The latest Acronis True Image 2015 Review. Acronis True Image 2015 for PC is available as a free trial. This trial is (almost fully) functional for thirty days which should be ample time to allow a user to assess its abilities and decide if it is the right choice for them. What is True Image? Simply put, it’s a backup software but as it turns out it is actually more of a backup solution.
The trial executable which you download is a web stub installer about 1.70 MB in size. An active internet connection will be required for the stub to download the needed files and complete the installation. True Image 2015 supports just about every Operating System from Windows XP to 8.1 with the exception of Windows XP x64. The Acronis System Requirements section lists 1.5 GB of free drive space for the program but the space I saw taken by the installer (and program/common files) was less. I suspect that this number does not include any space that might be needed for’ full backups’ as they can end up being much larger for even a freshly installed OS. The cost of a new license for one computer is $49.99 and $79.99 for three computers. The three PC offer is quite cost effective and if you happen to have more than one PC I can’t see a reason not to take it. I expect that once you test it you’ll agree but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
As seen in some of the pictures below the installer doesn’t have many options. The first screen we are greeted with includes only two real options. We can either start the installation or view the release notes. After hitting install the download of the required files will start and within a few minutes (mainly depending on your download speed) the actual installer will be downloaded and then launched. The installer (at this time) weighs in at about 282 MB and can be found inside the (local user) temporary folder if you wish to back it up for future use like me. After the installation is completed you can press the ‘Start application’ button to launch True Image 2015. My download and installation experience was smooth and there were not any of the ‘extra software options’ that sometimes gets bundled into software installations requiring special attention to exclude.
Upon launching True Image the initial screen will allow you to enter a serial number. If you have one you may enter it here and the full version will be activated. Otherwise you may select “Start Trial” near the bottom.
After that we finally get to see the redesigned interface of True Image 2015. While I like the color scheme I’m not a fan of icon run software. Perhaps I’m an old timer because I’m one of those people that still prefers to see labels for each option. Heck I’d rather type in my course of action….However when we mouse over the icons on the left part of the interface we can still see the names of each section. As there are only five choices, with the program starting out on the most important screen and the others being somewhat obvious I was able to understand why they chose this route. (Ignoring the obvious Windows 8 type theme) The other sections are Sync, Tools, Account and Help. But seriously I feel that they did a good job here.
Starting with the initial ‘Backup’ section we have a window with very few choices. In the lower left hand corner there is an option to ‘add backup’. Clicking on this option only gives you two choices, ‘create new’ or ‘add existing’ backups. The bulk of the window is filled by two big circles. The first circle, by default, is labeled ‘Entire PC’ but by clicking this you can change the mode to ‘Disk and partitions’ or ‘Files and folders.’ Clicking either of these will take you to a selection screen like those shown below.
After selecting the partitions, drives, folders or files that you want to backup you will be taken to the primary ‘Backup’ screen again where you will then need to select a destination for the (backup) files.
You’ll know better than I do what is best for your setup but if you have a large secondary partition or drive I would suggest starting with the Entire PC backup. It’s rather thorough and while you can technically save backups to your system drive it’s not something I would normally recommend. In fact you’ll likely see an alert if you choose to save the file to the same partition. They (Acronis) are 100% correct here, if you are able, you want to save to a separate drive if possible! Once you know where you are saving the backup you can either start it by clicking the large green ‘Backup Up Now’ button or choose more options starting with the conveniently located ‘Encrypt backup.’ Please note that if you decide to encrypt the backups you cannot recover the archive without the password so you will need to remember it.
The other larger, ‘Options,’ button in the lower left will open a window with a much broader set of options divided into tabs along the top including Schedule, Backup scheme, Notifications, Exclusions and Advanced (options).
The ‘Schedule’ section allows you to set up recurring backups ranging from every hour to monthly or even for select events. These events include a user logon/logoff or system shutdown. The advanced settings include a few other options which could be useful such as running a backup when a drive with S.M.A.R.T. enabled drive reports an issue that sets off an alarm in ‘Acronis Drive Monitor’ along with some more general power and idle related settings.
‘Backup schemes’ allows you to change the method in which backups are created. Options here include a Single version, version chaining, incremental, differential and custom. I won’t go into depth here but I would once again would like to make a suggestion: You should investigate these options and choose the one best suited for your situation.
The ‘Notifications’ tab enables you to toggle displaying an alert when there is not enough space (or other errors?) to complete a backup. The email settings found here allow you to send notifications (or entire logs) for certain events which could be helpful in a variety of situations if you aren’t always at the PC.
The ‘Exclusions’ area is fairly self explanatory and comes with a nice selection of predefined filtered files. Simply checking the ‘Files matching the following criteria’ selection will enable these exclusions and it also allows you to add your own.
‘Advanced’ opens up a window with a number of smaller expandable sections.
The first option, ‘Image creation mode’ enables you to backup up at a sector level with an additional option of backing up space that the OS believes is unallocated. I can’t say why this is important but someone out there reading this might have a better idea. My initial thought is that it would be useful for a drive where something has previously been deleted, that you might want to recover, and so before starting such an operation a full backup might be in order…..if not I’m sure there is a reason….I just don’t have a clue as to what that is! 😛 Perhaps I should have asked a few of my IT friends before embarrassing myself?! Haha…No, I think I’d rather smash my head against the keyboard again!
With ‘Backup protection’ you can tweak the password and encryption settings. Pre/Post commands allows you to set custom commands to run before or after a backup. These will basically allow you to call a batch file or do anything else that can normally be done from the command prompt.
‘Backup splitting’ allows you to tweak the size that the backup file(s) will be separated into. This can be changed from anything between a CD to a 27 GB Blu-Ray disc and you can even choose custom then pick your own size!
‘Validation’ is something that isn’t normally selected by default but personally I usually enable it even though it can add quite a bit of time to the backup process. I’d rather be sure the backup is properly created instead of dealing with the risk and later finding out at an inopportune time that a backup is corrupted! Still, this section allows you to enable validation every time~or on a schedule. Personally, I would urge you to spend the extra time and ensure the backup was successful every time but you will have a better idea of what suits your situation than I do!
The ‘Backup reserve copy’ is essentially a “backup of the backup” that can be created. Enabling this option allows you to select a separate location for this secondary backup (think third drive) to be stored but, unlike a normal backup, does not support optical drives.
‘Removable media settings’ allows you to place copies of Acronis True Image, Acronis System Report and Acronis One-Click Restore onto a USB, PC Card or SCSI interface if you are using these as backup locations. An important thing to note here is that if you are using removable media on a schedule the ‘Ask for first media while creating backups on removable media’ is checked by default and unless you deselect it the program will not begin a backup without user input the first time it is run. This only applies to the first time a scheduled backup runs to the media and future scheduled backups will continue without this interruption. This option can be unchecked to prevent any interruption but please be sure that you have the tools saved someplace (such as on a CD/DVD) in case the Operating System is unable to boot at some point down the line.
The ‘Backup comment’ section is fairly basic. Enter any notes about the backup you wish to record here. I personally use this often so that I know exactly what has changed (or not) between my backups!
‘Error handling’ allows you to tweak the number of attempts for which True Image should retry the creation of a backup if it experiences any issues. You may also disable error alerts completely if you would like to do so but generally that is not something I would recommend.
The ‘File level security’ settings allow you to choose if settings such as NTFS permissions (NTFS Security) are saved along with the actual files. If you don’t have any special setup you may not need to worry about this. However, if you have modified any folders or file permissions and restricted them to a particular user, you may want to take a look at this option in case you later need to restore the saved files to a separate system where the previously defined user does not exist. By disabling this option you can prevent potential issues in such a case. Likewise the ‘In backups, store encrypted files in a decrypted state’ check-box applies to EFS protected files and wouldn’t be a setting I check easily if I relied on the built in Windows Encryption File System. However you should keep in mind that backups can be encrypted with 256bit AES Encryption and so long as you have this protection option enabled it isn’t a ‘trade-off’ of security as it might first appear to be. Just remember your passwords, even Acronis support cannot recover them for you!
‘Computer shutdown’ does exactly as the title implies. Once a backup is completed it can power off a system.
The last, but not least important, tab is ‘Performance’ where you can select the compression level and operation priority. There is also an option to limit the transfer rate if you are saving to a network/internet location. Depending on the type of backup, schedule and if the computer might be in use during an operation these are nice options to have available and can be tweaked to accommodate a variety of situations.
After you create your first backup or select a previously created image you will be presented with two (new) options while a backup is selected. The first available option is ‘Operations’ which allows you to edit the settings of the backup; ex manually validate it, open an explorer window to the location of the backup, clone the settings (duplicate), remove it from the list and delete the backup completely (or just delete its settings). The other new option will be ‘Recover Files’ and just as it implies it will allow you to restore files from the selected backup to the current system.
The second icon ‘Sync’ is for use with Acronis Cloud. You fill in the details of your Acronis account (you should receive an email with this information after you input your address for the trial download or if you buy a license) or create an account then choose what folders or files should be sent to the cloud. You may then access these files from any other computer (or device) with True Image (apps) installed after logging in. Once you have created an account and started a trial you’ll also get 30 days of cloud storage to help you test this feature!
The third icon, ‘Tools’, has a list of….you guessed it, tools. Here we can see another limit of the trial version with the ‘Clone Disk’ feature being disabled. I don’t find this to be a big deal as such an option would not likely be used often. It’s certainly a nice ability to have available for the full version but not critical for every day backups or testing.
Next in line comes one of the most important parts of the program and one I urge every user to take advantage of. ‘Rescue Media Builder’ allows you to create a bootable CD, DVD, or USB drive which you can keep in case the OS becomes un-bootable so that you may still restore or recover files from a backup. There are two options available here but the Windows PE based disc is not available in the trial version. Both discs do the same thing but from different environments. The other disc, Acronis bootable rescue media, is not a Windows environment and as such lacks the ability to recover EFS protected files. Both discs allow you to backup or restore a drive, partition, or selected files~just like the primary software. You can even do a full sector level backup (or restore) for RAW (encrypted such as bitlocker and truecrypt) or other foreign file systems. This is helpful in a variety of situations including use on systems that have (Software) Full Disk Encryption! (Repeat myself much?…nah)
Then we have ‘Acronis Universal Restore.’ Once again it isn’t something that people will use often but it might prove to be useful. It is actually separate from True Image but is available as a download through the selection that will then install and enable the module. By creating this disc ‘just in case’ you will be able to adjust an existing Windows installation to make use of different hardware. For example, if components other than your drive fail and you must replace the computer or switch out parts such as the motherboard, the OS may be rendered un-bootable by the changes. This disc helps you to change the drivers of an offline system and restore it to a bootable state.
‘Parallels Access’ allows you to remotely access your computer (and backups) with a smartphone or tablet.
The ‘More Tools’ selection will open an explorer window with shortcuts to some extra utilities. A few of the shortcuts you’ll see listed here have already been covered within the True Image options so far so I won’t waste your time going over them again.
The one directly related to backups and restores is ‘Manage Acronis Secure Zone.’ Selecting this will open a wizard to help you create (remove or modify parameters) a special partition on your disk from which Acronis can store backups. This area can be password protected. The process may take quite a bit of time depending on how much space you allocate to the secure zone and how full your drive is. Once the process has started the computer will reboot and do the bulk of the work outside of windows. Data fragmentation might also increase the time as the files must be re-ordered so that they are residing within the boundaries of the ‘soon-to-be’ shrunken partition. Do not fret if the time remaining starts off at several hours. My operation only took only a few minutes to complete despite starting off with an outrageous clock! Hint hint Acronis, you can do better! Your results may vary but I would be surprised if it took more than an hour.
‘Acronis System Report’ is used to collect information about your hardware and software configuration so that you can send it to Acronis Support if/when you are experiencing issues. This tool will collect technical information to aid Acronis support in assisting you and save it to a file which you can then attach to an email when contacting them. This is strictly a manual process!
Another tool of note is more privacy based and while not exactly related to backups or restores can aid you in cleaning your system before creating a backup. ‘System Clean-up’ will help you to remove temporary files, histories, prefetch, and network credentials. It also wipes the free space to ensure those files removed cannot be recovered.
The last utility I will mention should be used with extreme caution!!!!
‘Drive Cleanser’ is used for wiping entire disks or partitions. This will overwrite every sector of the selected partition or drive! It has many options to choose from for the number of wipes (methods) starting with a triple pass overwrite up to the aggressive 35-pass Gutmann algorithm.
The fourth Icon opens the account window which will display the state of True Image, trial or full, along with an option to ‘Automatically check for updates at startup’. You can also enter your serial number here if you have purchased it or click ‘Buy full version.’ In a second box there is information about the state of your Acronis Cloud account and an option to renew the subscription.
The last icon is for ‘Help and support’ which has an option to open the help file, send Acronis feedback, or generate a system report such as the one that was covered a few paragraphs above. There is also an ‘About’ button on the lower right of the window that will open the about screen where you can find the final option, ‘Participate in the Acronis Customer Experience Program.’ This is enabled by default but if you aren’t interested in automatically sending hardware and software information to them it can be easily toggled off.
Another feature, which I have had occasion to use, is the ability to browse a True Image Backup (.tib file) and retrieve a few documents within Windows Explorer. Simply navigating to the archive location and double clicking will open it and display the folders or files that you have saved.
This ability is also expanded upon by allowing full disk or partition images to be mounted as a virtual drive. While there doesn’t appear to be a way to do this inside the True Image software it can easily be done through Windows Explorer thanks to an added context menu option. Just select the archive that has what you need, right click on it, and select ‘True Image > Mount’
A few moments later the archive will be mounted as a virtual drive and allow you to grab whatever you need. Right clicking on the newly mounted drive letter will allow you to un-mount it when you are done.
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Final thoughts and Conclusion:
Acronis True Image 2015 has quite a few options and features but generally doesn’t hog resources or require a great deal of user knowledge in order to make use of said options. While sitting idle in the background across four or more processes the memory consumption was extremely low. Obviously during an active backup this changes but with some tweaking to the priority even this can be throttled to minimize its effect on your computers performance.
The interface is easily navigated and doesn’t require much of a learning curve. Despite my general preference to have everything labeled I quickly grew to appreciate how they have it set up. The options needed are readily available and well placed. The more advanced options being grouped together, but divided into smaller expandable sections, worked out well.
With the ability to create bootable discs or even download the ‘Universal Restore’ media, just about everything that we might need to assist us in making use of our backups in a variety of situations is already available. Add to that cloud options and remote access then you have one nice product!
I’ve long been a user of Acronis True Image and it has served me well for years. I haven’t always updated to the latest and greatest but with the 2015 version they’ve done it right (as in correctly)! I did not encounter a single crash or error and I for one feel the need to upgrade.
Almost everyone has important data ~ be it family pictures, taxes, work files, etc. If you get hit by one of the newer breeds of virus that encrypts your documents, your hard drive fails, perhaps a recent Windows Updates leaves you in a BSOD loop or your system just plain crashes you’ll be wishing that you had backups of those files. Don’t wait until its too late, consider a serious product designed to help with such a common problem and help safeguard your precious data! Try Acronis True Image 2015 for PC today and see it if it will fulfill your needs like I think it will!
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The interface is extremely well thought out and easy to use.
It is light and takes up few resources when not actively engaged in a backup operation.
A variety of helpful tools to aid users in restoring backups.
The operation time estimates can be way off.