Acronis True Image 9 performed well in our informal tests, quickly and efficiently creating images of hard disk partitions. Backups of your system disk occur in the background even while you work; there's no need to reboot your system. Acronis True Image 9 supports three methods of data backup. A full disk image backs up a drive from scratch. An incremental backup lets you keep a backup updated over time, recording just those changes made since the last incremental backup. A differential backup--a new feature in this version of the software--records in one file all the changes made to a disk since the initial full backup. Once you've made a full backup, these partial backups can quickly and efficiently keep it up-to-date.
Of course, if you are making a complete copy of your hard disk, you'll need a large amount of storage space. By default, Acronis True Image 9 compresses the data and leaves out some things, such as the Windows swap file, that aren't necessary to restore your system. If you don't have a large enough external hard drive or network disk, you can store images on removable media, such as a rewritable DVD drive.
One cool feature, Plug Image, makes a disk image appear as a separate hard drive. We found it a handy way to access specific files or folders in an archive; you simply mount a disk image as a hard drive. If you've made incremental or differential backups, you can use the image as a virtual time machine to return to your disk to an earlier state (for example, before you installed some buggy software).
Acronis True Image 9 comes with a detailed, though poorly organized, printed manual and a detailed Windows help file. On the company's Web site, you'll find a FAQ and a link to an external forum where users of the software share information and tips.
Unfortunately, True Image 9 has no autoupdate feature, so to get an update you have to go to the Acronis Web site and download a large install file.
To get free technical support, you fill out a support ticket at the company's site. Acronis also offers fee-based phone support.