Acronis Backup & Recovery stores and recovers drives, partitions, folders, and files in more different ways than any other software I've ever seen, and, if you're willing to learn to navigate its complex menus and obscure options, you may never want anything else. I'm deeply impressed by its corporate-level power and versatility, by its ability to back up and restore anything from individual files to images of whole drives, and to back up to any imaginable location. I'm less impressed by its interface and ease of use, but its power and range are enough to make it our Editors' Choice for local backup software. That doesn't mean it's perfect, and you'll find plenty of complaints about it in the rest of this review, but it's the one backup app that has all the features needed for today's hardware and software, and, as a bonus, it has a distinct speed advantage over its rivals.
Installation and Getting Started
You'll get an idea of Acronis's range of features when you watch it being installed, and adding command-line tools and background services together with the main application and an emergency-disk builder utility. And you get an idea of the technical savvy that went into the program when you find that, unlike most other backup apps, Acronis doesn't require you to reboot after installing. When you first start up the app, it prompts you to create emergency boot media, a process that presents you with many expert-level options to choose among, including the options to create 64-bit media with up-to-date UEFI boot-loader support or traditional 32-bit media for widest compatibility with older systems. The Backup & Recovery app itself has a spacious clean-looking interface, but I found that the clean look tended to mask the often confusing details behind it.
Like Paragon Backup & Recovery, Acronis supports backups on local disks, network locations, FTP and SFT servers, but Acronis, unlike Paragon, also offers its own proprietary online backup service. The online service offers a 60-day free trial so you can test whether you like it before paying for it. I thought I had enough experience with online services to set up an online backup to Acronis's service without reading the downloadable manual for the service, but after two or three failed attempts to setup an online backup job, I gave in and downloaded the manual, as Acronis had recommended, and I think you should too, because Acronis's interface doesn't make things easy.
Instead of managing the whole process by following links from a single dialog box with a clear workflow to follow, I had to go to one dialog where I created an online "Vault" and then navigate to a different dialog where I could, after some effort, set up that Vault as a destination for a backup job. It would have made more sense to let me create a Vault as part of the same process of creating a backup job, but that wasn't an option. Fortunately, it's much simpler to create a backup job that saves the backup to a local or network disk?you specify the backup location from the same menu where you set up all the other details of the job.
When selecting partitions or folders that I wanted to back up, I had to work my way through menus that were sometimes less informative than they could have been. For example, my desktop machine uses an SSD for its boot drive, a traditional disk for data partitions, and a USB 3.0-attached disk for local backups, but Acronis's main "What to backup" menu listed them only as Disk 1, Disk 2, Disk 3, without even showing their manufacturer or part number so that I could guess which was which. Worse, if I wanted to see what was on each disk, I couldn't simply click on the disk name. Instead, I had to click a separate "Items to back up?" item that opened a two-pane tree-structured list of partitions, folders, and files on each.
This tree-structured list of partitions, folders, and files caused some problems of its own. For example, if I wanted to select individual files to back up or restore within a folder, I couldn't simply click the folder name in the right pane of the two-pane interface. I had to find the same folder in the left pane and click on it there before the right-pane would show a list of files. I know that other apps use a similar interface, but Windows Explorer doesn't force you to switch between panes when you want to view the contents of a folder.