
Notice that I can open the C: drive and see individual files and folders. If I want to restore any particular files or folders, I need to put a checkmark beside its listing.
Interestingly, ATIH identified C: correctly, but it has a drive it calls D:, which is the hidden, bootable system partition that Windows set up. The 2010 version did this, too.
I wonder what it would call the bootable system partition, if I had asked ATIH to back up my D: partition also. I think that it would have used E: for the system partition.
Finally, we take a look at the backup log. I had a little trouble finding the log. If there’s a problem, the log is available directly from the main menu.
If all went well, it’s available via the Help menu, which in true Windows 7 style, is a question mark with a circle around it.
Note regarding RAID support:
The Acronis web site says that Acronis True Image Home 2011 supports hardware-based RAID, and that hardware controllers are supported in Windows (if Windows supports them) and that most hardware-based RAID controllers are supported by the Acronis Bootable Media (the restore boot CD). Software-based RAID is supported only if the Plus Pack is purchased and installed, and software-based RAID 5 and RAID 1 (Mirrored) are not supported even with the Plus Pack.
I do not use either hardware-based or software-based RAID (Windows Dynamic Disks, GPT volumes, etc.), so I can not confirm RAID support. Since I don’t use RAID, so that’s not an issue for me.
The Bottom Line: I’m happy with the new version, Acronis True Image Home 2011 — enough that I upgraded three more licenses after upgrading the first.
It’s easier to use, less issues, and, based on the What’s New screen, has a bunch of new helpful features. I need to spend more time with the program to try them out.
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