Alone among these backup products, EMC's Retrospect is condensed down from a business product, rather than being written as a home and SOHO product from the ground up. It can handle backup protection under Windows, though not 64-bit Vista, and there are also versions for Mac and Linux machines.

The program can perform both system and file backup, though refers to ‘volume backup' to cover both modes, which is confusing. The difference is what you tell the backup Wizard to include in its backup set. If it's just documents, pictures or audio files, for example, that's what gets backed up, but you can just as easily specify the operating system. You can choose Disaster Recovery, too, to create a bootable CD or DVD containing essential system files.

The big advantage of Retrospect over its competition is that it takes progressive copies when it backs up. Rather than overwriting or incrementing the state of files, it stores each new backup separately from those that have gone before.

This means that, if you need to, you can refer back to a copy of a file you saved last week, even if you've saved a revised copy of it every day since then. You can specify the number of backup iterations want to retain, and Retrospect performs a rolling backup and deletes archives on a FIFO basis.

The extra security this brings isn't at the price of huge backup files, either, as Retrospect compresses backup files as it makes them. This may be the reason it isn't that quick. Copying our 1GB basket of files and compressing them to an external USB hard drive took 5 minutes 18 seconds, the longest of any of the suites.

Retrospect Professional is the home or single business use version of the program, but it's part of a range, leading right up to enterprise server backup. At around £75, it's the most expensive backup application on test here, but the licence does cover three PCs, networked together. Even so, it doesn't include some of the extra tools offered by the other programs, such as secure cleaning utilities and hard drive migration applets.


If you already use Retrospect within an organisation, then it may make sense to extend coverage to homes or satellite offices via Retrospect Professional 7.5. It's also a good choice for a rolling, automated backup, but it's a bit feature-lean in comparison with the other products in its market.

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