Windows backup software review – ‘Bare Metal Showdown 3’ – Four disaster recovery programs tested to destruction
Overview of the contenders
Test 1 – Hard disk copy
Test 2 – Drive to image
Test 3 – Image to drive
Test 4 – Rescue CD
Features at a glance
We’ve been testing bare metal disaster recovery and backup software here on Top-Windows-Tutorials since 2008. In that time we’ve seen programs in this very competitive field go from barely usable to utterly superb. This years contenders all put up a great fight and it’s good to see that there’s no one package this time that stands out as the turkey of the bunch.
What is “bare metal” recovery? Basically this means restoring a computer from scratch, with a completely blank hard drive. One of the most common ways home users can do this, is by creating bootable rescue media that can access a backup image of their old hard drive and restore it to the new one. Several packages on the market claim to do this, but which ones work the best? Last time our top recommendation went to Acronis True Image. Who will be crowned king of our 2012 disk backup software review? Read on to find out.
Note – some of the terms we use in this article are a little technical, if you are struggling to understand some of the technical jargon surrounding this article, see our understanding backup and storage page.
We will start the review and bench test with an overview of this years contenders:-
Acronis True Image Home 2013
Acronis True Image has been our favourite disk imaging and bare metal recovery software for some time now. The newest version introduces even more features such as cloud backup and advanced file synchronization.
Previous versions of True Image already had a fantastic feature set that catered for almost every possible backup need and True Image 2013 builds on this even further. You can clone hard drives and partitions, you can create images of hard drives, (including incremental images). You can mount existing image files, explore them and extract files from them, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The software has several potentially very useful tools for the PC enthusiast. The “Try & Decide” mode takes a snapshot of your computers hard drives, allowing you to tinker with new software or make system wide changes to your computers configuration all in the knowledge that it can be undone with the click of a mouse. There’s also a “Nonstop Backup” mode, which creates rolling, incremental images of your computer system every five minutes, meaning you can go back to any point in time should something go wrong. Of course, running such an aggressive (but thorough) backup strategy does have some impact on the system, but expert users can schedule incremental imaging to take place at any interval they choose.
If that wasn’t enough, True Image can even do file level backups, including e-mails but only Outlook and Windows Mail are supported (the mail app tile in Windows 8 is not supported). For this round-up, we’re interested in disk imaging capabilities. We will show you what happened when we put the software through its paces later on in this backup software review.
EaseUS Todo Backup 5.3
When we first encountered EaseUS Todo Backup, it was offered as an entirely free download. Times have changed however and now EaseUS is competing with the big boys by switching to a paid application. While we could overlook some of the programs shortcomings when it was free, there will be no such quarter given now.
Despite costing less than the other packages, EaseUS Todo Backup does have many advanced features. You can open and explore backup images in order to access files as well as use popular cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, with the program. There’s also an e-mail backup but again it only supports Outlook directly. Can this package go from freemium to premium and still hold its own? Read on to find out.
Macrium Reflect V5
This particular backup software has been gaining traction in the market. Several of our readers have expressed an interest in how well it performs, so we have included it this year for the first time. The version tested is the Standard edition, though Macrium offer a completely free version too. The free version only supports basic, non-incremental disk images, but for many users this may be all that is required.
Compared to the other packages on offer, the feature set of Macrium seems rather sparse. There’s no Cloud backup support or features like the Nonstop backup feature found in Acronis True Image. Nevertheless, it is the core functionality of the product we’re interested in here and such features may not be required by most end users anyway.
Paragon Backup & Recovery 12 Home
After a disappointing review last time around, we hoped for better things from Paragon this time and happily we were not disappointed. With some of the most advanced features out of all the packages, home users can access features like “Migrate OS to dissimilar hardware” which allows you to take an old PC’s operating system and bring it across to newer hardware or even a virtual PC.
Of course, the software also supports incremental imaging and mounting of image files, as well as some limited cloud backup support in the form of FTP and Secure FTP backup. There is even a disk sector editor, where you can peek at the raw bytes on your drive and pretend you know what they all mean.
Now that all the contenders have been introduced, it is time to announce the results of our tests.
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