For version 2010, see this article: Acronis 2010 Step-by-Step
For Ghost vs Acronis, see this article: Acronis vs Ghost (review)
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.
- Dedicate an External USB disk for backups; they are cheap enough
- Buy portable laptop USB drives because they do not need power cords (Review)
- Create USB-drive backups at least monthly
- 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 steps with each backup. By running a disk cleanup and deleting old Shadow Copies, you can often free 30 to 50% of your disk space. This means using 1/2 the DVD's and saving half the time.
A. Launch Windows Explorer
Select the C: Drive.
'Other-mouse-click' and choose "Properties"
B. In the [General] Tab
Click "Disk Cleanup"
Select "Files from all users on this computer"
This takes about 30 or 40 seconds to load.
C. Click tab [More Options]
Click 'System Restore and Shadow Copies'
Click button "Cleanup"
Click OK, OK, and allow delete
Close Windows Explorer
Most of the time, you should see significantly more free-disk space.
1. Connect the External USB drive
Using Windows Explorer, highlight the drive letter (E:); other-mouse-click, choose "Properties". Confirm adequate free-disk space exists (varies -- but 30 to 50G; see below for cleanup steps).
Using Windows Explorer, manually create a directory, such as
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 recommend not using this, except maybe on a traveling laptop. Use Acronis Help to learn more about this feature.
3. From the Top menu, choose Tools, Options
In 'Default Backup Options' (open the tree), select "Additional Settings"
De-select "Ask for first media..."
Click OK, OK to close.
4. From the Side Menu, choose "Backup and Restore"
Choose "My Computer" (Not My Data - which is a folder-by-folder backup)
Choosing "My Data" 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 Disk1 (C:)
6. Click "Create New Backup Archive"
Browse to the backup location menu, selecting either the external USB or your DVD drive-letter.
If you are backing up to an external USB Hard Drive, change 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.
8. Backup Method: Choose "Full"
I do not recommend Incremental backups for most users
9. Files to Exclude:
Leave at default (generally, do not exclude files)
10. Make these additional changes:
- Set Compression Level = High
- If backing up to an external USB drive: Set 'Archive Splitting' to 4.7GB
- If backing up to DVD: In Media Components: Choose "Place Acronis True Image on Media"
e.g. "2009_08 Computer 1"
12. On the Summary screen
Confirm "Run Task Now" is checked.
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 your disks are not labeled.
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:
The USB drive will become full after several backups and when using my non-scheduled method, you will have to periodically erase old backups. This is where the naming conventions recommended above are helpful. Plug in the USB drive and use Windows Explorer to tunnel to the backup directory,
Backups will span multiple files:
2009_08_01.tib (new backup starts here)
2009_09_01.tib (new backup starts here)
Use Windows Explorer to highlight the older files; then press Delete.
On my small USB disk (250GB), I have room for a half-dozen backups and I keep as many older versions as I can; you never know when they might come in handy.
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, download and boot from the Acronis ISO bootable Emergency Rescue disk (or use the Tools menu to build a 'Bootable Rescue Media' disk). Build this disk and have it in storage *before* you need it.
If you had accidentally deleted a file or a small group of files, you can use these backups to recover them without restoring 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 very annoying.
Errors and Solutions:
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.
Acronis 2010 Step-by-Step
Disk Cleanup Steps (detailed)
Acronis vs Ghost (review)
Maxtor External USB Drive (review)
Horror Stories on crashed Computers (commentary)
Cleaning up after a Virus (why you need an image backup)
Other Frankenputer Comics
Keywords: ATI, Acronis Step by step image backup