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December 11, 2003
by Lincoln Spector, special to PC World
Acronis has updated its Acronis True Image program, which tackles the twin needs of easily backing up your entire hard drive in case of emergency, while also supporting incremental backups that aren't too much hassle to perform daily.
Acronis True Image 7.0 ($50), released this week, is a drive imaging program that also handles incremental backups.
The update adds a few new features that competitors already offer, and includes a verification function. This feature enables Acronis True Image to check an image to make sure it's good; this single change corrects the most serious shortcoming of older versions.
Drive imaging programs are the best tools for backing up an entire hard drive, but they're overkill for daily data backups. If your drive fails or something corrupts Windows past repair, there is nothing like a bootable CD and a sector-by-sector image of your hard drive to get you back up and running quickly. But you don't want to copy your entire drive at the end of every workday.
Drive imagers see your hard drive as a group of sectors (the physical divisions of the disk), while conventional backup programs look at them as groups of files. True Image, like any good, modern imager, can translate the image into a set of files. This allows you to restore an individual file as well as re-create the entire disk.
Acronis True Image works in terms of sectors even when it does an incremental backup. According to Acronis, the program examines the drive looking for and copying any sector that has changed since the last backup.
This may have some disadvantages over the conventional, file-based way of doing things. For one thing, you can't control what gets backed up garbage in your Internet cache will get the same treatment as vital data. This could result in larger, slower backups than you'd get with a