Windows Secrets readers often send in recommendations for utilities they find particularly useful.
In some cases, “useful” is in the eye of the beholder; here’s a professional reviewer’s take.
Business-level backups — for the rest of us
I’ll confess — in one particular way, I was a typical PC user: I didn’t back up my notebook as often as I should have. As a tech journalist of long standing, my lapse was especially inexcusable: I knew several effortless ways of making automated backups. My slacker ways suddenly changed when a motherboard blowout left much of my data as so much digital dust.
As has been noted numerous times in Windows Secrets, image backups — complete copies of entire hard drives — are an essential part of protecting your system. (Selective backups effectively archive changes between image backups.) The more recent an image backup, the faster you can restore your entire system (OS, settings, apps, and user data) following a catastrophic system failure.
There’s no shortage of drive-imaging applications. I discussed one of the more popular products — True Image — in the May 2 Best Software column, “Utilities for better productivity and security.” But based on a reader recommendation, I took a look at StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect Desktop 5 (SPD5; site). At U.S. $90 (30-day trial), ShadowProtect Desktop is pricey; but it’s also surprisingly versatile and powerful — well suited to all but the most casual PC user.
For less technically adept users, SPD5 offers easy-to-follow wizards (see Figure 1) and scheduling option boxes (see Figure 2) to step you through drive imaging and restoration. For advanced users, it offers more specialized tools for working with backup images.
For example, the Hardware Independent Restore feature lets you restore one PC’s drive image on a completely different PC. (Try moving a bootable drive from one PC to another with different hardware configuration, and you’ll soon discover that Windows will have difficulty, at a minimum, booting. In some cases, especially with Windows 8, Windows won’t boot at all.)