Ghost in the machine: Kiwi product materialises in new-generation Norton

The Norton product performs more than twice as fast as Ghost 9.0

Backup and PC-cloning utility Ghost was one of New Zealand’s software triumphs — it was taken up by Symantec, for worldwide sale as Norton Ghost.

Symantec acquired the product in 1998, by spending $US27.5 million to buy all the assets of its Auckland developer Binary Research

It was with a tinge of regret then that this reviewer spied the Ghost name buried in a footnote on the packaging of the new-generation Ghost-10.0-based consumer product, Norton Save & Restore.

The product does, however, add a few significant capabilities, by allowing more flexibility in defining what gets backed up. An intuitive tick-the-box user interface provides for backup of every file of a particular type (video files, for example) or for individual files to be nominated for inclusion. Flagging high priorities was a simple matter of ticking the MyDocuments folder, including sub-folders (a standard option), then individually naming the email in- and out-boxes, index tables and attachments folder. That essential backup once a day, and a complete hard-disk backup once a week, meets my needs as a domestic and small home-business user, although I might want to schedule both a little more often in my role as journalist.

The Norton product performs more than twice as fast as Ghost 9.0, my last iteration of that package, although a strict apples-for-apples comparison proved impossible, as Symantec wanted me to de-install Ghost before I could install Save & Restore. Rather than mess about reinstalling, or trying to hide the programs from each other in separate partitions, I ran them on two different PCs, so Save & Restore had a less full hard disk to cope with.

Save & Restore provides an incremental backup option, which, naturally, happens in a few seconds after an average day’s work. Full backup, of 12.4 GB, took nine-and-a-half minutes, compared with Ghost 9.0’s nearly 30 minutes for the 19.9 GB on the other PC. “Restore” of specific deleted documents was immediate, smooth and easy to work, in terms of the user interface.

The product does drag other applications’ performance down during a full backup, but a slide-control is provided to allocate less processor time to backup so other work runs at an acceptable speed. Alternatively, you could just take a break or do paperwork while the product does its job.

During installation the product asks you to validate your hardware against the database of drivers stored on the Symantec recovery disc. This is a nice touch because if you should ever need to boot directly from the Save & Restore disc, you’ll know your peripherals will work.

A not-so-friendly touch is the bundling of Save & Restore with a facility that checks your system for other Symantec products considered essential then nags you about the lack of them until you find the switch to turn the annoying thing off.

This nagger has been criticised as a marketing exercise in demeaning rival products, but, in my case, the Norton scan failed to recognise a Symantec anti-virus product and flashed up repeated obtrusive warnings accusing me of having no virus protection.

There really should be a fix for this or else an option that could be politely described as a “You’re wrong; go away” button.

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