When you’re next looking for a backup program then you could try to save money by opting for the free version of a commercial tool – but that’s often a mistake. Many have key functions stripped out, and annoying nag screens added in an effort to persuade you to upgrade.
Fortunately there are a few exceptions, though, and ActiveImage Protector’s free Personal Edition is one of the best. It’s strictly for home users only, but if that’s not a problem then you’ll find it packed with useful functions and features.
The program will quickly create images of the drive or partition you specify, for instance. The resulting image file can be password-protected, compressed and encrypted, and saved to the local, external or network drive of your choice.
A comprehensive scheduler then allows you to choose exactly when you’d like to run full or incremental backups. Support for Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Service allows the program to back up some files, even if they’re open. While a handy Network Throttle option can restrict bandwidth use to ensure ActiveImage Protector doesn’t grind your network to a halt when it’s running.
And once everything is done, you can either mount images as virtual drives in Explorer to restore selected files and folders, or boot from the program’s CentOS-based recovery environment to restore an entire drive image in one operation.
So what’s been left out of the free version? You don’t get live phone tech support, unsurprisingly. The Personal Edition is also lacking a few network options, though nothing you’re likely to notice. And you don’t get the option of using a Windows PE recovery disc, which is available with the commercial version of the program. But this isn’t likely to be a problem, either: even if you’ve never tried Linux before, CentOS is easy enough to use that it only takes a moment to figure out what you need to do (though it would be wise to boot from the disc early on, and check that for yourself).
There are still a couple of issues with the package. The inclusion of the recovery environment makes it a huge download, for example – over 500MB. And you have to provide your name and email address within 15 days to activate the program. But if that doesn’t bother you, then give ActiveImage Protector Personal Edition a try: packed with features, yet still easy to use, it’s one of the best backup freebies from a commercial company that we’ve seen.