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Computimes (Malaysia)

April 28, 2005

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Lab Report: Solution for secure hard disk backup

By Edzlyzam


EVER lost your hard drive and spent hours reinstalling Windows, all the updates, personal preferences and all your favourite programs? What if you could have restored it in minutes?
The easiest way to backup a high-capacity hard drive is to image it by creating a compressed copy from which you can either restore the entire drive or extract individual files.
If you're not familiar with disk imaging software, what it does is take a snapshot of your entire hard disk at one particular moment, and then copies that to another place where it can be retrieved at any time.
Maintaining a back-up image of your Windows installation is a useful security measure, and Acronis True Image 8.0 aims to make this task as straightforward as possible.
It can create and save images of your hard drive partitions from within Windows, but you restore them from the program's own operating system. This ensures that you can recover your system, even if there's a glitch that prevents you from starting Windows.
True Image 8.0 offers the option to repair/upgrade or uninstall if you already have the program installed. Aside from that, you can pick a custom path and whether to install for all users.
Before installation completes, you can create bootable rescue media, which allows you to boot your computer for drive recovery.
The installer provides links in the start menu to the program itself as well as the bootable rescue builder, user guide, Web site and uninstaller.
We had no problems installing or setting up True Image, but the software was difficult to use because the language was extremely technical.
A computer novice would only manage to make a replica of a hard drive successfully only after studying the program at length, but the experience would be frustrating. We feel the instructions could confuse even the technically skilled individuals.
To create a drive image, you click the icon in the True Image panel and a Wizard takes over, asking you to select the partition you want to copy, where you want to copy it and the level of compression you want to apply.
Once you've confirmed your actions, it starts copying, indicating all the time how long it has to go. Its performance is good. True Image created an image of a five-gigabyte system partition on a FireWire-connected external drive, compressing it to 2.14 gigabytes in the process, in just four minutes. It then restored the same partition in five minutes 30 seconds, automatically restarting the system as if it was restoring to the active partition.
Once you have created a drive image, you can work within it. You can extract files from an image in the same way you would from a Zip archive. You can also use it to copy images from one drive to another, though you will have trouble creating system partitions on multiple drives without the appropriate Windows licence from Microsoft.
True Image knows enough to make an image, including only the files that you really need, not bothering with paging files or hibernation files. You can also schedule automated backups, just like any other back-up software, and you can ask it to execute incremental back-ups.
The software is also able to clone a drive, and works with any integrated drive electronics (IDE) or small computer system interface (SCSI) redundant array of independent disk (RAID) controller.
It can create images on different partitions of the same drive, on a separate internal hard drive, on CD or DVD, on an external hard drive or across a network to a drive on a different PC.
We especially like the way we can double click on an image that we've saved, and then True Image will mount that image just like it was any other disk. It asks you what drive letter to assign to it, and then in seconds, if you take a look in My Computer, there sits that new drive with all of your data exactly duplicated on it. At this point, you can just drag a single file from that volume right onto your active hard drive.
One feature that advanced computer users will appreciate is the power to specify the compression level of the backup. You can choose normal, high or maximum compression. Normal compression takes the most storage space while maximum compression takes the least.
True Image also prompts you for a password for extra security. There are even more tricks up True Image's sleeve as well, such as super-secure disk wiping technology that uses a fast algorithm to completely wipe the drive clean in such a way that it's extremely difficult to recover its data.
True Image also lets you create or move a partition on a disk, or format a disc. This capability is useful when you want to create what Acronis calls a Secure Zone.
With just a few clicks, you can create an entirely separate partition that can't be reached by the operating system. Inside Secure Zone, you can place your image back-ups. When you run into trouble, you simply boot from a rescue CD and restore your entire disk using that image you placed in the Secure Zone. It works beautifully.
For anyone adding an extra hard drive to a PC, Acronis True Image 8.0 can copy a working image, eliminating the need to reinstall Windows or your applications.


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