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Ghost or Acronis

I don't want to spend more on less :) I realise a disk imaging software is a very good idea, but it's my first time to get one, and I need to decide SOON.
as a n00b, I want something that is simple to use - but I am also not TOO dumb, so I don't want it to be crap either.
Norton or Acronis?
I need to alter my partitions, make an image, and do backups - I think. Most importantly - I want a good - easy to restore image.
I want to do the image after I have installed all my 3rd party software, and set up my mail accounts and signatures and everything?
What is sysprep?

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4 Solutions
Hedley PhillipsOwnerCommented:
We use Ghost and are faily happy with it. We Ghost a few desktops at work on a weekly basis and I also use Ghost to create a default system that I use to 'create' new desktops.

The whole restore image procedure takes 45 minutes and that is from a barebones machine to fully installed and working with all the applications and programs (new patches need to be applied after this).

The only gotcha is that after restoring the image the computer will no longer log on to the domain as its secuirty identifier (SID) is now different. This is fixed by just logging off the domain, joining a workgroup and then rebooting and leaving the workgroup and joining a domain.

Job done.

Sysprep: Allows you to produce a PC from an image inthe same way that Dell or HP do. When you boot it up for the first time it finalises the install and you get to change all the locale settings etc.

We don't bother with this, just resore the image, join the domain and hand the pc to a member of staff.
Both Norton Ghost and Acronis are good vendors, but people like Acronis better. I think, depending what you need, for home use or work? Home use, you can get free clone software such as DriveImage XML and it is fairly easy to use.
There are more out there as well.
Joseph DalyCommented:
We currently use ghost for this process. Ghost has the ability to take an image of the machine in whatever state you like. As you mentioned you would like to add your 3rd party apps etc. Ghost can do this and can push the image out to 1 or 1000 machines. It is very simple to create and deploy an image as well as make updates to an existing image.  If you buy the ghost solution suite you also get a product from symantec that is similar to sms which can be used to push out software to your machines.

Sysprep is a utility from ms which lets you take a system that you are about to image and clears off machine specific information for it. This is so that you do not have multiple machines with the same SID etc.
A little more information on sysprep.

I have also used acronis but not for imaging we used it for creating archive images of a laptop for legal reasons. I really cant go into too much detail on the acronis image creation.
If you just want to do PC imaging, Symantec Ghost is very good. If you want to do ongoing image backups, then Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery is excellent, there is a Desktop edition and a Server edition depending on your needs. Acronis also has excellent products for this: TrueImage Echo Workstation and Server. Either Symantec or Acronis would be excellent choices. Both have 30 day trial versions available. I would try each one and get price quotes, then select the one you like.
Sysprep is the program you use if you are going to create a gold master image and deploy it more than once. You would create your image, apply all your updates, install all your software, configure all your preferred settings, then run sysprep to prepare the image for re-deployment. Among other things, you need to run sysprep if you are deploying a single image to multiple computers because it creates a new SID (Security Identifier) for each new image. A unique SID is important on a networked PC to avoid conflicts on the network.
steviedeehookAuthor Commented:
I think I am leaning more to wards acronis.
If I need to image all the PCs on my network, just for convenience with maintainence, do I need a licence for each one?
Yes, Symantec and Acronis require a license for each PC you wish to image and/or backup.
steviedeehookAuthor Commented:
I have use Symantec backup exec on servers at work and I absolutely hated it - I also hated symantec antivirus - there are still PCS at work that I can not get it off of.
If norton ghost is al all similar to those - I want to run a mile!
I likes Norton AV - before symantec took it over. :)
I'm firmly in the Acronis Camp - its much slicker and works for me! - there are also site licences available - check out the Acronis web site.
steviedeehookAuthor Commented:
OK, and what do I use to backup my files, settings and software that I want to keep before I format and reinstall to make my "fresh" copy that I will image?
Windows backup is more than adiquate - or just to a copy to another drive
steviedeehookAuthor Commented:
Will it keep software installation, activation and registration info?

I've been happy with DriveSnapShot.

Justin OwensITIL Problem ManagerCommented:
You asked, "Will it keep software installation, activation and registration info?"
Windows backup will keep the info on the computer, yes.  Honestly, if you are imaging in a network environment, though, you should become familiar with the sysprep process.  It pulls specific info out of the comptuer so you don't run into licensing issues.  I would also remove the machine from the domain before I created the image, because it just seems easier to add it after an image is preformed when done that way.  You don't run into the SID issue.  Sysprep also lets you specify driver location info so you can use a more "generic" image on multiple hardware types (different vendors, makes, models, hardware loads, etc).
I've been using acronis at home, but at work we use ghost for all our clients without any issues. ghost is probably one of their only good products left.
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
Have a look on Paragon Drive Backup 9.0 www.drive-backup.com
There is fully functional 30days trial version. It is cheap and reliable solution for home and corporate users.
We are using it for more than one year and it helped many times already to recover to working state in flawless way. Worth to be paid its price.
In answer to "OK, and what do I use to backup my files, settings and software that I want to keep before I format and reinstall to make my "fresh" copy that I will image?"

You can use the Windows "Files and Settings Transfer Wizard" under Start Menu, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. You can also use Acronis TrueImage Echo for before and after image backups. You can extract files you need from the before image.
Like TCB1 said, Drive Snapshot.
There isn't a better, smaller and easier to use program than this puppy.
It will make a copy of your system on the fly.
Bare metal restores (by booting from a DOS or BartPE CD or floppy).
Individual file restores by setting up a Virtual Drive that you can explore and copy and paste individual files from.
Retains ALL settings, all license keys, everything.
Absolutely wonderful.

I've used ghost.  It has it's uses.
But you can't use it from Windows.  It needs to boot from a Ghost Boot CD or Floppy to make an image to another drive.
You can't pull individual files from a Ghost image.  At least not the version that I used to use.
You can't do it while the machine is running Windows.
You can't run differential backups with Ghost.
You can't use it as your "backup" program - unless you figure out a way of booting to a bootable CD on a nightly basis and running a script.

You can do all these things with Drive Snapshot.
Free 30 day trial.

Nothing better than free.
Bonus when it works better than anything you could pay $$ for:

You would want to use sysprep in pretty well only one situation.
You have a lot of machines that have the exact same hardware.
We used ghost and sysprep in a 30+ workstation environment.
We did this with brand new DELL computers.
Installed ALL the software that would be common to the greatest number of users.
Did everything except one thing.
Activate or touch Office.
We kept away from office until AFTER sysprep, as Sysprep only zeroes out the Windows OS licensing (I believe).
Then removed the pc from the domain.
Ran sysprep.
Booted up to Ghost.
Manually removed the pagefile from the C: drive (no need to image a temp file - it gets recreated after restarting the OS).
Used Ghost to create an image of the drive.

Now because we had 30+ pcs identical in hardware, we then copied the image files over the network, to each pc's 2nd onboard hard drive.  Once each pc had the image, we simply walked a Ghost CD around to each one and reimaged the C: drive with the master image from D: drive.  Started the PC up, re-entered the XP License key, joined it to the domain, named the computer and we had 30 identical workstations up in a fraction of the time it would have taken to install the software on each of them.
Free. Rock solid. Fast.
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