Sep
08
2013

[Review] Aomei Backupper 1.6

Even as more people move more of their work and personal life to the internet – to take advantage of easy availability on any computer, collaborative (working together) features or just to let them store more on their own computers – local storage is never going to completely die. There comes a time when files simply HAVE to be stored on your own drives – after all, computers aren't designed yet to use the internet exclusively for everything they do (unless you count Google Chrome OS); and internet connections aren't always available, online servers can go down, etc. It's always a smart idea, therefore, to keep your own backups on technology you own. And if you need a tool that can help you back up and restore whole disks or partitions, locally or to a networked computer, Aomei Backupper could be just the ticket. But is it any good?

For the purposes of this review, I decided to try the Windows 7 version of Aomei Backupper. Backupper has since v1.1 been available in two editions – the regular edition, simply known as "AOMEI Backupper", supports all versions of Windows starting from XP or Server 2003, but is larger and less optimized for modern systems. There is also "AOMEI Backupper For Win7", which is smaller but which ONLY works on Windows 7, 8 and Server 2008 or 2012. Both versions are functionally identical, so the version you use shouldn't change the facts presented in this review; although performance may vary.

Full Review

Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)Many of you may recognise Aomei Backupper, since it's been covered on Technically Motivated before, having been part of an Aomei Christmas Giveaway we announced last year, while just a few months ago we discussed the release of 1.1.1 and the product's slight name change. With 1.5 releasing only a little while ago and an even more recent 1.6 adding further features and bug fixes, I decided it was time for an in-depth review of the latest release to cover the software as a whole.

After a brief loading screen (complete with a very cute and friendly, if unusually phrased message of "It is loading, please wait…"), the first thing that will strike you is how simple, yet rather stylish its interface is; consisting of a dark-blue background and light blue foreground that's easy to read. The menu is placed to the left; with just four small links at the top for things like settings and help. The Aomei Backupper window is compact, but large enough to give space to everything on screen and keep it all legible without looking cluttered. However, there's no option to resize if you feel it to be too small.

From the very beginning, Backupper lets you get straight to business. If you've made backups with the tool before, Backupper's Home Screen (also called the Backup Management screen) lists all your existing backups, showing their name and the time of the backup; otherwise you'll be prompted to do a backup for the first time. You can filter the Home page to only show backups created this day, this week, this month or on a date you choose, if you find seeing all of them at once too distracting – however, Aomei's clear non-English background becomes very apparent here, with the options confusingly described as "Newly Day", "Newly Week" etc. When you have backups showing on this page, Backupper provides a button on each to restore them quickly; and two more buttons revealing menus to update the backups or manage them – we'll get back to these later.

Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)Performing a new Backup is possible two ways – either click "New Backup" on the home screen, or click "Backup" on the left side menu. This takes you to the Backup page, where you'll be asked for the type of backup you'd like to do. Aomei Backupper is designed to backup disks or whole systems rather than individual files; to this end, three methods of backup are available. The first, "Disk Backup", lets you backup an entire Disk – which can be a Hard Drive, SSD, USB Stick, SD Card or whatever – making copies of everything stored on them; and is probably the tool most useful for the typical user. The second option, "Partition Backup", is really only for experts who like to split their disks into several drives – it lets you back up one partition without backing up the entire disk; so is least likely to be used by a general user. The final backup option is a System Backup, which only backs up your system drive – i.e. what you need to run your computer.

Share Network/NAS Device ManagementBackupper 1.6's main new feature is that backups can now be saved to Network Attached Storage, meaning you can now backup not just to your own computer, but to others connected to it. This requires you know the network path and, if needed, any login details required to access the share, but if networked storage is of any use to you, these are details you likely know already; and setting up shares and accessing them is just a case of clicking "Share/NAS Device" in the location window, which presents you with a very self-explanatory window (shown left) to connect to or add new shares.

Schedule Backup Settings

Another, slightly less new (having actually been introduced in v1.5) but equally useful feature is Scheduling: backups can be scheduled to be performed automatically – at times you decide – without you ever having to lift a finger again. While setting up a backup, clicking "Schedule Off" lets you define a schedule to perform this backup automatically at certain times. Scheduling can be done every day, on specific days of the week, or monthly and set-up is very straightforward, which will be a boost to those looking to have a regular backup routine without any complicated steps.

 

Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)To test Backupper's performance at doing Backups, I put it through its paces by backing up an 81.3GB System Drive. At default settings, Backupper took 45 minutes to finish the job; and the backup file created was 43.6GB large. At just over 50% of the original size (53.63%), Aomei's compression level is fairly impressive; and I personally found the pace to be very reasonable – but performance will of course be affected by the size and speed of your drives, so your own mileage may vary. The speed or size can be further improved by changing the compression rate, which you can do by clicking "Backup Options" while setting up a backup, or via the "Setting" option that's permanently at the top of the window. Backupper provides "Normal" and "High" compression options – with High making files smaller at the expense of taking much longer to complete – or you can turn off compression completely for fast (but BIG) backups. Other options in "Setting" include splitting backups into multiple smaller files, whether to use "Intelligent Sector" – which keeps unused space out of backups to reduce their size – and whether to enable Windows' Volume Shadow Service to let you work as you backup; "Backup Options" adds to this the ability to encrypt the current backup with a password. A point of note is while changing the Settings under "Setting" affects all future backups, "Backup Options" only affects the backup being made/edited, unless you choose to tick "Would you like to save to global settings?" at the bottom of the settings window.

While performing a backup, Backupper will show a straightforward progress page, with percentage-labelled bars showing how far along the backup is, a detailed summary of what's going on and just two additional options: To shutdown the computer once the backup completes, or to cancel the backup. All in all, the process is very straightforward.

Just like the Home page, The "Restore" page presents you with a list of all the backups Aomei Backupper has performed since it was installed, however this time presented in a list format. Additionally you can supply a backup image if for some reason, a backup you wish to restore does not appear on the list. You can also restore a backup directly by clicking its "Restore" button on the Home Screen, so let's go back to that. With backups on the Home Screen, you have full ability to manage them using the buttons that appear when they are hovered over. Clicking "Backup" on a Backup lets you use the same settings to perform a new Full Backup, or change the existing backup by either making an "Incremental Backup", which is a second backup containing whatever wasn't in the first; or a "Differential" Backup which only changes what actually changed since the last backup, saving the time of doing it all over again. This introduces the other new feature of Aomei Backupper 1.6: Incremental and Differential backups can be given comments. What purpose this serves, however, eludes me. Under "Advanced", you'll find options to Delete a backup, check to make sure it hasn't gotten broken ("Check Image"), set up or change a Schedule, go to where the backup is ("Locate Image"), or view properties. There's also an option to look inside the backup to see what it contains "Explore Image", which is very useful.

Under "Utilities", you'll find the same Check and Explore options we just mentioned; as well as an option to create Bootable Media. This lets you create an emergency disk that you can use to restore backups even if you can't boot into your computer any more, so you always have the means to restore your system or get to your files if the worst comes to pass. Unusually for a free Backup utility, Backupper will create WinPE boot disks as well as Linux disks – which is a major plus point. One final option Aomei Backupper offers is the ability to "Clone" drives and partitions, basically making an exact copy of one drive/partition to save to another. Sadly, I didn't have time to test this prior to this review.

Aomei Backupper 1.6 takes no system resources while running but not performing backups. While a backup IS in progress, the software's CPU usage tends to hover around the 30-40% mark (tested on a dual-core, 1.65GHz processor); but occasionally spikes or falls sharply. You probably won't want to do high-intensity tasks while performing a backup; but continuing business in Microsoft Office or a similar medium-intense task while it runs should be perfectly fine.

Conclusion

Aomei Backupper 1.6 makes for a mostly straightforward tool for backing up whole disks, partitions or system drives – though some dodgy translation issues affect your understanding of certain options. Performance is reasonable, with backups having decent speed and good compression; and an acceptable level of resource usage during a backup. However, where the tool really shines is its ability to save to Network Attached Storage and create WinPE boot disks… all for free. If you want a strong disk backup tool which is capable and schedule-able, but for no money, Aomei Backupper should be high on your list.

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