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Norton Ghost 10 review: Norton Ghost 10

Norton Ghost 10

Ken Feinstein
5 min read
Norton Ghost 10
Disk imaging, a process that creates an exact copy of a hard disk's contents, used to be the exclusive domain of system administrators, programmers, and other techie types. However, with the advent of large, inexpensive, high-speed external hard drives, it's become an ideal way to create robust backups that can get you up and running quickly if disaster strikes. Realizing this, Symantec has transformed Norton Ghost 10 from a mere disk utility into a general-purpose backup solution, clearly distinguishing it from Acronis True Image 9. Norton Ghost 10's usability and feature enhancements include data encryption and better tools for managing backed-up data. These make it a unique and powerful backup application, even for novice users. Users of Ghost 9 will definitely want to upgrade to version 10.

Those with long memories may recall earlier versions of Norton Ghost, a DOS-based disk-imaging utility aimed mostly at system administrators. The Ghost 10 box edition includes a copy of Ghost 2003, the last iteration of the DOS software, but Ghost 9 and 10 are now Windows based, thanks largely to the DriveImage technology Symantec acquired when it bought PowerQuest in 2003.


Norton Ghost 10

The Good

Creates a complete backup of a hard drive; easy to use, even for novices; supports encryption.

The Bad

Lacks free phone tech support; no way to back up specific folders or file types.

The Bottom Line

Ghost 10 uses sophisticated disk-imaging technology to create a robust, easy-to-use backup tool that protects your data against large and small disasters.

When you first install Norton Ghost 10, a wizard guides you through the process of creating a backup schedule; Ghost even scans your system and suggests locations to store the backup. Though Ghost can back up data to removable media, such as DVD-RW drives, it works best with an external or secondary internal hard drive. It places an icon in the system tray and works seamlessly in the background, creating complete backups and incrementally updating those backups daily.

The user interface of Norton Ghost now resembles that of other Norton products.

Double-click the system-tray icon to bring up Ghost's control console. Ghost 10 will look and feel familiar to users of other Symantec products, such as Norton AntiVirus or SystemWorks. You can use the console to explore and restore files and folders from backups you've made. The new version also includes easy-to-use tools for managing backups: you can manually delete or archive backups onto removable media, such a DVD-R drive, or have the software automatically delete old backups to save disk space.

In case of a real disaster, the Ghost installation disk also serves as a recovery disk. You can boot your PC from it and use its familiar Windows-style interface to restore your PC to its previous running state. In fact, this feature is similar to the System Restore functionality included in Windows ME and XP.

Norton Ghost 10 delivers a slew of new features and usability enhancements--users of Ghost 9 will definitely want to upgrade. The software's clever design gives you a great deal of power and flexibility, creating a complete backup each month and updating that backup daily. It lets you recover from serious mishaps, such as a virus infection or a hard disk crash, or more minor troubles, such as accidentally deleting a file or a folder. You can even retrieve a file from a few days ago if you don't like the changes you've made in the meantime.

Norton Ghost 10 can also serve as a time machine. It lets you easily explore the contents of your disk as it was a day or a week ago, retrieving older versions of files that have changed or been deleted. You can also restore your entire disk to the state it was on a given day. The software can create restore points based on trigger events, such as installing a new piece of software or adding a certain amount of data to the disk.

Norton Ghost seems to have swallowed Norton GoBack, allowing you to capture and restore snapshots of your functioning computer.

Also new in Ghost 10 is optional password-based AES 128-bit, 192-bit, or 256-bit encryption. This is especially useful for keeping data secure if you are making backups onto removable media, since external hard drives are vulnerable to theft.

In addition to backup, Ghost 10 offers a Copy My Hard Drive function that replicates the complete contents of one hard drive onto another--very helpful if you are upgrading your system drive to a larger hard disk.

Norton Ghost 10 performed well in our informal tests. The backup software can create a complete image of your Windows system drive while working in the background. You never need to restart your system or interrupt what you're doing.

By default, the software creates a complete backup once a month and performs daily updates of the data that has changed. Though the complete backup can take up to several hours, we found the iterative updates much shorter. If the backups slow down your system too much, a handy slider lets you trade off speed for performance.

Norton Ghost 10's complete image backup is both its greatest strength and its greatest limitation. Unlike many backup solutions, Ghost provides no way to back up only specific folders or file types; it backs up complete drive partitions only--ouch. That means you can't perform a daily backup of work documents to a DVD-R drive, for instance. If you have a lot of media files on your drive partition, you could end up with large image files.

Though Ghost 10 compresses data, you still need a suitably large backup destination to get the most out of the program. Whether you use a local hard drive or a network resource, plan on dedicating more than half the size of the source disk to the compressed image. For instance, using standard compression, the backup image of our 30GB test disk required 20GB of backup space; this proportion will vary depending on the type of data you have stored on your PC.

Norton Ghost 10 comes with a detailed printed manual, which guides you through installation and, if things go wrong, recovery. (A product like this needs a printed manual, since in a real disaster you may not be able to boot your computer and access online help.) The software also includes a detailed help file.

Symantec offers free support via its Web site, including e-mail response to support questions and an extensive and helpful knowledge base. However, it charges $29.95 per incident for 24/7 phone tech support.


Norton Ghost 10

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Performance 7Support 6