It’s that time of year again: the time when Acronis releases the annual update of its venerable True Image backup program. It’s called True Image 2020 (we tested the Standard version, $49.99 from Acronis) and yes, I know it's not 2020 yet, as the moniker implies, but what’s a few months among old friends? True Image is a trusted warhorse.
This year’s improvements are of course welcome for subscription users, and go quite a ways toward making the program easier to use. However, if you own a recent perpetual license version they’re not a must-have.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best Windows backup software. Go there for reviews on competing products and information about how we tested.
Acronis sent out an email claiming over 100 enhancements to True Image 2020. I’m sure there are, but the vast majority are what I’d describe as tweaks and fixes. The only major “adds” are system tray notifications and dual protection (local and cloud with the same job), though the list includes better malware detection, friendlier sign-up screens, and more.
Dual protection is the one I find most interesting, as it partially addresses my major complaint about many backup programs: the lack of multiple destinations (local, cloud, removable, network, etc.) for a backup job. True Image provides Acronis Cloud as a secondary destination, which is great if you want to use the subscription-based service, but otherwise not that much help. You can still clone the job and change the destination.
Features, features, and more features
One thing to know about True Image is that it has more features than you can shake a stick at, though some are only tangentially related.
The program will back up partitions, whole drives, and files, and do so with versioning, incrementally (all post-initial backups contain only changes since the last backup), differentially (all post-initial backups each include all changes since the initial backup), and as a one-time event.
You can fine-tune which versions are kept, how older backups are culled, and more. There’s scheduling, of course, plus pre- and post-backup commands, email notifications (where’s the social media, Acronis?), file exclusions, validation and backup splitting settings, backup performance throttling for slower systems, and just about every other option ever included in a backup program.
There’s also syncing with other PCs running True Image. You can back up to just about any kind of media or location, including removable, optical, and FTP. Tape isn’t supported, but I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of people left who use that storage type.
The tangential but still-interesting features include security: 256-bit AES encryption, block-chain file verification via Acronis Notary, and electronic signatures with the company’s Asign. The latter two features are available only with the Premium version. The Standard version includes Active Protection, which wards off ransomware, as well as crypto-mining of your data.
There’s also a clean-up utility that erases histories and securely wipes the free space on your hard drive. Add to that the ability to create a restore partition, and Try & Decide, which is something like creating a restore point before you install new software, allowing you to roll back to the pre-install state easily. True Image supports restoring to different hardware (bare metal restore), though that’s generally become far less of an issue with Windows 10’s more robust driver functionality and infrastructure.
If all those features sound like they will use a significant amount of system resources, you’re correct. The download is a whopping 600MB, the installation about the same, and there are six separate background processes running at all times. The main program, which admittedly you’ll rarely need to run, is also rather slow to boot—no doubt because it is checking your account/update status and the state of True Image’s various functions.
There are two things I wish True Image supported: the aforementioned multiple destinations beyond the proprietary cloud adjunct, and non-proprietary container formats such as ISO, VHD, or even Zip. Not that True Image has any issues restoring data, but if you want to browse a backup in 20 years’ time, it would be nice not having to hunt down an old program to do it.
Interface and design
Once you know your way around the True Image GUI, it’s efficient, but there is the occasional “what the heck” moment. Even after several years, I still grab the wrong part of the scroll bar, as the handles are light and the background dark—the opposite of the norm. Tiny, somewhat indistinct ‘+’ signs to expand trees, and minor language and organizational issues all add up to inefficiency in spots. Overall, however, the look is attractive and modern-looking, and things improve a bit with every iteration.
The Standard version of True Image is a perpetual license without cloud storage for $50 and is the version I use. The Advanced version is the same price and includes 250GB of cloud storage plus Office 365 backup. It’s a true subscription in that all but the restore functionality will cease after the one year you paid for, and restore functionality 30 days after that. That’s no small consideration. If you want to archive stuff, you might want to grab a perpetual license.
The $100 Premium version uses the same subscription model as Advanced, but includes the blockchain and electronic signature functionality. Additional seat licenses are discounted, and the program is also available for Macs and various NAS boxes (Linux-based).
Those variations will cover most users, but it would be nice to see Acronis market the recovery media on its own, or a Lite version without all the fancy doodads (backup/restore only) for an entry-level price.
A great program, a mild upgrade
If you’re a current owner on a subscription plan, True Image 2020 is nothing but good news. If you already own a perpetual license for True Image from the last couple of years, I don’t think you’ll find much to warrant ponying up yet another $50, but check your version’s features against this year’s and make up your own mind. You can also read our review of True Image 2019 to understand the differences with past versions.
For those that aren’t currently experiencing True Image, it is quite arguably the fastest, most powerful, and reliable backup program on the planet. If you work with sensitive data, the active protection could be a major boon.
Personally, I’ve been running True Image off of the recovery media it creates since its first iteration around 2003, along with the similar vintage R-Drive Image, and it’s yet to fail me. Note that I perform more than the usual number of restores in resetting PCWorld’s and my own software test beds. I trust it, and that’s why I continue to use it.