Art takes on 81-page manual

If a man was stranded alone on a desert island and came across 81 pages of instructions about how to be rescued, would he read it? So begins my odyssey with a new software program that I downloaded from the Internet.

I’ve written about backing up a computer hard drive so that it could be reconstituted in the event there was a hard drive failure. A friend suggested that I try a program called Acronis True Image 9.0 Home ( One of its features is the ability to make a complete image of all the information on the master hard drive including operating system, programs and data. This means that in the event of a failure, everything can be copied back onto the replacement drive. No need to reload the operating system and all the programs. This can save hours of time and frustration.

Acronis offers a 15 day free trial with their download. So I downloaded the program and gave it a spin on my computer. I thought I might give it a try and see if its operation was intuitive. Recently I had purchased a USB connected external hard drive so had a good safe place to store my backups.

I clicked on the Acronis icon, read a screen here, clicked there and thought I had a backup. But I wasn’t sure. I went back to the Acronis web site and found that I could download instructions for the program. I saved the resulting PDF file into “My Downloads” on my computer and double clicked to read it. It turned out to be 81 pages long. This is too long to read on the screen so I decided to print a copy. Incidentally, I printed this twenty pages at a time so not to possibly overload the printer’s capacity.

I started to read the manual but rapidly became lost in the details. Unfortunately like many manuals, the instructions weren’t clear. I thought I understood how the program worked but I still didn’t understand what results were appearing when I tried to make a backup. I emailed my friend but he uses a rather complex backup system and his advice didn’t help.

I still have a few days left in my trial period but am conflicted about what to do. In theory, I like the Acronis features. Full backup makes a lot of sense. But still I am baffled reading the instructions. I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

There are hundreds of backup programs available over the Internet. Just Google “backup software” and take a look. I have been using a simple program called Backup Magic ( It automatically backs up selected data files but not programs. It’s a good start and, of course, simple backups can be made by just “dragging and dropping” individual files.

I don’t think I intended this column to be a critique of the Acronis software or their manual. The program is very full featured and sophisticated. However I can’t help but wish that programs could be simple and that the instructions could be clear and concise. I love the many features in lots of software and only wish that their use were more intuitive. I can keep hoping. Anyway, happy end of summer.

If you would like to hear more about the backup software, or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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