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Faustian descent into backup hell: A play in two acts

In which a Reg reader wrestles demons and Ghosts

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A laptop user wanting to remove the backup software Acronis True Image found himself in a Kafkaesque world: the vendor's own clean-up software could potentially render his laptop unbootable. But then a Ghost came to the rescue.

The sequence of events played out like an Elizabethan play, so that's how we've treated it.

Dramatis Personae

Richard Collins – a user
Anon – Acronis support staff in India
Anon – Acronis headquarters spokesperson
Ed Benack – AcronisChief Information Officer/Chief Customer Officer
Thanasingh Mosae Sathiyaseelan – Norton Ghost support engineer in India.
Narrator – A Reg character

RICHARD AND THE GHOST

ACT 1

Scene 1: Clone Wars

The computer room in Richard Collins' house. Enter Richard Collins, stage left.

I needed a product to image my laptop 'C' drive [so] that I could rebuild from in the event of a disaster, and the Acronis product description met the need. I bought Acronis True Image Home 2012 and the Plus Pack which I installed.

Following the Acronis instructions I also needed to install the Windows Automated Installation Kit V3. This was a 1.7GB download and took a long time to install as CD's had to be burnt. It all took more than half a day.

To use the [Acronis] software you fire up the control panel; it then automatically shuts down the machine and reboots to do the copy. This takes some minutes. During the process a message would flash up and disappear [saying] 'no copy taking place'. To report the error fully I went to the trouble of making a movie which I put up on YouTube so they could help me solve it.

With nothing better to do while awaiting the Acronis support team's response, Richard had an idea:

I dug around their FAQs and found an issue, dated 2009, where it spells out that laptops are not supported for the copying function. The chat session confirmed this and [Acronis] offered to refund my money.

Scene II: Undergarments in a twist

A disembodied narrator intones from above the stage.

So far, so good, sort of. But now things went from so-so to a fantastical farce. Richard wanted to uninstall the product but couldn't work out how to do so. Back to Acronis support. Here is an extract of the chat support log:

Acronis: You have received the refund for Acronis True Image Home 2012 but now you are not able to uninstall it.

Collins: Yes.

Acronis: Richard, please note that as you have received the refund for Acronis True Image Home 2012 ... you are not entitled to support. (!) ... as a goodwill gesture I am providing you the clean-up utility to remove the software from the computer. Which might lead to the computer being unbootable.

Collins: ... Unbootable... Are you joking?

The support guy said that Collins had to agree to a disclaimer to use the clean-up software. He would get the Trial version of the software, use it take a backup of the C: drive, and then use the clean-up utility. In effect, Collins would download the Trial software and over-write the live version.

Unbootable – are you joking!

Here is an extract of an email Acronis support sent to Collins:

So we always recommend to create a backup of the disk on which you have operating system installed. As you do not have any Acronis software to take the backup we need appropriate permissions before I can proceed further with assisting you to uninstall the software and I need permission to provide you a copy of the software with which we can take a backup of the computer. I cannot commit that permission which I need will be granted. But I have certainly contact the concerned department to get the permission.

Scene III: Support returns

Enter the narrator dressed in a scruffy jumper, jeans and trainers and, oddly, wearing a tattered vulture's head.

Later in the support session he was told that Acronis software is designed in such a way that the Trial version cannot be installed once the full version has been installed on a machine.

He was also told that if he bought support, by buying the product again, he could uninstall it with technical support. He decided to sleep on that one, saying: "I remain stunned at the possibility that my machine might be fatally damaged by uninstalling the Acronis backup software."

So we have a misleading description of what the product does: it omits the point that, in order to clone a laptop C: drive, it has to be outside the laptop with a replacement C: drive inside the machine. This is clearly a nonsense when all you want to to is a backup your C: drive by making a cloned image of it.

The problem became even more convoluted when SW removal became difficult, and the refund caused support to be withdrawn, and then Collins subsequently made the discovery that removing the ATIH 2012 software could kill his notebook.

What happened next?


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Next page: ACT II

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