Save & Restore was one of the first applications to combine system and file backup in one package. Using Norton's well known Ghost technology for system backup, the program adds in regular file backup and a scheduler, so backups of both types can be easily automated.
One of the program's best attributes is the simplicity of setting up a basic backup regime. When you first run it, it analyses usage and recommends what you need - in our case it suggested a system backup twice a week at 7pm and a file backup of My Documents, My Desktop and Internet Explorer Favourites every day at 6:30pm, onto an external USB drive which was connected to our test PC.
All of these suggestions are eminently sensible, but they can be tweaked to add or remove folders or individual files as needed. Taking the default suggestions gives a good general backup, but you would probably want to add an Outlook backup, too, if you were handling email on your machine.
Once you've created backups, you can search them to recover individual files, rather than having to restore a complete set of files before looking through them. This saves time and disk space and removes one of the worries of being able to extract data from an archive quickly. You can scan through an archive, just as if you were browsing a tree of folders within your Windows desktop.
Save & Restore backed up our 1GB test basket of files in 1 minute 31 seconds, not quite as quick as Perfect Image, but faster than everything else. Like the other applications in the group, this program compresses backup files into a single archive to save space on the destination drive. It also encrypts the data, to keep it secure.
Should the worst happen and your PC won't start up, either through virus attack or a severe Windows crash, you can use the Save & Restore CD as a rescue disk and reinstate a previous system backup to get running again. At the same time you can use the program to recover any important files that are not already safely in an archive.
This is a good program for both system and file backup, particularly if you want a set-and-forget application. It doesn't have to be used this way, though, and is as worthwhile if you need to set up custom backup regimes.
There are reasons for wanting to backup individual files and a complete PC system, so to have both facilities built into the same application makes it much easier to set up an comprehensive archive. All five of these applications are quite capable of doing anything a typical home or small-business user might want, though some are easier than others to use and there are differences in the type and number of extra utilities bundled with them.
On the ease-of-use front, you won't get a much more straightforward program than Symantec's Norton Save & Return, which is amazingly easy to set up, even if you don't use the suggested settings provided when you first start the program. It uses tried and tested system backup technology and handles file copying speedily and with minimum fuss.
The all-singing True Image 11 Home from Acronis includes the ability to set up a zone on your hard drive which can be restored to a previous configuration at any time. This is ideal for testing new software before introduction to a business and, together with a thorough disk cleaning application, provides a complete suite of software for hard drive migration, as well as backup.