Pinnacle InstantCopy is a point-and-click DVD-copying application that makes it easy to back up DVDs and CDs without worrying about what's going on under the hood. Its deceptively simple interface masks a flexible feature set and a broad range of disc-copying options, from backing up DVDs to duplicating audio discs or console games. InstantCopy isn't nearly as fast as InterVideo's competing DVD Copy program; it can't back up copy-protected DVDs (a feature that may not be legal), and unless you can make an uncompressed 1:1 copy, its output always loses a little picture quality. But in most other ways, it's a powerful, novice-friendly tool for backing up your delicate and expensive collection of DVDs and CDs.
Making personal backups of DVDs is a highly controversial topic that is still being tested in the courts. No copy-protection mechanisms were circumvented during our testing, and CNET does not encourage or condone the illegal copying of commercial DVDs.
InstantCopy's interface is a skillful blend of ease of use and functionality. Its main screen simply lists your computer's playback and recording devices. In most cases, making a copy is as simple as choosing source and target drives, then clicking a Start button.
InstantCopy's deceptively simple main screen lets you set up and launch most copying jobs with only three clicks.
It doesn't take long to discover the power beneath the hood. InstantCopy lets you designate up to 16 simultaneous recording devices for each job, and your copy source and destinations can be almost any combination of CDs, DVDs, and disc images stored on a hard drive or a removable storage device. In most cases, InstantCopy will use your choice of source device and recording media to figure out the type of task you're trying to perform. But you can override its default selections by clicking a Details button that displays a wealth of additional options. Pinnacle manages to organize the potentially overwhelming number of jargon-laden selections into logical, tabbed dialog boxes that let you perform functions simply by clicking check boxes and choosing items from drop-down lists.
Pinnacle has organized a potentially confusing array of esoteric options into a logical set of tabbed dialog boxes.
Most users will be content with the basic copying tools found in InstantCopy's main screen, but the Details section offers plenty of advanced settings for enthusiasts. You can manage a slew of disc-reading, disc-burning, and error-handling options; conserve disc space by removing unwanted DVD features such as foreign languages, commentary tracks, DVD-ROM content, and subtitles; and even restore deleted navigational functions, such as the ability to fast-forward through FBI warning screens.
Selecting one of InstantCopy's standard job Profiles lets you automatically configure multiple settings with a single click.
The Details section also provides preset Profiles that let you automatically set multiple recording parameters with a single click. The several-dozen standard Profiles configure the program for output formats as diverse as Karaoke-CDs, PhotoCDs, and mixed-mode CD-Extra discs. You can also create and save your own profiles.
The biggest hole in InstantCopy's feature set is its inability to duplicate copy-protected DVDs, which account for the overwhelming majority of discs that most people want to back up. Pinnacle deliberately omits this function, since it's not yet clear whether circumventing a DVD-Video disc's copy-protection scheme is ever legal. (For more information about this issue, check www.protectfairuse.org.) The company does, however, coyly note that InstantCopy can burn discs from any unprotected DVD image file, regardless of how that file was created.