May 18, 2006


Norton Save & Restore. Windows XP. Symantec. $69.99.

     This new Symantec product is either a brilliant line extension that will appeal to people who would not normally consider buying computer utilities, or a product desperately in search of a market.  Consumers will decide which one it is, and the answer will determine whether there will be annual updates or a quiet demise of Norton Save & Restore as standalone software.

     This product enters a crowded field of software that simplifies computer backups.  It is based on – and very similar to – Norton Ghost, which is available for the same price of $69.99 or is included in Norton SystemWorks 2006 Premier, an impressive and multifaceted suite of programs selling for $99.99.  Rebates and discounts on software are often available, so it is quite possible that you could buy SystemWorks Premier for even less than the official $30 price differential: a $20 rebate would bring the differential down to a mere $10, and SystemWorks Premier is a far more versatile offering.

     But then, of course, you would have Norton Ghost rather than Norton Save & Restore.  They are not quite identical, though it remains to be seen how effectively Symantec can explain the differences to consumers.  Norton Save & Restore lets you set automatic backups of an entire hard drive, or lets you make backups of selected files at set times or manually.  It works with external hard drives, Iomega Zip and Jaz drives, USB and FireWire devices, CDR/RW drives and DVD+-R/RW drives – which means it can make backups to virtually all the storage media commonly used today.  It can also make an exact copy of your entire system simply and efficiently – that’s precisely what Norton Ghost does, and that’s where Norton Save & Restore most clearly shows its parentage.

     Thanks to recent improvements in all its interfaces, Symantec here makes it easy for relatively inexperienced users to view backup status and check backup protection level – useful features, though not critical if you schedule regular backups.  As for the “restore” function, it essentially duplicates the “System Restore” utility already built into Windows XP, though Symantec’s version is less clunky and seems to work more smoothly.  Still, both utilities get the job of restoration done, and you already have one of them on any XP machine.

     Some of the useful functions of Norton Save & Restore require you to be using other Symantec products – lessening their utility.  For example, there is a neat feature that starts a backup automatically when your computer comes under certain kinds of external attack.  But it works only if you are already running Norton Internet Security.

     It’s hard to make absolute positive or negative comments about Norton Save & Restore.  It works well at making backups, but so do competing programs.  It has a user-friendly interface, but that is not unique.  It has some good features if you run other Symantec software, but they won’t work if you don’t.  It does just what Norton Ghost does and is therefore duplicative, but may be a better choice if you don’t already run Ghost – unless you have Ghost because you bought SystemWorks Premier, in which case it would be very hard to justify the extra expense of Save & Restore, which does not add significant benefits.

     The fact is that a backup program, even a good one, is not really something you should buy as a standalone.  Today’s computers need various forms of protection.  Buying them one at a time makes little sense.  If you do want a program specifically for backup chores, Norton Save & Restore is a very good one.  But before buying it, stop and consider whether you want to purchase a single-use product in the first place.  Building up protection bit by bit (yes, that’s a pun) costs a lot more in the long run than buying higher-cost multifunction programs in the first place.

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