Friday, 31 July 2009

Symantec's Norton Ghost - not the experience I had hoped for

I recently bought a new laptop (64bit Vista. Brave or stupid?) and it took me a very long time to install and configure everything I needed, simply because of the amount of tools I need. This prompted me to do something I've been meaning to do for ages: sort out a disk backup/recovery system so if ever it fails on me, or I drop it, or it gets nicked, I can restore it to pretty much the same state without losing a whole week of my life.

Now, I could have spent some time researching the options and I'm sure there are some OK open source solutions out there, but I figured for £40 I could save time, and I couldn't go wrong with Norton Ghost, from Symantec. A big name with a huge B2C paying customer base must have a slick, intuitive, bomb-proof solution, right? You'd have thought so.

Installation went well, but my first problem arose when the product first ran. Simultaneously I was launched into two different interfaces and processes - the easy startup interface and the Live Update tool, which checks for and installs product updates. This did indeed find a product update for my newly-installed software, and attempted to install it, but the following happened:

From this point onwards I couldn't run Norton Ghost without watching Windows desperately loop in circles telling me to wait 'while Windows configures Norton Ghost' and that the functionality I was requesting wasn't available in the file C://God Knows Where/Tmp/Completely Random Place/Blah blah blah/NGhost14.msi.

So I sought help from the website, downloaded and ran the removal tool as advised, and started again.

After installing again, I chose not to run Live Update this time as it gave me problems last time. This turned out to be a mistake, as several reasonably lengthy attempts to perform a backup resulted in the following non-descript problems. Interestingly, clicking on the 'more help on the web' link did absolutely nothing.

Only later through despair did I try running Live Update again. This time it worked and updated my newly installed version of Ghost. And, lo and behold, the next time I tried a backup, it worked.

So for my next do I test the recovery process? Do I really want to practise a full disk recovery? Or, conversely, after my experiences so far do I really want to put my faith in it only to find out it doesn't work just when it really matters? hmmmmm.

I'll look into this, but assuming it works ok I think £40 for this little lot is a good deal.

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