Casper 5.0 Complete PC Backup Protection Review

by Reads (13,352)
  • Pros

    • Dead-simple interface
    • Flawless backups
    • Solid scheduling options
  • Cons

    • Requires dedicated harddrive
    • No incremental backups
    • Bootable CD costs $10 more

By: Greg Ross

As the name implies, Future System Solution’s Casper 5.0 is a direct competitor to Norton Ghost, but is this data backup application a friendlier version of its rival, or just a pale imitation? We hunt for the truth in this review.

PRODUCT OVERVIEW

Casper 5.0 does not have some of the advanced incremental and differential backup features that other data retention and drive imaging programs do, but it does give the user a quick and easy way to backup partitions or entire hard drives on demand or as scheduled. Casper’s backup operations simply copy, byte by byte, the entire contents of your drive to a new drive without modifying any of the included data. The program does not try to compress the data or archive the data using more advanced techniques, it just focuses on copying the data and ensuring the copy operation is accurate and hassle-free. Casper 5.0 is also available in a bootable CD as an optional add-on.

INSTALLATION

During the installation process, no difficult questions or unknown vocabulary terms flash up on the screen. After accepting the perfunctory EULA and choosing the installation directory, the program makes quick work of installing Casper 5.0. All in all, the program took less than a minute to install and the system did not need to reboot in order for Casper 5.0 to function properly.

PROGRAM INTERFACE

Casper 5.0 offers a rather simple but very effective and easy to understand user interface.

Casper 5.0 interface

This page provides easy access to all of the tools included with Casper 5.0. Users can create one-time or recurring backup jobs, create or destroy partitions, or access a few extra tools that are useful but not necessarily needed.

Casper 5.0 explorer screen

Clicking on the Explore icon brings up the only other interface page for Casper 5.0. This XP-styled interface provides the same access to the same tools that the main page does, but it also includes a summary of all the scheduled jobs that have been previously created. Additional tools for repairing a computer’s partition and boot tables are available, as are links to the computer’s major management tools.

Casper 5.0 options screen

We had a little bit of difficulty finding the options menus in the program at first but, after hitting ALT on the keyboard, the menu bar appeared on the interface. From there we were able to access the options menus and their numerous associated settings. The most important of these are the options regarding data verification and backup speed throttling. Casper 5.0 enables data verification and speed-throttling by default, as we had hoped it would. There are several advanced options also available, but unless you’re willing to delve into the help files and really make an effort to understand those options, they are best left alone.

BACKUP FUNCTIONALITY

Casper 5.0 breaks the mold when it comes to disk backups because it does not backup the hard drive to some archive file. Casper also does not perform incremental or differential backups, nor does it provide any kind of backup archive explorer. Casper 5.0 requires another unused hard drive, because it performs one-to-one copies of the current hard drive to the backup hard drive — period. No other backup processes or formats are available; you copy a hard drive or partition — and the entire drive or partition, at that — or you don’t. This is an interesting approach to backing up the operating system and its data, since recovery is as simple as booting to the newly copied drive.

Casper 5.0 copy drive options

When starting the backup/copy operation, the program will ask the user if it is going to be backing up only a partition or an entire hard drive.

Casper 5.0 source drive selection

Casper 5.0 destination drive selection

Casper 5.0 will then ask which partition or drive is going to be the source, and which partition (or drive) will be the destination.

Casper 5.0 overwrite warning

The program is then kind enough to inform you that the destination drive is going to be completely eradicated, and thus ask for user confirmation. Considering the backup process completely reformats the destination hard drive, it was a very good idea to force the user to pause the process to double check that the correct destination drive is selected.

Casper 5.0 scheduler options

The user is then asked to choose if the backup job should be performed immediately as a one-time job, scheduled to regularly occur, or be available as a shortcut link to perform the job on demand. I am nitpicking a little bit here, but it would be nice to have the ability to create a shortcut link AND run the job on a schedule. But when one of our only complaints about the functionality of a program is nothing but a simple preference, you know that the software is good.

Casper 5.0 backup confirmation

Backing up the entire hard drive was a little slower than we have seen from Casper 5.0’s competitors. However we used a USB hard drive as the destination drive, which likely had some impact on transfer speeds. (We did not have a spare hard drive already installed on the computer, so we ended up using a SATA drive inside of a build-it-yourself enclosure.) Judging from the speed of the copy operation (about 26MB/s), Casper 5.0 clearly verified the contents of the destination drive during the backup transfer — just as it was instructed.

RESTORATION FUNCTIONALITY

Compared to the ease with which Casper 5.0 performs backups, hard drive restoration was not quite as user-friendly. The backup hard drive (which is an exact copy of our primary drive) was contained in a USB enclosure, and not all computers support booting from a USB hard drive. We were lucky in that our Core i7 test bed system (with the ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 motherboard) supports booting off of USB drives, but unlucky in that the Vista installation now on the USB drive failed to boot. This was not the fault of Casper 5.0, but in order to “restore” the drive we did have to open up the system and physically replace the primary hard drive with the backup hard drive.

Once that was done, the computer immediately booted up without any trouble. Casper 5.0 worked perfectly.

Under normal circumstances, the only time a restoration is probably going to be performed is when a hard drive dies or a Windows installation becomes unbootable. So while it makes some sense that restoring a drive does require a little physical tech-work, it would have been nice to perform a restoration from the backup drive to the primary drive from a bootable CD.

Future Systems Solutions does offer a Casper 5.0 bootable CD which supports out-of-case restorations, but this optional component costs about $10. Most backup tools include this kind of CD for no cost.

CONCLUSION

Casper 5.0 has proven to work, and work well, backing up and “restoring” (as in creating a viable physical replacement for) hard drives. While Casper 5.0 does not include many fancy extras or some advanced features found in other software — like compression or encryption — that must have allowed the developers the time to really polish the functionality that Casper 5.0 does offer. Their focus really paid off from what we have seen.

Casper 5.0 is a no nonsense program that focuses on backing up your data easily, reliably, and quickly. Jobs can be performed on-demand, scheduled for frequent backups, or run only once as configured. The user interface could not be friendlier and the program just works. However, users will probably want to make sure they have a spare hard drive allocated for Casper’s exclusive use to really provide data protection.

The only complaint we really have about Casper is that the bootable CD is not included with the $49.95 package. Without the CD, the program is certainly cost effective — more so that the competitors. But once the cost of the CD comes into play it pretty much negates the cost advantage this program has.

Ultimately, Casper 5.0 works quite well and we had zero issues with it during the review period. This program should be on anyone’s shortlist when considering tools that specialize in drive cloning.

PROS

  • Dead-simple interface
  • Flawless backups
  • Solid scheduling options

CONS

  • Requires dedicated harddrive
  • No incremental backups
  • Bootable CD costs $10 more


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