Cloning a hard drive

Acronis does more than back up. Its utilities are user-friendly -- and useful.

Acronis makes backups easy

By Harold Glicken


The project did not sound simple. I wanted to replace my legacy hard drive with a solid state drive, and I wanted to transfer all my applications, data and other files intact to the new drive. The traditional way would involve reinstalling all my applications to the new drive, copy all my data files to a USB drive and transfer them to the new drive – and hope it would work. It almost never does, since drivers – software that makes printers work, for example – don’t transfer without a lot of fuss.

There’s a much better way; it’s called cloning, and Acronis True Image 2017 does it’s work without much fuss.

The new hard drive is connected to the old one with a USB cable; after a few clicks in the intuitive Acronis software, the cloning begins. It works beautifully. All my applications and files wound up just where they were on my old drive. Drivers transferred over too. The programmers at Acronis didn’t stop with cloning. True Image is actually a suite of programs. Rescue DVDs can be made – these can be used to boot your PC when it won’t boot by itself. Unlike other boot disks, the Acronis boot disk takes you to your original desktop and contents of your hard drive – all your files and applications are accessible – rather than just booting into Windows.

An interesting utility, Try and Decide, lets you open potentially risky email or visit potentially unsafe websites without worrying that hackers will take control of your computer. You open the risky email, then decide if you want to delete it without further harm to your computer.

Another utility, System Clean-up, removes all traces of your web surfing and program-launches. If you ask it to, the utility will wipe the free space on your PC’s hard drive. Yet another utility will wipe an entire hard disk clean.

Acronis promises protection of backups from ransomware. That ugly scam involves someone sending a message to an unsuspecting PC user that that unless he pays up, his computer will remain unusable. I’ve been there. It happened when I misdialed Dell’s support number and was routed to someone who held my laptop ransom – for $300 he would allow me to start computing again. When I refused, he threatened to release all sorts of bad things on my computer. I hung up and called Dell Prime Support. Fortunately, a Dell tech was able to delete any traces of the ransomware. Just to make sure the hard drive was clean, I reformatted the it, then used the original cloned hard drive to restore Windows and all my applications.

Acronis’s ransomware protector would be worth the price of the program if that were all that was offered. If I had it when pirates hijacked my PC, I could have saved many hours of tech support and reformatting. As added security, Acronis “notarizes” backups to ensure that they are not infected with viruses and other threats when the files are restored.

Backups of either the whole hard drive or certain files can be scheduled. Running those backups at night means a day’s work will be saved. Or backups can be run as you work. Some versions of Acronis come with cloud backup; those files can be shared with others, as long as they have your password.

Acronis, which works both with Windows and Macs, can back up the contents of a smartphone. If you have iCloud or a similar backup service, the Acronis backup would provide an extra layer of assurance. It also will back up Facebook pages.

There are other fine backup programs; Carbonite’s $100 mirror image service comes to mind. But that mirror image can only be restored from an external hard drive  to the same computer on which the backup was made. It will restore to a new hard drive, but if you change computers, you’re out of luck. Acronis will restore backups to a different computer. Western Digital’s My Cloud has a backup program, but I could never get it to work the way I wanted. Then there are Dropbox, SugarSync and a bunch of other online backup services that offer basic backup services. This column was interrupted by a power failure, and even though I had the basic version of Carbonite running, it took me nearly half an hour to get the file back, but it was an early version, with six paragraphs missing. That’s unacceptable.

If you want to clone your hard drive and transfer the clone to a new hard drive, you can’t do much better than Acronis True Image. It has the advantage of both backing up to an external drive and the cloud. It does its work without much user fuss, too.

Prices range from $50 to $100, depending on the number of Windows or Mac computers you want to cover and whether you want cloud backup. The $100 version, which I’m using, comes with a terabyte of cloud backup and can be used on three computers. Some versions come as one-time purchases; others are for a year only. Offshore tech support is quite good.