Monday, 28 July 2014 16:32

Review - Acronis True Image for Mac

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A well-established Windows backup vendor turns its attention to the Mac world.

There's a lot to be said for a full system backup of any computer, as this usually provides the fastest way of recovering from a major calamity - in the short term you can attach the backup drive to another computer so you can keep working, and then clone it back again when the original computer has been repaired or replaced.

In the Mac world, the most commonly used programs for this purpose are Carbon Copy Cloner ($44.95) and SuperDuper! ($32.64).

But last month Acronis - well-known in the Windows backup market - launched a Mac backup product called (understandably) Acronis True Image for Mac.

It's simple to use, as all you need to specify is the backup destination, how often and when you want to schedule a backup, and whether or not encryption should be used. After that, it's very much a case of 'set and forget'.

The destination can be a local drive or any other volume visible in the Finder such as a network storage device - providing it is not in FAT32 format - or Acronis's cloud storage)

We found two major downsides. Firstly, all you can do is a full backup, as there's no provision for excluding one or more folders containing bulky files that you're prepared to sacrifice (eg, because you can copy them again from a server). But to be clear, the software doesn't make a complete new backup every time it runs; rather it refreshes the previous image, keeping outdated versions of the files.

Secondly - and more importantly - the backup isn't bootable. Instead you need to create a special startup drive (an 8GB thumb drive will do) which you use to restore from the image. While there's nothing inherently wrong with proprietary backup formats, some people are much more comfortable if their backups are natively readable by OS X or whatever other operating system they use.

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Acronis warns that the program currently cannot back up drives that contain files with extended attributes, though this issue will be addressed in a future release. A special build of the program that overcomes the problem is available on request from Acronis support if you can't wait.

Other improvements in the pipeline include OS X Yosemite support, and a mechanism for allowing a degree of interoperability between the Mac and Windows versions of Acronis True Image, eg to restore to a Mac a Word document backed up on a Windows PC.

Although Acronis True Image only maintains a full system image, it isn't limited to full restoration. Individual files can be restored via the main application, and there's an opportunity to choose which version you want.

One somewhat irritating thing about the program is that the menu commands for visiting the Acronis knowledgebase and forum ignore the default browser setting and open the relevant web pages in Safari regardless.

A second - though purely cosmetic - issue that we found annoying is that whenever Acronis True Image is the frontmost application, the menu bar goes translucent even if that option has been disabled in the Desktop & Screen Saver system preference.

We can't really recommend Acronis True Image for Mac unless you specifically value the ability to back up active Parallels Desktop virtual machines. Existing programs in the market provide bootable backups (assuming the destination is a hard disk or SSD) and more flexibility (eg, the ability to exclude certain files and folders) at lower prices - Acronis True Image for Mac costs $69.99 for a single licence.

While Acronis True Image for Mac gives the option of backing up to the cloud, the absence of exclusion criteria means this isn't very attractive unless your internet connection is fast enough and has a sufficiently large monthly quota to accommodate creating and maintaining a full online backup. Even then, Acronis's pricing seems high compared with some other services. For example, 1TB costs $259.99 a year compared with US$120 on Google Drive, but then again, US$109.89 only gets you 125GB of Mozy backup storage.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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