Norton Ghost 9.0

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle CNE MCNE MCSE CBS ES-RC P+, Feb 2005,
Published by: Symantec Corp
Requires: Windows 2000 SP2, XP Home or Pro, 256MB RAM, 110MB hard drive space, DVD or CD drive
MSRP: US$69.95

(Ed. Note: As of February 2007, Norton Ghost has been updated for Windows Vista compatibility)

I haven't used Ghost for a very long time. The last version I used was basically for DOS and Symantec didn't own it back then—it was still a Peter Norton product. Ghost 9.0 is a far cry from those days and a nice piece of software. It's simple to use, has a good feature set and supports a wide range of backup and restore media. It has matured from straight drive imaging for Geeks into a product that will also allow you to back up your files and even prep a new drive.

The program installs simply but cautions you to test the recovery CD after installation and it will also install the Microsoft .NET framework if it's not already there.

Since you need to reboot after the installation, it's a good idea to leave the Ghost CD in the drive and let your PC boot from it. The recovery environment will boot and present a menu system that is fairly easy to navigate. You should ensure you can obtain an IP address and map a drive to a share because you don't want to have to use the disk recovery feature and find out there are issues then. You then use the Image Browser to locate the file you need to restore. It's worthwhile at this point to look there just so you know your device is showing. Just for the record, all three of my DVD and CD drives showed and were accessible. That includes a USB HP dc3000 and an IDE NEC DVD writer and IBM CDROM drive. The CD supports common network interface cards (NICs) and picked up both the 3Com and Intel cards I used during testing. If for some reason your NIC is not detected, a Driver Validation box appears. If this happens you should contact technical support to see if your NIC is supported. If you have your images saved to DVD or CD this won't be an issue.


Upon reboot you will find a yellow Ghost icon in your system tray. Right click the icon and select from the context menu that appears. Double clicking the system tray icon opens the main application. From here you can perform backups, restores and even copy one hard drive to another. This is useful if you are upgrading your hard drive and is a nice feature. Be very sure you read the Copying Drives section in the included manual if you intend to use the drive copy feature.

Using this version of Ghost is really very simple. While in Windows you can make a backup of your local drives to any Windows share. I tested the backup feature on a straight Windows 2K server share, a Linux Samba share and even a Netware NSS volume. Ghost worked flawlessly each time. Once the local drive has been backed up you can access it by locating the .v2i file on the share where you backed it up and right clicking on the file. On the context menu you will notice a new choice called "mount". Select it and Ghost will pop up a dialog box showing the file and the first free drive letter available on your system. There is also a short note to remind you the file is really Read Only even though it mounts as read write.

Backups take varying amounts of time depending on the level of compression you select. I backed up a 3.7GB boot partition to a network share using the Standard compression and it took about 23 minutes. The resulting file was about 2.4GB. I then tried the high compression. It took much longer, but the resulting file was only marginally smaller. Unless you are backing up a drive with a lot of files that compress well, I recommend the Standard compression setting.

Restoring an image is also straightforward. As with the backup, a Wizard is opened that walks you through the job. You select the image and the destination and then select your options. Restore times seem to be about the same as backup times. Note that unless you have seriously hammered the drive you probably don't need to restore the whole image. If it's just a few files or folders just mount the image as described above and copy them from the image back to their original locations.

If you don't have a network server handy Ghost 9.0 will also happily backup and restore to your CD or DVD writer, USB or Firewire storage devices and Iomega Zip and Jazz drives. I tried it on a USB HP dc3000 DVD writer and it worked without any issues. For me no issues is all I want.

While the backup and restore from Windows features are very good, most folks think of Ghost as the software to save their posteriors when their drive goes south on a permanent basis. I tested this on a box by creating the backup from within Windows as described above. I then removed the HD and put in an empty drive. I booted with the Ghost 9.0 CD and was able to restore the image and set the drive as active. It booted right up.

One last thing. Normally I'm pretty disappointed with the documentation that comes with most software. In the case of Ghost 9, I can report that the manual is well written and to the point. It tells you what to do and how to do it. You should take the time to read it before you become too dependent on Ghost. If nothing else, it will save you some anxiety if you should need to use the recovery feature. Good Stuff.





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