Skip Norton Ghost 2003

Backup/disk-imaging program is for PC pros only

By Robert Luhn

Symantec Norton Ghost 2003 looks impressive on paper, but on the job this backup-cum-disk-imaging program is for truly patient PC pros only.

Ghost 2003 has some good features. It can make an exact copy (clone) of your hard disk, from data to the state of the OS, so it's a natural tool for system recovery, duplicating your desktop PC on your laptop, or moving everything from an old PC to a new system. It can store drive images on just about any kind of media--including another hard drive in your computer, a network server, an external USB or FireWire hard drive, or various CD-RW and DVD-RW/+RW discs. This version also adds Linux and NTFS support; largely eliminates the need for a boot disk; and lets you join two PCs via a USB, parallel, or network connection and then clone one to the other.

Despite claims to the contrary, however, my tests with a shipping copy of Ghost 2003 clearly showed that inexperienced users should beware. The program is saddled with a confusing manual, lousy Web support, and phone support that costs $30 per incident.

I found its new "intuitive Windows interface" inconsistent. And Ghost 2003 crashed one test PC and refused to clone the drive on another, though it would perform a standard backup. (However, Symantec said it was unable to replicate my experience.)

One other feature allows restoration of specific folders or files. Load an Explorer-like tool, pick a folder/file, select File, Extract, and then point to the destination. Alas, it didn't always work. In one of my tests, Ghost 2003 cloned a PC to an external USB drive, but uninstalled the drive.

In light of these difficulties, I'd say this program should be tried by power users only.

From the January 2003 issue of PC World magazine