The philosophy behind issuing Swiss Army Knife-style collections of PC utilities is that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. However, we question whether the bundling of products within Acronis Power Utilities 2003 satisfies that definition. Only one of the five utilities, PrivacyExpert, offers any value to the folks at home, while the rest provide specific tools that no one other than a computer-repair technician would need or want. If your intention is to sample Acronis's line of utilities, this $60 collection costs much less than buying each product separately. But for a truly integrated and useful PC utility suite, we suggest you try Norton SystemWorks 2003.The philosophy behind issuing Swiss Army Knife-style collections of PC utilities is that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. However, we question whether the bundling of products within Acronis Power Utilities 2003 satisfies that definition. Only one of the five utilities, PrivacyExpert, offers any value to the folks at home, while the rest provide specific tools that no one other than a computer-repair technician would need or want. If your intention is to sample Acronis's line of utilities, this $60 collection costs much less than buying each product separately. But for a truly integrated and useful PC utility suite, we suggest you try Norton SystemWorks 2003.
Installation and interface
It's a bit misleading to call these five utilities (RecoveryExpert, PrivacyExpert, DriveCleanser, DiskEditor, and MigrateEasy) a "powerful suite of products," as Acronis does. For starters, they hardly qualify as an integrated collection; each app has to be installed individually, and you must contend with one of five different registration codes (16 alphanumeric characters) during each installation. One code, entered once, should be enough for any true suite of products. Additionally, there isn't a unified menu from which to launch different utilities, as found in Norton SystemWorks 2003. With Acronis, you launch each from the desktop or individually from the start menu--a nuisance.
However, once past this point, all five Power Utilities are easy to operate. Most involve straightforward, one-step procedures, as do RecoveryExpert and DriveCleanser. PrivacyExpert provides more user-configurable options, and they're each well explained within the program.
Unlike Norton SystemWorks' integrated suite of Windows repair tools, Acronis provides an odd assortment of random utilities. RecoveryExpert, for example, has only one purpose: the recovery of hard drive partitions that are deleted or lost. While anybody can operate most of these utilities, the DiskEditor app requires a considerable level of programming expertise and seems out of place here. Most users will never have a reason to use this app--in fact, the average user should avoid editing his or her hard drive and partition data.
The handiest of Acronis's utilities is PrivacyExpert, which deletes Internet caches, cookies, downloaded components, paging or swap files, Recycle Bin contents, and even Registry backups. Configuration options let you select which cookies to keep while applying one of several destructive algorithms to remove the rest. You can specify when to run the removal task--automatically at specific intervals, for example, or whenever you start up or shut down your PC. But PrivacyExpert doesn't address password protection, a crucial part of privacy protection in our opinion, so we recommend you purchase a good password program, such as DvaSoft's Personal Passworder.
A fourth app, DriveCleanser, destroys all data within selected partitions across single or multiple disks. Before cleaning, you can instruct the program to leave an emptied partition alone, delete it, or reformat it. Simple and effective as it is, we'd prefer it if DriveCleanser would also micromanage specific directories and files. For example, instead of overwriting the entire partition, you may want DriveCleanser to eliminate only a single file containing credit card numbers.
The fifth utility, MigrateEasy simplifies the transfer of partitions and data from an older hard disk to a newer drive. Like DriveCleanser, MigrateEasy can't back up and transfer any specific data. For example, you can't copy the contents of five out of eight directories to a new drive; you must instead copy all eight directories and delete those that you do not want--what a waste. And you can't use the program to make file backups on removable media such as floppy disks or CD-ROMs. Both of these options are possible, however, with Symantec's Norton Ghost and PowerQuest's Drive Image.
We tested Acronis Power Utilities 2003 on two computers: a P4 1.3GHz processor with 256MB of RAM, with a dual partition set up to run Windows 98 and XP Professional, and an identical workstation running only Windows 2000. Among other tests, we transferred the contents of a 10GB hard disk between the computers several times and deliberately deleted partitions using an option in DriveCleanser, then we brought them back through RecoveryExpert. The overall performance was solid.
Power Utilities ships with a serviceable printed manual that covers four of the five products. The manual for the "bonus program" announced on the box, RecoveryExpert, exists only as a PDF file on your hard drive. The user guides installed along with each program are sometimes similar to the manual, as in the case of MigrateEasy, and sometimes provide a great deal more specific and helpful information, as it does for PrivacyExpert.
Accessing help within each of the programs links to Acronis's online tech support, which contains some generalized FAQs and the user guides that you already have. We'd prefer integrated offline support, in case your Net connection is down. Fortunately, most operations in Power Utilities are self-explanatory. If you have tech questions for Acronis, you must pose them via e-mail. Tech response is good, in our experience, usually answering within 24 to 48 hours. But there is no phone support--bad luck for you if something goes wrong while partitioning a hard drive and you need immediate help.
Despite its all-in-one attempt at bundling apps, the average user will not need four of the five programs in Acronis Power Utilities 2003 (RecoveryExpert, DriveCleanser, DiskEditor, and MigrateEasy). For a complete, integrated suite of Windows utilities, get Norton SystemWorks 2003. Or just spend $30 for the standalone Acronis PrivacyExpert, which we found to be a handy utility for any level of user.
You can schedule PrivacyExpert to run unattended at specific times. Unfortunately, this feature isn't password-protected.