Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Making a Full Backup using Acronis TrueImage

Now that we’ve both installed Acronis True Image and created rescue media we can move on to actually backing up.

Our first effort will be a simple full backup of the machine.


This type of full backup is the “snapshot” backup you might take prior to doing something questionable – it’s this backup you’d then be able to revert to in case something goes wrong.

(Downloadable mp4 – 8,707,038 bytes)
(Downloadable wmv – 3,843,491 bytes)


This is Leo Notenboom for

Now that we’ve installed Acronis and we’ve created our Rescue Media disk, it’s time to make a full backup.

To do that, we’ll click on backup.

We’ll click on my computer since we are going to create an image of the entire disk.

The disk we’re backing up is the C drive.

We’re going to create a new backup archive.

The default location that Acronis gave us is actually a bad idea, it’s actually backing up to the drive you are backing up.

So we’re going to specify a different drive.

And a name.

That drive can be a network location, as I’m using here, it can be an external USB drive, or whatever.

We’re not going to schedule a backup.

This is a full backup, in other words, we’re backing up absolutely everything.

We’re not going to exclude any files.

We’re going to change one option. I happen to like keeping the compression to its maximum.

It takes a little bit longer, but not much.

We’re not going to place any comments on this backup.

Here’s the summary of what we’re about to do.

And we’ll tell Acronis to go ahead and do it.

Now the initial estimate of the amount of time it’s going to take is actually going to be way off.

It’s probably going to be around an hour and a half or so.

In reality, this particular backup which turns out to be about ten megabytes after it’s all done – I’m sorry, ten gigabytes after it’s all done, will probably take about ten or 15 minutes.

In reality, this backup took about 25 minutes.

Your speed, of course, will vary depending on how fast your drives are or how fast your network connection is and, of course, how much you’re actually backing up.

And, that’s it.

We now have a full backup of this particular machine.

We can take a look at it in Windows Explorer and we’ll see demo backup, the file I just created, and that it’s actually 4 and a half gigabytes in size.

Now this was interesting to create a full backup manually all at once and that comes in handy from time to time.

But the real power, of course, is to be able to schedule those backups, both a full backup and, what we’ll call, an incremental backup.

That video is next.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

19 comments on “Making a Full Backup using Acronis TrueImage”

  1. I use Acronis and have always wondered whether (how) it can make a full backup of a Windows machine when Windows is running. Aren’t there file locks? And what about the verify of the backup (which I always run)… if the OS is running, won’t there be system files that have changed during the backup?

    I’m not certain about the validation step, but when you install Acronis is does install low-level drivers that have access to all files, in use or not. (That’s typically why you have to be admin to install it.)


  2. Leo, I’d appreciate your comments on an alternate way of creating a full disk backup of the system drive (OS: WinXP Pro, SP3).

    I use _Paragon Disk Copy 8_ to generate a full disk copy of my C: drive (the boot drive) to my D: drive (an identical drive, which is installed as a slave). When the disk copy is done, I have two identical, bootable drives — but of course only the C: drive is currently bootable. The D: (slave) drive is there as just another drive, and it can be written to or read from normally, and it has all the data, down to the last byte that was on the C: drive at the time the drive copy was made. If my C: drive ever crashes or is trashed, all I have to do is remove it from the PC, switch over the slave drive (after jumpering it as master) and boot into Windows normally. I would then either replace the trashed C: drive, or reformat and reinstall it if it is working order.

    Can you see anything wrong with that procedure?

    Frank D

    Not really, it’s a fairly reasonable approach. The biggest risk is that your backup is live and inside your system – meaning that if your system suffers physical trauma or theft, it’s gone. Also, like an always connected external drive, if some rouge process goes out and starts deleting (or infecting) things it has access to the backup as well.

  3. What is the difference between a full backup and cloning a disc?

    There’s no specific definitions that everyone agrees on, but in a nutshell: a backup is file-by-file, and a clone is sector-by-sector. When you restore a backup, the files may be laid out differently, perhaps even defragmented as a side effect. A clone typically puts every sector, used or not, back into the exact same location. Sometimes a clone will only work on the exact same size drive.


  4. What to do if i replace motherboard ?
    Can i use the backup which i have made before replacing the motherboard ?

    If you keep the old hard drive, then you have no need for the backup. If the hard drive works, then the backup is unnecessary, and if the hard drive doesn’t work (because new software is required) then the backup would also not work for the same reasons. (Though you would still be able to restore files from it after you have your system working again.)


  5. I have the same question as Michael Hersh. I have Acronis ver. 9 and I periodically create a clone of my C-drive on to a separate drive called D. This process is similar to what Frank D does with Paragon Disk Copy 8. If the C-drive crashes for some reason, I just manually put the D-drive in place of the crashed C-drive then switch jumpers and BINGO I am back in business.

    Is this what you are discribing or am I doing something different?

  6. @Thomas

    Every Single Windows File can be Accessed. Windows has a nifty feature called SFC, short for Shadow File Copy. What it essentially does is “pauses” the file that is running and copies it “on the fly” so that you dont notice that the file isnt in use. From memory, this can only be done by the SYSTEM account, hence why you cant do it. Also, any system files that change during the backup will simply contain stuff about what the pc needs to do next and is regenerated each time the pc boots.

    @Michael Hersh

    A full backup copies each file of the pc and maintains te directory structure when it saves it. A clone is an EXACT copy of the harddrive including any free space. It copies every sector exactly as they appear so when you restore a clone, it will even format the drive to exactly the same size if you wish. The freespace doesn’t take up any extra room as the clone has a file that says “these sectors are to be left empty”. A clone is by far the best solution as you wont have to reactivate windows, unless you restore it to a different pc, whether you often have to reactivate windwows when you restore a backup of files.

    Also, when you do a backup of files it is INSECURE. When you install Windows, it locks down the HDD sectors for certain system files so that they cannot be touched. When you do a backup restore, you lose those protected sectors. A clone does not suffer this problem.

    To see what I mean, open disk de-fragmenter and analyse the Windows partition. You will see that there are sections in green that cannot be touched.

    I disagree with the “insecure” comment. The very system-level copy operation you mention above applies to the files you claim can’t be touched. Even if it did, it’s not an issue of security at all, but simply the completeness of the backup.

  7. I’m coming in in the middle here but does all this work with Vista or just XP?

    XP and Vista. In fact, the video was recorded using Windows 7, so that’s on the list as well.


  8. Hey Leo~I’am a newbie to your site,yet find it most helpful,for all types of users~very educational as well~in laymens english too~Super-duper!! This last series is great,a very well written set of instructions for creating reliable backup(s) of our collective systems~which,we all know by now~is a must-do..Call it “insurance” for Windows*!!* Can’t wait to get your next installment on this series…”incremental backups”..Thanks for all the great work~Leo,and the time you give~to all of us!! especially for us newbie-geeks!!~~Cheers~Brian,west la~

  9. Leo~I almost forgot : Once the bootable media is created,and the backup is done {full b-up Acronis},how/what is the correct way to put the two together??~my backup will be slightly large than 4.7G-th max for DVD media{I believe??} it looks like I will have to backup my system {XP Pro SP3} to my external hdd,or a notebook hdd,and I want it to be bootable~in case my laptop {CF-51 ToughBook!!} one day decides NOT to boot-up..’cause we all know~you can’t burn meat~without fire*!!* I would appreciate any help/comments..and will patiently await for your professional opinion/advice on this matter~which is quite probably a simple oversight on my part~or something I have missed!! Sincerely,Brian Hall,west la~A Really Big Fan of Leo’s*!!*

  10. Honestly, I can’t understand why you’re such a fan of Acronis, it has only ever given me trouble (corrupt images and having to buy plugins to restore when I already dropped money on what I *thought* was a complete disaster recovery solution).

    That being said, I switched to StorageCraft ShadowProtect ( a while back. It does what I need and what it says on the box: an all-in-one app that backs-up and restores, even to new or different hardware. And it’s bloody fast…

  11. I tried acronis and found it impossible to restore
    after a disk crash. Then I tried ‘true image’ and had another crash. OK but took forever to restore. Then I went KISS – keep it simple, stupid. I used Karens Power tools [ free ] and used Power tools Replicator to back up the whole HD [ accept running critical program elements – like shell ] This was not a problem because when my disk next crashed, I simple reinstalled XP – selecting ‘REPAIR’ as the option then wrote over the install with all the files I had copied – docos, REGISTRY, programs etc. BINGO!!
    I had the whole system back without a hic-cup or a by your leave and in record time [ 60 minutes ].
    I now can back up the whole drive o’nite and in lightening speed. Works for me and I’ve tried the lot

  12. You are talking with ref to the AcronisTrue Image and I am a little confused now , WHYbecause there is BACK-UPin the windows programme IE:-

    Windows backup is woefully inadequate, and has been for years. Windows 7’s backup program has been improved significantly, and I’ll be reviewing it in the future.


  13. I have used Acronis 9, 10, 11, and now on my third Build of Acronis True Image Home 2009. I have tested 13 other backup programs and the only one that works without errors is Acronis. I do a full backup of my laptop (Vista) and desktop (XP Prof.) to one of my four external hard drives each week. If you are not running a business you have no need for incremental backups. Stay away from them as they just confuse the issue. I have tested thousands of new programs and have lost my systems 15 times in the past two and a half years. I have done 15 restores with Acronis and haven’t lost a file. One thing must be done however; each time you update to a new Build of Acronis you must create new Recovery Disks. For those of you who have had problems with Acronis, all I can say is, you have done something wrong. You are trying to do backups with a corrupt installation or you are just missing the boat somewhere. Acronis is the greatest and has saved me more times than I have fingers and toes. I also highly recommend that you activate Acronis Startup Recovery Manager and establish an Acronis Secure Zone as an added precaution in the recovery process. Good luck, I have had a lot of it with Acronis.

  14. I haven’t used this particular backup program, the IT dept. uses it on site, but I have used the backup which came with DOS6.x and more recently Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR) 6.52; (The current version is 8.x);
    Both the DOS/Win3.1x and BESR 6.52 backup have saved my bacon but for different reasons;
    I used the DOS/Win3.1x backup numerous times to upgrade the old machine’s HDD to bigger disks or for repartitioning;
    More recently with XP I had a botched program install (McAfee to be precise) requiring a restore,
    What backup programs usually call ability to restore to different hardware is something like “Bare Metal Recovery” and Symantec call their application Restore Anyware;
    I always make my backup images with “Restore Anyware enabled;
    From what I understand, MS’s policy is:

    “any hardware upgrade except New Mother Board is still the same PC, change the Mother Board and it’s a New PC requiring a new copy of Windows”

    even if the MB is the same make, model, year, and BIOS rev. the hard disk from the old system won’t necessarily be able to boot the new board without Windows asking for the COA or at the very least activation,
    but an image restored using a backup program that can do bare metal recovery with the option to remove the old MB drivers and add the new drivers for the new system on the fly will in most cases be able to boot the system, whether or not you get the activate windows prompt or are asked to re enter your COA key to continue depends on the program and system restored to,
    when I restored my XP system after the botched McAfee install it was to the the exact same system, with the only difference being I took the opportunity to change the partition layout of the C:\ drive and I wasn’t asked for activation or to enter the COA key.

  15. Hi Leo,
    When creating a full backup, I used the DVD+R media and it required 2 DVDs. I am now creating an incremental backup and using the 2nd DVD to store the file (as there is quite a bit of space left on the media). At the end of the backup process (which took about 3 minutes, as there were very few changes), the Software performs a validity check of the backup. This is very important, however, it requests that I place the first volume in the drive as it seems to be performing this check on the first full backup as well as on the incremental one. Is it possible to avoid this redundant check, as it was performed once during the full backup process? All I need now is to perform it on the incremental part.

    As always, your help would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Leo, when you say Acronis backs up everything, does that include actual programs such as Word, Excel, etc.? And how about programs I’ve downloaded myself such as Skype or Adobe or Finjan, etc.? Or is it possible to only backup files I have created? Please clarify for this non-tech user that I am. Thank you.

    You can configure Acronis to do either: all files, including the operating system and all programs, or only the files and folders you specify.


  17. Hi Leo, check out PING 3 software it copies your hard drive image even over the network, and its free-but the guys work hard to create such a good product so we (donate) the price of a latte.

  18. I have one problem with Acronis – the backup countdown timer – it hardly ever works – and it is extremely frustrating to me.
    I would give a lot to know what the fix is, this has occurred using version 11-12-13 – doesn’t matter. And it’s on 6 diferent PC’s. HELP!!


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.