[Originally published in 2009]
Acronis has now released their latest version of their hard drive backup utility — Acronis True Image Home 2009. We had some hints that something was coming. First, there was the 20%-off coupon a month ago. That was followed by the short-lived 80%-off coupon several weeks ago (which I suspect was an internal communications goof at Acronis). The new version is here…but do we need it?
First, what’s an image backup and why should I use one?
An "image backup" is effectively your own "recovery disk" or "recovery partition", complete with all your installed programs and data files, too. You can back up onto DVD’s, to external hard drives, to other computers, to another partition on the same hard drive, or to another hard drive in the same computers. Of course, not all of these destinations provide the same level of reliability — if you back up to another partition on the same hard drive, it can save you from a "brain freeze" problem, but not from a hard drive failure!
Some image backup programs can work only with the entire partition, either backing up or restoring the whole partition. Other programs can back up entire partitions, and can also back up only the files that changed since the last full backup. Similarly, some can restore entire partitions, and are also able to restore individual files and folders of files from the backup file.
I’ve used disk imaging for system backups for my computers since about 1995, starting with DriveImage 2 from the former PowerQuest. Ultimately PowerQuest Corporation was purchased by Symantec in 2003, who used Drive Image 7 as the basis of its next Norton Ghost version.
If you’re already making image backups of your computer’s partitions (like the partition known as C:), you’ve already covered the major reason to have an image backup program. Do I think I need to (or that you should) update to every new version? Not at all. Unless there is some new feature that I (or you) want, don’t upgrade.
Other programs may effectively force an upgrade — like upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Office at home because you use it at work. Here, though, we’re making backups of our own computer for our own use. Unless the new program can give us a new useful feature, why upgrade?
So, am I unhappy that I bought another two copies of Acronis True Image Home 11 a few weeks ago with the 80% off coupon (so they were $10 each)?
Not a bit. Until I bought ATI 11, I had been using ATI 9. Just because a new version is released, we don’t have to jump to use it.
What new features does Acronis True Image Home 2009 give us? Why would we consider upgrading?
Some of the new features are:
- One-click backups — once you configure what you want to routinely back up, you can have it happen automatically or trigger it with one click. No more going through all the configuration steps just to trigger a backup now.
- Full-text search — this is a big feature, I think. The new version creates images files that are seachable (or has add-ons for Windows indexing and Google’s desktop search). That means that, if you had deleted a file or some content of a file on your computer, you can search and locate the right file in the backup image, so you can restore it.
- Not only can you use Aconis’ proprietary .tib image file format, they’ve added Zip file support.
- Probably important to Vista users, they’ve moved to a Vista–style interface.
- Improved scheduling.
- Automatic backp based on destination availability (back up automatically, or as soon as the destination is available)
- Automatic shutdown after backup or restoration
What will I do? I plan to upgrade one of my copies of Acronis True Image Home 11 to Acronis True Image Home 2009. I think I’ll find some of the new features helpful on my notebook computer.
I’ll probably keep my other two licenses at version 11, as I don’t use them for routine backups — they’re for occasional backups for use in "catastrophic" losses, like a hard drive going bad. The data on those other computers gets backed up routinely using Karen’s Replicator.
UPDATE 2010: Acronis True Image Home 2009 has been replaced by Acronis True Image Home 2010. Acronis offers a significant discount for upgrades from earlier versions.
Is there a freeware alternative? I haven’t found one that does all the things Acronis True Image Home does, and have not tried the one limited program I found. For Seagate and Maxtor drive owners, there’s a limited OEM version (and renamed, too) that can back up and restore entire partitions, but I’ve been told that it does not allow you to do incemental or differential backups.