Acronis True Image Home 2010
Acronis has stepped up its interface game not only with an improved, Vista-like look, but with more-logical placement of options, a much better workflow, and much clearer language. Even the help file is friendlier. Combine the program's nascent sociability with new features--such as One-Click backup, nonstop backup, and online backup--that are actually of use to the average customer, and 2010 is easily the best update to the program in years.
One-click backup is designed to allow less-experienced users to back up as quickly as possible. After you double-click the One-Click icon (the installation places it on your desktop), the program searches for the best location for an initial full backup and performs it. Its location choices were intelligent. With a nonpartitioned drive attached to the system, True Image created a Recovery Zone partition (Acronis's hidden partition for disaster recovery without a boot disc). When I prepartitioned the same drive as E:, the program saved the image to E:\MyBackup. When no hard drive had enough room attached, the program detected that and started a backup using my DVD burner.
Nonstop backup is a background process that creates a baseline image backup, then checks every five minutes to see if your data has changed; if it has, the process creates an incremental backup. Nonstop backups are stored in a hidden folder called Time Explorer Storage, and the restore feature is called Time Explorer, which rather obviously brings Apple's Time Machine to mind. Both the procedures for restoring and the timeline control at the bottom of the window are very reminiscent of the Mac app. The feature requires quite a bit of disk space, but that's to be expected. Though you're not forced to do so, you should probably dedicate a large external drive to the feature.
To use Acronis's online backup service (optional, but integrated with True Image 2010), you must sign up at the company's Web site; it's an easy process that doesn't require a great deal of personal information. A free 2GB account is available for three months, but after that you must pay. Plans start at 25GB for $5 per month, which is competitive with other services. The online backup is file-based, not imaging-based, and is intended to back up your data, not whole partitions, which would generally require far too much space.
Other new features of interest to the techier users among us are the ability to consolidate backups (reducing incremental/differential clutter), as well as support for the VHD format used by Vista, Windows 7, and Virtual PC 2007.
This is the first upgrade to True Image I've seen in a while that didn't have "must maintain revenue stream" tattooed all over it. There may still be a few bugs I haven't spotted yet in this new version, but so far it has proved stable, as well as a most satisfying improvement. A 30-day trial on the company's Web site lets you take a pain-free look-see.
--Jon L. Jacobi