Review

Review: Acronis True Image 2013, your complete backup solution?

Backups are one of those things that everyone needs to do, yet many people ignore. Then when your hard drive goes bad or you accidentally delete a file with key information, you panic and realize you have few options remaining. There are a few keys that all backup software should adhere to:

  1. It should work automatically, without care and feeding
  2. It should notify you when it’s not working properly
  3. It should be available when you need it and restore files effortlessly

The last point is important: Nobody cares about backups, but everyone cares about restores; they must not only be available when you need them, but should also be easy to use in an emergency.

With these points in mind, we look at Acronis True Image 2013 along with the Plus Pack add-on. Priced at $49.99 for the base product and an extra $29.99 for the Plus Pack, this sounds like the perfect backup solution. You can do full bare metal restores to not only protect against boot disk failures, but to also easily grow your boot disk. You can set up your backups to wake your machine up in the middle of the night so that you don’t impact your own workflows. You can even backup to Acronis’ “cloud” so that you have an offsite backup.

Installation

Installation of the software wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it should’ve been. When opening the installation file, Windows prompted for the admin password. We were able to go through the installation process, but received an error before anything was installed: “Installation has failed. Error opening installation log file. Verify that the specified log file location exists and that you can write to it.” After spending some time trying to figure it out, we decided to right-click the installation file and select, “Run-as administrator.” That seemed to do the trick, but the Acronis engineers should really make that clear, because novice users might not have figured it out.

The Plus Pack is a straight forward install, but requires that the base True Image software be installed first. This tool gives you the ability to restore to different hardware – either a larger drive or even an entirely different piece of hardware.

Configuration

Configuring a backup is very straightforward. Click the “backup and recovery” tab, then click “disk and partition backup,” and select what you want backed up. The main strength of True Image is in the various backup modes and options you have available, and we’ll discuss some of the highlights here.

First, you can set up your backup based on partitions or entire disks. Partitions will let you backup based on drive letters, while disks does exactly what it sounds like. Once you select what to backup, you select a destination. A nice feature is that True Image 2013 will tell you that it’s not a good idea to backup a drive to itself – but it lets you do it if you insist.

From here, you decide what backup methodology to use – full backups, incremental, or differential. For those who aren’t aware of the differences, we’ll explain:

  • Full Backup: A complete backup each and every time – easy to restore, but takes a lot more disk space and each backup will take longer to complete.
  • Incremental Backup: Only backup the changes since the last full or incremental backup. Restores require the full backup and then every incremental up until your restore point. More difficult and takes longer to restore, but uses less disk space.
  • Differential Backup: Only backup the changes since the last full backup. Restores require the full backup and then the most recent differential. Takes up more disk space than the incremental, but is faster to restore and more reliable.

We personally think that differential is the way to go; create a full backup weekly and then differentials daily.

The configuration gives True Image the ability to clean up after itself. You decide how many backups will be saved on disk, how frequently a full backup should be taken, the maximum size each backup is allowed, and more. You can also set a compression level – more CPU, less disk space, longer restore time – and the CPU priority. Email notifications can also be set up, but this requires telling the software what your SMTP server, username, and password are. Why can’t the software alert us about any errors on the desktop? This seems like a major oversight.

Once you have your backup image, you’re protected from data loss and there are a number of ways to restore your data. You can create bootable media that allows you to restore in the case of a catastrophic failure; we feel that this is the most important backup option the software offers. You can mount the image file within True Image and browse the filesystem, recovering whatever files you want. There’s also the option to right-click on a file and select which version you’d like to revert back to.

The software also has the ability to synchronize folders (not to be confused with the “Synchronization” tab, which is how you backup to the Acronis cloud) via a “Nonstop backup” feature. Setup is easy – select what folder you want to backup and where you want the image to be stored. As you make changes to files within that location, True Image 2013 will copy the changes across for you. You’re then able to restore to a point in time, which can be handy.

Backing up to the cloud is one feature we did not test, as it’s not technically included with the software. While True Image is able to backup to the cloud, that’s an extra paid cost – currently $4.95 per month or $49.99 per year for 250 GB of storage. The advantage to this offering is the company allows you to back up five different machines with a single subscription, so this could be a selling point for some people.

Recovery

As we stated before, nobody actually cares about backups. The only thing that’s important is the recovery, and if you can’t restore what you’ve backed up, what’s the point? Acronis promises users can restore backed up disk images not only to the same hardware but, with the Plus Pack, to any similar hardware.

With that in mind, we took our bootable USB drive and plugged it into an HP laptop that has a larger drive than the system we originally backed up, and tried to restore the system. After it booted, we navigated to the NAS share that contained our images and selected one of the differential backups. The interface was a little clumsy: We expected it to automatically advance or to have a “next” button somewhere, but instead we had to right click on the filename and select “restore.” Not difficult to figure out, but still not as streamlined as we expected.

After selecting the physical drive we wanted the backup to restore to, we were greeted with an error message: “Can’t find volume 2.” After clicking “cancel” a few times, “Can’t find volume 3” came up. Eventually, after continually clicking cancel and expecting nothing to work, the restore started. Approximately three hours later, the restore was completed.

We rebooted the laptop, but were immediately greeted with a boot error: The MBR is faulty. Unwilling to give up, we found our Windows 7 DVD, ran the repair process on the system a couple of times, and rebooted. This time we were greeted with the Windows 7 boot screen! The initial boot took a while and once we reached the desktop, Windows began installing a few dozen device drivers before rebooting again.

When all was said and done, we were left with a completely functional working system!

Issues

While this all sounds great, True Image isn’t without its warts. For example, the software is not able to do a simple copy of individual files to a different location, like rsync and SecondCopy can do. We understand that the name of the software is “True Image,” but that doesn’t mean all of the backups should have to be image files. For example, we would’ve liked to have seen an option that lets us automatically copy our music files from our desktop to a centralized NAS location that is shared with the entire house. We opened a case with Acronis’ support team to confirm that this functionality does not exist.

There were many times during our testing that the software simply locked up on us. This was extremely common when deleting a backup set. A small window would open up on the right hand side of the screen saying, “Deleting Backup,” and it would continue indefinitely, forcing us to kill the True Image process and restart it. We also occasionally encountered lockups when setting up a backup and selecting a NAS device on the network. While these lockups didn’t impact us during the backup/restore process, we want our backup software to be rock solid: When we need our data restored, the software better work 100% of the time.

The strangest one was the fact that we couldn’t restore a file using the context menu. We right clicked on a file, selected True Image, then recovery, were presented with a list of backups to restore from, but when we picked which backup we wanted, nothing happened. While it’s not the end of the world, since there are other ways to restore files, it’s still strange that the functionality doesn’t work.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to decide whether we liked Acronis True Image 2013 or not. On one hand, it felt like we were constantly fighting with the software to get it to work. From lockups, to menus not functioning, to weird error messages during the restore process, we feel like the software isn’t ready for primetime. On the other hand, despite all of these minor issues, we were able to restore a system to completely different hardware and it was relatively painless even if we didn't have a warm, fuzzy feeling during the entire process. We’re also disappointed that the software didn’t alert us during failed backups; while we could setup email notification, we’d prefer a popup from the system tray.

Then there’s the fact that you need to purchase a separate license for each machine you want to backup. It would’ve been nice if we could install the software on each machine on our home network, but we suspect most people don’t have a lot of machines laying around like we do.

For the price ($50 for the base, an extra $30 for Plus Pack), we feel that this is a respectable solution to help protect your computer. While we hope that Acronis irons out some of the annoying bugs in the product, the software seems to work as advertised.

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I'm interested in why so many people use Backup software and why its the norm to advise others to do so.. same with windows system restore and why would people use both ?
I already commented on this story but i forgot to mention that when i ocasionaly re-install windows i will take that opportunity to backup data to dvd's and usually other drives.
BUT
What is the point in creating a copy of OLD data on ANOTHER hard drive ?
Why backup ? drive gonna fail ? well who says your backup drive won't fail too ?
Are the backups being validated ? I know for a fact that almost anything computer related needs to be double checked.. just because xyz says something don't make it true..
Burn a whole pack of dvd's (any brand / any burner) and go use something like CDcheck to find the corrupt dvd's lol i've never bought a pack of dvd's that didn't have bad disc's.
edit: and yeah of course i have used numerous burners
and how many people burn and forget about it, never knowing that it failed ?
Oh and most of the time i have gotten reported success from burning software too
Yet it was full of clearly corrupt files that fail a simple crc check etc

I'm thinking of home users here. A business prob needs a backup solution.
I just have to assume their is a ton of home user who are buying extra hard drives
to make copies of data to it and that doesn't make much sense to me.
Flawed concept + pain in the butt work for what ? why bother ?

I am Not PCyr said,
I'm interested in why so many people use Backup Flawed concept + pain in the butt work for what ? why bother ?

You don't have a single piece of data that you care about losing? You haven't written any documents that you want to keep? Taken any photos? Made any videos? No financial data that you want to maintain?

Telling people not to make backups is, in a word, dumb. I agree that the process has to be relatively automated or people won't do it, but to ignore them completely is just.. Wow...

For most people, a service like Mozy or Crashplan will probably be good enough - backup all of your important data offsite so that if your drive dies or your house burns down, no big deal. Personally, I like the idea of bare metal restores so that in the case of a disaster, I'm up and running quickly. Windows Home Server (RIP )does this really well.

FYI, I'm one of those "paranoid" people who has two backups in the house, plus one automated offsite backup, just in case.

Got fed up with Acronis failing to restore properly on numerous occasions. Finally dumped it for Macrium and no more troubles. Also tried Easeus which is also very dependable.

I've had this companies hard drive related apps like this and others destroy my pc on multiple occasions and i refuse to use their crap again. I have no idea why these guys are so popular
The last program from Acronis i had the guts to try out was "Western Digital Acronis Align Tool" i used it many times over months and it seemed to work fine but eventually i noticed strange behaviour where it would detect misaligned partitions when they were NOT !
A quick check with the Paragon align tool showed me my drive was aligned just fine..
Which is my point.. way waaay back i was disgusted with Acronis crap and tried Paragon alternatives and to this day i have been 1,0000% happy and satisfied and impressed with all the advanced / extra abilities of Paragon's programs.

Laugh all you want guys but i have been disabling system restore and not making backups all along.. like a decade or something ?
And i have never had problems.. Drive goes bad ? copy the files off of it.. Can't ? o well buy a new drive.. Windows screwed up ? Fix it.. Can't ? reinstall.
I don't really see the point in back up crap unless your paranoid or something ?
Paranoid ? yeah about using anything with the name Acronis on it lol

Mr. Dee said,
Can you use it to clone a Windows 8 install from a mechanical HD to a SSD?

So long as the partitions are aligned correctly cloning from a mechanical drive to SSD isn't a problem. Imaging tools that work with Vista and up shouldn't be a problem as the partition boundaries will snap to 1 MB boundaries (at the least, the beginning sector is divisible by 4096 bytes).

For Windows 8 you should run the WEI test after cloning the drive to an SSD, mainly so that the defragmenter knows it's a SSD.

Mr. Dee said,
Can you use it to clone a Windows 8 install from a mechanical HD to a SSD?

Mr D.
I noticed a problem with cloning windows 7 but i don't know about win 8 ?
The boot code on win 7 is tied to the drive so when you swap it out you may have to do some repair work ..prepare for it just in case

Miss the old days when an XP clone would run fine on a new drive with no bs.

I recently tried Acronis True Image 2013 and quickly regretted it. My main issues were:

1. Some strange bug caused Windows Explorer on Windows 7 x64 to show a blank window - it just stopped loading properly. I had to reboot each time this occurred.

2. I tried the online backup with 100GB of data. I planned to let it complete the backup over a couple of weeks, but I didn't want to leave my PC on all the time. When I tried to shutdown, my PC was held at the shutdown screen saying 'Operation in Progress...'. Given that the operation was going to take 10+ days to complete, I had to force a reset! This is a terrible design decision for an online backup solution...

Never been a fan of Acronis.

I have however started using To-Do Backup which is very simple to use and the first restore i ever did went so smoothly, i actually thought i have found the holy grail of all backup software, i have done around 10 restores since over the years and its been great every time even to different hardware.

I also use Symantec Backup Exec 2012, pure dreadfulness, stay the fook away for the love of god.

I've never had a single issue ever with Acronis true image, from version 7 up to 2013 still haven't had an issue..

did file restores, complete drive restores, restores to GTP and MBR file systems.... etc.. nothing ever went wrong

neufuse said,
I've never had a single issue ever with Acronis true image, from version 7 up to 2013 still haven't had an issue..

did file restores, complete drive restores, restores to GTP and MBR file systems.... etc.. nothing ever went wrong

I only do simple full backups and for me I've been thoroughly satisfied. Acronis has been quick and easy.

I setup my full backups for Monday-Sunday. I've not touched the backup configuration from the initial setup. Works everyday, restores quickly, full disks, partitions, or single files. Never a problem.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 have built-in system imaging, which should be more than enough for most people. For people to turn to software like Acronis True Image is needs to be undeniably better, which this review seems to suggest isn't the case.

theyarecomingforyou said,
Windows 7 and Windows 8 have built-in system imaging, which should be more than enough for most people. For people to turn to software like Acronis True Image is needs to be undeniably better, which this review seems to suggest isn't the case.

Please point me to this feature in Win 8. I know of file history but I am obviously missing a feature of Win 8 that you are speaking of.

And if it is there, it is curious that I cannot go to the Win 8 search charm and type in Backup to find an imaging feature, or go to the Win 8 help section and type in "backup" to find anything other than file history there.

Thanks, dying to see this but I don't it is there.

JF

jimmyfal said,
Please point me to this feature in Win 8. I know of file history but I am obviously missing a feature of Win 8 that you are speaking of.

Search for "Windows 7 File Recovery" and then there's an option on the left: "Create a system image". It's somewhat hidden but it still exists.

theyarecomingforyou said,

Search for "Windows 7 File Recovery" and then there's an option on the left: "Create a system image". It's somewhat hidden but it still exists.

Considering searching for "system image" also returns nothing. You are right, there it is. Bizarre that it is hidden but it is in fact pretty tucked away. Thanks. I'll burn one now.

As a tinkerer who's had to do repairs and support on around 100 computers over the last 10 years, I've had a little experience with backup/recovery. I've used most versions of Acronis True Image since 2006 (version 8) or so and it's saved my butt on countless occasions. The only one I haven't purchased is 2013, since it seemed to be rather buggy in the reviews.

Personally, I've never liked the nonstop and automated backups. I don't like installing unnecessary stuff on the system. The Acronis installation periodically act funny for me. They've never worked as smoothly as Apple's Time Machine and just don't seem "solid" enough. If you do install it, you can also convert TIB files to/from VHD files.

Acronis also works as a bootable CD (or USB). You don't need to install it if you just do manual backups and recoveries. These simple functionalities have always worked dependably for me.

Overall, I like the software, but it seems like their newest version suffers from a serious lack of beta testing.

I use Acronis in a production environment (but not True Image, which is a home based software).

Advanced Work Station does Bare Metal Restores and such much better, especially with the universal restore feature that is in the bootable media now (say in theory you already have the HD cloned but want to avoid having to recover everything all over again for a different tower, solution).

With that being said, there are many times that it makes me want to throw a shoe at it. The Acronis Tray Monitor is part of the install that will popup and tell you things but email really is the best way (and the central management console for those of us managing a larger backup set).

I love the convert to virtual machine feature, I had a client yesterday that needed an XP machine brought up to a new Optiplex tower but with no software to do the transfer (Club Management Software) and guess who's closed on the weekends? So I just restored to a VM and installed VMWare on the new Optiplex so they have the best of both worlds until then.

Acronis' backup performance is slow. Takes too long for full backup. Isn't fast. And new versions bloating it up every year like happened in the past to Norton software.

I have been using Acronis for years. I have always struggled with restoring images. It is a never ending struggle that works sometimes, and sometimes does not, and in that situation I just want to be able to pick up the phone and have someone talk me through the error messages. I'm tired of it really.

With the intro of Windows 8 and SSD hard disks recently, I have resorted to keeping my system on an SSD drive, and my data on 2 separate 1 TB mechanical HD's.

I use Fbackup to simply select the folders from one data disk and copy and paste to another un-compressed, because it seems that I have also discovered every way that a Mirrored Array has to fail as well. Now I just copy data from one disk to another on a regular basis.

If I experience an SSD failure on the system drive, reinstalling Win 8 and all my apps and updates takes about an hour or less.

I still think Microsoft could do so much better in the backup department, and I don't see the file history implementation in Win 8 as being intuitive and friendly at all. It's nice to have I guess but It doesn't suit my needs.

Acronis also does not have any sort of direct un-compressed copy feature that I have found anyway. I have often struggled with corrupt compressed images in Acronis.

I now use Acronis to periodically backup my system drive, and have yet to test it when and if it should fail. I'm glad I can rely on just reinstalling Windows 8 and my apps, instead of relying on Acronis because it has defeated me so many times in the past. Although it has also worked many times, the bad tends to outweigh the good when all your data is a stake.

Nice review btw...

Acronis has always been rubbish, used it 3 years ago to test a restore of an image to a laptop after making a backup, but the restore failed.

I think you were too generous in your conclusions. That recovery process sounds awful and far too time consuming.

Sounds like buggy garbage to me. I can only imagine my mother trying to work with this, I'd be getting the call right after the first error. For the seriously premium prices they're charging, they have no excuse whatsoever.
I used TI exclusively up until 2008, after which things just seemed to go wrong, issue after issue. Since then I've used Macrium Reflect 4.2 with PE on a thumb, I prefer incremental and restore every month, make adjustments to my system and always have a perfect system no older than a few weeks old if something needs to be restored... IMO both are overpriced.

"This tool gives you the ability to restore to different hardware - either a larger drive or even an entirely different piece of hardware."

This used to be possible using just acronis - no plus pack additional purchase needed. Was this feature really removed to a new product to buy or is it still in the base pack and just not obvious?

canadian said,
"This tool gives you the ability to restore to different hardware - either a larger drive or even an entirely different piece of hardware."

This used to be possible using just acronis - no plus pack additional purchase needed. Was this feature really removed to a new product to buy or is it still in the base pack and just not obvious?


I have no past experience with True Image -- but from the literature, you have to pay extra for that functionality now.
http://www.acronis.com/homecom...ts/trueimage/#add-migration

Kenny Kanashimi Chu said,
I got 1tb hdd, just wondering can this backup to > iso?

I didn't see a way to backup to anything but a "tib" - "True Image Backup" file. That said, if you got a 1TB drive, you could use this software to backup your current drive, plug in your new drive, then restore to that larger drive. It worked well overall, just has some minor bugs here and there that you have to work through.

Fezmid said,

I didn't see a way to backup to anything but a "tib" - "True Image Backup" file.

And that's very scary.

Much safer to use a tool like Windows Backup that writes to .VHD files. This gives you lots more options for getting your data out.

1. You can mount the .VHD as a drive and copy the files out.
2. You can mount the .VHD as a drive inside a virtual machine.
3. You can open the .VHD in third-party tools, e.g., WinImage.
4. Oh, and you can also restore the image directly on bootup, either by booting the Recovery partition or the Windows install DVD. However, I would not trust this option, because I've read a lot of reports of people who have run into problems with Restore.

bviktor said,
robocopy.

Agreed. Bare-metal restore simply isn't worth it.

It's better to start fresh with a clean install of Windows anyway, and SSDs are now so fast that you no longer waste a whole day getting back up-and-running. Save your data, and forget the rest.

If ROBOCOPY isn't enough and you want a real backup program, just use the built-in Windows Backup. It writes to .VHD files, which can be mounted as virtual drives. This means that you can get your files off with ROBOCOPY -- or even with a drag-and-drop.

Or use something that's noninvasive, that doesn't install a bunch of stuff at low-level on your system. The less complicated it is, the less likely it is for something to go wrong.

Edited by TomJones, Nov 18 2012, 4:34pm :

TomJones said,

A program that stores its data in a ".TIB" format that you can't read?

This has always been my problem with programs like this. I want to backup my data and be able to read it from anything easily, not rely on there tool to get at my own data. I personally use robocopyplus because it has logging and email built in, it is identical to robocopy with a few key features that I wanted.

TomJones said,

Bare-metal restore simply isn't worth it. ...Save your data, and forget the rest.

You need to do more than backup your data -- you then have to reinstall all of your programs, and it can be a pain tracking down all of the various license keys you have. There's more than just data, so that's why I really like bare-metal restores.

You surely had a lot of troubles with your backups, I by myself use that program, when I upgraded to SSD I wanted to have another HDD just for win7, so I backed up my installation from my old HDD that was dying, installed SSD, installed win8, then start8 and Acronis on it, then put newer HDD on DVD tray, then ran the recovery partition from win8 and BAM, win7 as it was before no troubles.

Arceles said,
You surely had a lot of troubles with your backups, I by myself use that program

You're a brave man.

In contrast, I am not at all surprised by the glitches that the author encountered when using True Image. It's always been a *very* finicky program, and I gave up in disgust after running into all sorts of incompatibilities.

True Image implements its own Volume Shadow Copy provider, and also installs a couple of NTFS filter drivers.

These are *very* sensitive parts of the Windows filesystem. A bad VSS provider can interfere with System Restore and Previous Versions -- and in Windows 8, it can also interfere with File History. When I tried True Image, the custom VSS provider prevented Windows Backup from completing. Uninstall True Image, and it started working again.

As you might imagine, Microsoft's VSS provider and filter drivers have been tested much more extensively than anything from a third-party software vendor. Not only have they been tested extensively by Microsoft itself, but other ISVs and OEMs and VARs have also tested all sorts of weird configurations against the Microsoft software.

Acronis? Who's going to test their software against Acronis? They're basically on their own when it comes to testing.

TomJones said,

You're a brave man.

I'm not exactly brave... I've used this program since 2008 I think, but I never do incremental backups, I always do Full backups and never touch them unless I strictly need to, which is pretty much never because I only restore full backups.
In contrast, I am not at all surprised by the glitches that the author encountered when using True Image. It's always been a *very* finicky program, and I gave up in disgust after running into all sorts of incompatibilities.

True Image implements its own Volume Shadow Copy provider, and also installs a couple of NTFS filter drivers.

These are *very* sensitive parts of the Windows filesystem. A bad VSS provider can interfere with System Restore and Previous Versions -- and in Windows 8, it can also interfere with File History. When I tried True Image, the custom VSS provider prevented Windows Backup from completing. Uninstall True Image, and it started working again.

As you might imagine, Microsoft's VSS provider and filter drivers have been tested much more extensively than anything from a third-party software vendor. Not only have they been tested extensively by Microsoft itself, but other ISVs and OEMs and VARs have also tested all sorts of weird configurations against the Microsoft software.

Acronis? Who's going to test their software against Acronis? They're basically on their own when it comes to testing.