For Acronis version 2009, see this article: Acronis 2009 step-by-step
Comparing Ghost vs Acronis, see this article: Acronis vs Ghost (review)
See also: Using Acronis to restore a single file
Keyliner Article: Windows 7 Speeding up USB Drives / Backup Speed Slow.
Acronis is my recommended program for Windows disk image backups and restores. This article will work well with any modern version of the software.
Update: Acronis 2010 hung when running a backup against Windows 8. Upgrade to version 2013 to resolve the problem. These instructions work well with Windows 8 and the newer versions of Acronis.
There are two types of backups: File-by-file (click and drag backups) and Full Disk Image backups (often called an "image" or Ghost backups). A full-disk backup is what most people should use because they take less work to setup and have more recovery options.
In the event of a disaster, virus or other calamity, an Image backup can recover the entire PC, along with all of its operating systems, patches, installed software and data. Once restored, the PC is bootable and completely functional.
Types of Recovery:
- Recover to a new hard disk (bare metal restore)
- Recover from a Virus
- Rebuild a corrupted hard disk
- Recover individual files or folders
- Possibly migrate to a new Computer (see notes below)
Follow these steps for making a disk-image backup. As long-time readers know, these types of backups have saved my computers dozens of times over the years.
- Use a portable USB laptop drive because they are inexpensive and do not need a powercord. You can use the same drive for multiple computers (Review).
- Create an image backup at least quarterly
- Do not carry the USB drive with a laptop (in case it is stolen)
- Do not leave USB drives connected, except during a backup (viruses)
- Periodically, create a permanent, offsite DVD backup
Do these preliminary (and optional) steps before each backup in order to save about 30 to 50% of your backup time and disk-usage. These steps delete Microsoft's System Restore and Shadow Copies.
A. Launch Windows Explorer
Select the C: Drive.
'Other-mouse-click' and choose "Properties"
B. In the [General] Tab
Click "Disk Cleanup"
For Windows 7:
Click the "Disk Cleanup" button
Click 'Clean up System Files'
Click top-tab "More Options"
Click "Clean up" button
Click OK, OK, and allow delete
Close Windows Explorer
Click the "Disk Cleanup" button
Select "Files from all users on this computer"
Click top tab "More Options"
Click button "Clean up"
On "are you sure you want to delete all but the most recent..."; Click OK, OK, and allow delete
Close Windows Explorer
Most of the time, you should see significantly more free-disk space -- and this means less to backup.
Acronis Backup Steps:
1. Connect the External USB drive
Using Windows Explorer, highlight the external disk's drive letter (typically, drive E:); other-mouse-click, choose "Properties". Confirm adequate free-disk space exists. Most people need about 30 to 50G free; see below for cleanup steps.
Because I use the same external USB disk for multiple computers, I like to make a backup directory for each device. Use Windows Explorer to create the directory on the E: drive. For example:
2. Launch Acronis True Image Home
On first-time launch, Acronis will offer a "One-Click Protection Tool," using a product they call Secure Zone. You may choose this or not; I do not recommend using this, except maybe on a traveling laptop. See Acronis Help to learn more about this feature.
3. From the Top menu, choose Tools & Utilities, Options
This is a one-time configuration change.
In 'Removable Media' (open the tree), turn off "Ask for first media...".
Click OK, OK to close.
4. From the Side Menu, choose "Backup"
In the center, choose "Disk and Partition Backup" (do not choose "File Backup")
Choosing "File Backup" allows you to pick and choose backup directories but this does not create a bootable image backup! Even if you choose the entire C: drive, the results will not allow you to recover from a failed hard-drive.
5. In Partitions to Backup
Choose Disk 1 (C:), click Next
Do not check the External USB disk at this stage.
6. Target Backup Archive:
a. Click * Create a new backup Archive.
b. In the backup location, browse to either the external USB or your DVD drive-letter if backing up to DVDs.
c. If you are backing up to an external USB Hard Drive, I recommend changing the filename from "myBackup.TIB" to a name similar to this:
- E:\AcronisBak\Computer1 is the folder created earlier
- E: is your USB's Drive letter, which varies
- Recommend typing 2009_08_ , with trailing underscores.
Confirm [x] "Run task now" is selected
Click the "Options" button
- Set do not schedule
- Set Backup Method: Full
- Set Backup Options: Backup Priority = High
- Set Archive Splitting: Fixed 4.7gb
If backing up to a DVD:
In Media Components: Choose "Place Acronis True Image on Media"
In the Comments Section:
Name the task "2009_08 Computer 1" (or as other comments to remind you)
8. Click Proceed
From here, the backup runs more-or-less automatically. On DVD's, use a sharpie pen and write "Computer1 2009.08.28 Acronis Backup, Disk 1 of x." There is nothing worse than doing an emergency restore and finding unlabeled disks.
On my moderately old machine with nice SATA drives, I see this type of performance:
USB: 1.5G per minute.
DVD speeds are considerably slower due to formatting overhead.
Organization and Cleanup:
When using the non-scheduled backup method, described above, the USB drive will fill after a half-dozen backups. With the recommended naming scheme, it is easy to identify which backups you can delete. Plug in the USB drive and use Windows Explorer to tunnel to the backup directory, "E:\AcronisBak\Computer1"
Backups will span multiple files:
2009_08_01.tib (new backup starts here)
2009_09_01.tib (new backup starts here)
Use Windows Explorer, delete the older files before starting the next backup. Keep a reasonable number of older backups, in case they are needed. If you were to run the Acronis "Scheduled Backups", it can manage the number of versions automatically, however, I still prefer to run the backups manually.
Emergency Restore Disk
The Acronis program can restore a backup from a completely dead computer, but you will need to create a one-time "Emergency Recovery Disk" (which they call a Bootable Rescue Media). This is different than the software's installation CD. Making this disk takes about 30 seconds.
A. Insert a blank CD into your computer.
B. When Windows offers to format the disk, Cancel / close the dialog.
C. Launch Acronis and choose Tools and Utilities
D. Click "Create Bootable Rescue Media"
E. Label this disk "Acronis 2010 Rescue Media"
Store this disk in a safe place. If you don't build this disk, you can use another computer to download an ISO image from the Vendor's site.
This article does not describe how to recover files or the computer from this type of backup. But in general, for a full-system, 'bare-metal' restore, insert the Rescue Media and boot the computer. Follow the restore prompts.
If you need to recover a single or small group of files, they can be recovered individually from the Image, without having to restore the entire disk.
From Acronis, see the top "Operations" menu and select "Mount". From here, you can tunnel into the backup, selecting individual files for restore. This feature works best with an external USB backup. If you are using DVD's, expect to swap the disks dozens of times and this will be annoying. See this article for ways to improve the process: Restoring a single file with Acronis
Restoring to a New PC
Moving to a new PC
An Acronis Image backup is most useful for recovering from a hard disk failure or to recover individual files to the same computer. If the hard drive is completely destroyed or corrupted, you could simply buy another drive and restore.
If the computer itself was destroyed or stolen, you can restore an image to an identical computer (same motherboard, video card), and it will probably work.
However, if the hardware is considerably different, you will run into driver problems where the old software won't know how to talk to the new hardware. And there is a problem with Microsoft Windows licensing. Basically, if Windows detects a lot of hardware changes, Microsoft rightfully assumes you are trying to steal the operating system. You might consider throwing yourself at their mercy by calling this number: Microsoft Product Activation.
In reality, moving an image to completely different hardware is fraught with all kinds of problems. If you are moving to a new computer, use Acronis to make a file-backup (rather than an Image), and backup only data files, skipping programs and operating systems. On the new computer, re-install all of your software, including the Office Applications, browsers, Acronis, etc. Then, restore the data. This is admittedly a laborious process and requires some skill.
Acronis sells an add-on product called "Migrate Easy", which I have not yet tried.
Errors and Solutions:
As of 2011.02, it is at version 7160, plus there is a newer version for 2011. Click the Help pull-down menu, "About" to see your version. One nice thing about this company is if you register the software, you can re-download it from their site at any time. This is a nice feature if you are having a bad day with your computer. Acronis Download Page.
See also this article on how to dramatically improve external USB Disk IO speeds in Windows 7; this will make the Acronis backup run much faster. Keyliner Article: USB Drive Backup Speed Slow.
Acronis "File I/O Error"
If a DVD backup begins writing to the second platter and the job fails with an IO error, be sure you set the options in Step-3, above. Too bad this is not documented on Acronis's site.
DVD Tray Open and Close
If you are backing up to DVD, Acronis recommends letting the software open and close the DVD-tray. After inserting the disk, click "OK" and it will close the tray automatically. If you don't do this, the backup may fail, per Acronis tech support. Outside of Acronis, I have no qualms about closing the tray-door by hand.
Run Task Now / non-Scheduled Tasks
If a "Run Task Now" (do not schedule / non-scheduled) backup fails to launch properly, or you are otherwise having difficulties starting the actual backup, then you probably removed the 'Acronis Scheduler Helper' from your startup programs (see msconfig, startup). Even if you never intend to schedule a job, it looks like this routine must remain in the startup group or else tasks are difficult to launch. This appears to be a bug.
Hang/Freeze in Windows 7 or XP
Microsoft released updates that damaged older version of Acronis 2010. Details: Snapshot driver VolSnap /Snapman requires modifications; not all hardware configurations will see this problem. Click this Acronis link for details Acronis version 7046 (or go directly to their download page: Acronis Login).
Acronis 2009 Step-by-Step
Disk Cleanup Steps (detailed)
USB Drive Backup Speed Slow
Restoring a single file with Acronis
Acronis vs Ghost (review)
Maxtor External USB Drive (review)
Cleaning up after a Virus (why you need an image backup)
Other Frankenputer Comics
Keywords: ATI, Acronis Step by step image backup