Updated True Image Does Double Duty
Acronis has updated its True Image program, which tackles the twin needs of easily backing up your entire hard drive in case of emergency, while also supporting incremental backups that aren't too much hassle to perform daily.
True Image 7.0 ($50), released this week, is a drive imaging program that also handles incremental backups.
The update adds a few new features that competitors already offer, and includes a verification function. This feature enables True Image to check an image to make sure it's good; this single change corrects the most serious shortcoming of older versions.
Drive Image Advantage
Drive imaging programs are the best tools for backing up an entire hard drive, but they're overkill for daily data backups. If your drive fails or something corrupts Windows past repair, there is nothing like a bootable CD and a sector-by-sector image of your hard drive to get you back up and running quickly. But you don't want to copy your entire drive at the end of every workday.
Drive imagers see your hard drive as a group of sectors (the physical divisions of the disk), while conventional backup programs look at them as groups of files. True Image, like any good, modern imager, can translate the image into a set of files. This allows you to restore an individual file as well as re-create the entire disk.
True Image works in terms of sectors even when it does an incremental backup. According to Acronis, the program examines the drive looking for and copying any sector that has changed since the last backup.
This may have some disadvantages over the conventional, file-based way of doing things. For one thing, you can't control what gets backed up--garbage in your Internet cache will get the same treatment as vital data. This could result in larger, slower backups than you'd get with a well-configured file-based incremental backup. (As with all drive imagers and backup programs, True Image compresses what it backs up.)
While the new incremental capabilities are truly innovative, True Image's other new features appear to be designed to bring it in line with PowerQuest's Drive Image, the market leader in this category.
Partitioning is one of these catch-up features. The easiest, fastest, and cheapest place to put these images is in an extra partition on your hard drive. True Image 7.0 can resize your existing partition and create another for True Image files. The program hides this extra partition, which provides additional protection against human error.
But this sort of backup is no protection against computer theft, or against that drive crashing. As with past versions, you can also back up to a CD-RW, a DVD-RW, or an external hard drive.
True Image was the first drive imager to let you create an image of your entire hard drive from inside Windows. But you still can't restore the drive without booting into another environment. Version 7.0 uses a Linux-based environment, which resides on an emergency disc that you can create as a floppy, CD, or DVD. Unlike earlier, DOS-based systems, this restoration environment supports USB, networks, and NTFS-formatted drives.
Also new in 7.0 is a scheduler that lets you set times for automatic imaging, such as when you boot and when you exit Windows. But you can't launch a back up from a Windows command line, which means that you can't run it from a batch file or create a simple "make an image now" shortcut. Other new features include disk cloning, which simplifies the copying the contents of one hard drive to another.