Acronis True Image
I have been using the Acronis backup software (or ATI, for short) for several years. I use it for backing up Windows systems, and the windows parts of dual boot systems. I am reminded of this, because I recently had reason to recover a system using an ATI backup archive. Note that I discussed my linux backup methods in an earlier post.
The recent backup was due to a memory problem on my wife’s computer. After some testing and experimenting, it turned out that reseating a memory module corrected the problem. However, in the meantime — i.e. before we realized that there was a memory problem — the computer behaved in weird ways which included trashing the registry. After correcting the memory problem, it seemed wise to restore from a recent backup, although the system seemed to be functional without that.
Why use Acronis when I’m an open source and linux kind of person? It solved a backup problem for me. If I were making that decision today, perhaps I would instead go with clonezilla. However, ATI has a couple of features that I like.
- It allows me to encrypt the backup archive.
- It allows recovery of individual files.
With clonezilla, I would have to recover a partition to spare space on a disk, then copy the files from there. With ATI, I can recover individual files or directory subtrees directly from the archive.
As for encryption, my main concern is that eventually all disks fail. The external drives where I make backups are no exception. And that means that the disks will end up in a recycling plant somewhere. And there is a risk somebody could look for personal data there. I could presumably achieve a similar effect with clonezilla, by formatting the external drives as LUKS/dmcrypt linux volumes. But that would make it harder for my wife to recover if I am not available.
How I use ATI
I mostly make backup stand-alone. I install the ATI software on one Windows system, and then make a recovery CD. Booting that recovery CD allows me to make stand-alone backups or do stand-alone recoveries. I have purchased enough copies of ATI, so that I have sufficient licenses to cover the machines (two desktops and two laptops). That keeps me legal. However, I only install on one machine, and run from booting the CD even on that system.
My experience has generally been good. My first important use was with an older laptop. I took a backup before resizing (shrinking) the Windows partition with gparted. And that was just as well, because the system was somehow corrupted after the repartitioning. A recovery from the ATI archive to the resized partition worked well, and I was back up and running.
More recently, I took a final ATI backup of a Vista system, before claiming that computer for dedicated linux use. The Vista desktop was replaced by a newer Windows 7 desktop (the one that recently had memory problems). I used the ability to recover a directory subtree from the ATI archive, to move some personal files to the Windows 7 system. That recovery also went well.
And then there was the recovery that I did today, after fixing the memory problem. And, again, that went very smoothly.