First Look: EMC Retrospect Express HD

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At a Glance

Retrospect HD offers an ultra-simple interface.
Retrospect HD offers an ultra-simple interface.
With so many users backing up to hard drives, it's a wonder EMC didn't start selling its super-easy-to-use Retrospect Express HD 2.0 (as in hard drive) backup program sooner. Previously available only when bundled with Maxtor's OneTouch hard drives, Retrospect Express HD has received a mild overhaul and now has been released to stand on its own legs. I tested a shipping version of the $50 application and found it as simple and intuitive to use as its full-blown Retrospect Professional cousin is complex and obtuse.

Unlike the Professional version, Express HD is single-job software: One full backup, then incremental backups of a single data set. You can't tell it to run different jobs at different times with different data sets, as you can with Pro.

Retrospect Express HD makes getting into a backup routine a simple process. You'll configure your backups via an attractive step-by-step wizard and managed using a system tray menu. I found that the lack of a traditional, option-filled configuration dialog box took a bit of getting used to, but in the end, Retrospect Express HD's keep-it-simple, set-it-and-forget-it philosophy quickly won me over. Even the least-savvy users I know would have a hard time messing up a backup with Express HD.

Many low-cost backup programs simply copy files, leaving the file structure intact for easy browsing using Windows Explorer. Express HD 2.0, while it can do this as well, defaults to a traditional approach of consolidating everything into a single compressed backup file. While you'll have to reinstall Express HD to browse a compressed backup in the event disaster strikes, it also means better security, easier internal cataloging, and easier on-demand restoration of files.

The program allows you to schedule backups up to once a day--a sufficient frequency for most users--as well as to manage backups in a time line as restore points. The version I tested reliably handled the backup chores I threw at it. Plus, the software backed up open files; handily supported backing up to multiple locations (to the root folder only, not to specific subfolders on a drive); removed older backups from the hard drive to make room for new ones; and--unlike, the Maxtor versions--backed up to network drives.

The biggest problem I had with Retrospect Express HD is its price: $50 is awfully steep for a program without disaster recovery, and there's stiff competition from less expensive programs like NTI's $25 Shadow and IBM's slick $35 CDP, both of which continuously monitor your data to back up files as you go. Price aside, I have no qualms about recommending Retrospect Express HD to anyone who wants to back up their system with the minimum amount of fuss.

EMC Retrospect Express HD

Pricey, but reliable and extremely easy-to-use program for creating backups to a hard drive or NAS drive.
Price when reviewed: $50
Current prices (if available)
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At a Glance

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