Updated: June 26, 2017
I was approached by AOMEI staff, asked if I could review Backupper, a for-Windows backup & restore suite, capable of system imaging and cloning, file sync and replication, designed to be simple and intuitive to use even by non-experts. Sound like a fair deal, so I added the program to my uber-long writing queue, and many weeks later, here we are.
AOMEI Backupper has a funny but noticeable name, and it comes in three flavors, including the free Standard edition, a USD49.95 Pro license, and then the much more expensive server and technician editions. Life-time upgrades roughly double the cost. I decided to evaluate the free offering at first, and then see if the professional leveling up merits the cost hike. Let us begin. Program version 4.0.2, for those asking.
Installation and setup
Very simple. Click next next next, and soon enough, you will have the program up and running. The GUI is nice, but I did not like the transparency, as it makes the wallpaper intrude into the workspace, creating an unnecessary distraction. Likewise, when you open sub-menus, they overlap with the background. If the dev team is keen on pretty, they should allow users to tweak transparency.
Settings and features
Before doing any backups, I decided to see what the program can actually do. In terms of raw capabilities, it seems very similar to Acronis True Image, including the layout and the options. The main focus is on system imaging, so you can set compression, split created backups into smaller files so they fit on CD or DVD, configure notifications, and more. You can also choose between using VSS or the program's proprietary volume shadow copy snapshotting service, which allows you to take images of the running system in-vivo.
I started with the simple test first. I created a task, and it ran well. However, the confusing part was around real-time sync, which is heavily advertised, but I was not able to figure out how to use it. After a while, I realized this is a scheduling option, which is not the most intuitive choice, and only available in the Pro version. Oops. I do not like aggressive insinuation. Then again, you can trial the more expensive option for 30 days, to see whether you like it or not.
Utilities & bootable media
Backupper also lets you mount and explore created images, merge images - which is only available for Pro users, and of course, create bootable media. Both Linux and Windows PE options are there. This is quite interesting, and I decided to write a Linux-based image to a USB drive, and see if it's going to boot on my Lenovo G50 machine. Now, fellas, if you recall my ATI & Windows 8.1 story, Acronis didn't like UEFI, so this will be a swell test.
Now, the most important part of this review, and it ties nicely into the USB media test. You can clone entire disks or individual partitions. The G50 machine has a GPT layout, with 16 partitions.
Worryingly, the program did not list the devices correctly. It only displayed a subset of partitions, including all of the FAT32 and NTFS partitions, and a seemingly random selection of EXT4 volumes. Now, AOMEI Backupper 4 is a Windows tool, so you should not expect any Linux miracles, but then, in that case, it should be an all or nothing situation. List everything or none. Label devices correctly. It actually marked an entire section of 500 GB as unavailable. What does that mean? There are some 5 x 100GB EXT4 partitions there, each with its own operating system and data. Likewise, the device marked F:, with a rough size of 150 GB is a Linux partition with some 10 GB of data. Instead, AOMEI Backupper was showing just 3 GB in use. Not good.
I decided to try to create an image of this F: volume. The program complained it could not complete the operation. I tried an NTFS drive. Same result. Apparently, I needed to reboot for some odd reason, but this wasn't what I expected.
After the reboot ...
Well, things were in much better order once the system cycled. I was able to create both regular and system partition images, and these seem to have succeeded. However, the most important thing is the ability to restore.
Well, it was time to boot the USB media. In the UEFI mode, it did not work at all. Legacy mode did allow the laptop to recognize the thumb drive, and the boot sequence actually started, with the loading of the kernel and initrd into the memory. However, it did not progress much beyond that. Consequently, I was unable to try to restore the system.
Moreover, the backup features are also locked down. You can choose some settings, but the actual partition scheme is out of scope for the free-version users. You cannot choose whether to perform a full, differential or incremental backup. However, you can set encryption and password-protect your images.
A few things spring to mind as a result of this test. The official domain takes time loading, probably because of the geo-latency. The actual site address can be confusing, because AOMEI owns both a namesake URL and another, more-generic domain, so this may throw users off guard.
The GUI has a definite size and layout, so some things look out of place, with elements half-covered or truncated in a very odd way. This create a somewhat disjointed look, and then some of the phrasing is also a little bit off, but nothing major. The performance is decent, but it could be a little sprightlier. No biggie.
Some more intellectual enlightenment on this topic:
Backupper, test, end of. I like the overall flow, although some areas are not intuitive and can be improved. There should also be a better separation between free and pro options, so the user does not get nagged. File sync works as advertised. System and partition imaging is wonky. First, we had issues with the driver, and it wasn't able to complete the process, but that's something we can excuse, given that the issue was fixed by the reboot. I cannot reconcile with the bootable media and restore, though.
And so, I must say I am rather disappointed. This isn't my first test of AOMEI technology, and usually, the products are sound if not perfect. Unfortunately, Backupper 4.0.2 did not deliver enough to satisfy the Pro version testing or a recommendation for use as an imaging tool. It failed the most critical part, and that's the restore piece. Without it, backups are useless.
I know my Lenovo G50 is a special snowflake, and that my tests are far more rigorous than most people ever encounter, but you do not want to be that guy that cannot restore their system. Software of this caliber must perform beautifully. They must be ultra robust. There's no middle ground. Anyway, with the problems in mind, I am looking at the next version, and how it can improve its most fundamental piece of operation, essentially hardware support, and consequently, the restore functionality. In this regard, it could be something as simple as a compatibility test before creating USB media, to begin with. Anyway, Backupper gets 4/10 this time around. To be continued.