Acronis True Image is possibly the best known of all personal backup and recovery applications. It's 2013 version builds on a pretty comprehensive forebear (see Acronis True Image Home 2012 review) and offers system, file and non-stop backup. Non-stop backup keeps a running copy of every file you save or alter. Acronis also promises a sandbox, disk cloner, file shredder and Windows 8 compatibility. See also: Group test: what's the best backup software?
The main screen offers plenty of help for first-time customers, with friendly guidance on how to select source and destination folders, partitions or drives, to establish a backup type and, if required, a schedule to do things automatically.
If you prefer to get your hands dirty, you can use the neatly laid out main screen to select these options and fine-tune the back-up process.
Acronis True Image Home 2013: Backup
We performed a drive backup of the 50GB partition we use for testing AV software, and this took 26 minutes. Performing a file backup of the same set of folders took 1 hour, 2 mins, so the system route is certainly quicker.
You can examine the system back-up and extract individual files if you need to. It's a bit cheeky of Acronis to flag The Cloud as one of the advantages of True Image 2013. Yes, you can sign up for 250GB of secure online storage, but it isn't included in the product and is sold separately for $4.95 (around £3.10 plus tax) a month. While this may be a reasonable price, all you actually get with True Image is a month's free trial.
You can synchronise files on your PCs with notebooks, tablets and other devices by specifying the folder and running True Image's synchronisation tool. If you've paid for Acronis Cloud and have an online backup, files can also be accessed from there on mobiles and tablets, using the free apps available for iOS and Android.
Backups can be scheduled and there's a wide range of different ways to keep the overall backup size at a reasonable level, from specifying a set number of backups to setting a total storage size the program shouldn't exceed. These regimes work well and mean there are few ‘drive full' surprises. The Plus version of the program, reviewed here, adds in two extra functions: restore to dissimilar hardware and a WinPE interface for the recovery CD or USB drive.
Acronis True Image Home 2013: Windows Pre-Install Environment
Windows Pre-install Environment is a slimmed-down version of Windows, making the interface look suitably familiar but, due to Microsoft's new and more stringent licensing agreement with third parties, it has to be downloaded at the time of creating the recovery disc.
Restore to dissimilar hardware does what it says and enables you to reinstate your system onto new hardware. This is most useful if you've upgraded an existing system, say by fitting a new mainboard to it.
As long as drivers for a new graphics card, drives and other components are all available, this helps get you up and running again. It's not a way of circumventing authentication and duplicating a system, though. Microsoft will typically detect when hardware has changed and insist that Windows is reactivated.
It would be good to think Acronis had also addressed the housekeeping drive-chuntering the 2012 version indulged in. It did this quite a lot outside the times designated for scheduled backups. During our testing, the 2013 product didn't have the same noisy activity.