I don’t write a lot about CDs and DVDs these days. For most things, they’re kind of a nuisance as a backup medium. They’ve never had the drag-and-drop simplicity of floppy diskettes, and not all discs are compatible with all drives, either. My laptop can burn dual-layer DVDs, but I’ve never used one, and the whole Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD battle leaves me cold. I can’t really blame Apple for leaving out the optical drive when they built the MacBook Air.
Nevertheless, optical discs are a good ways from obsolete. (Why “optical”? Because the data gets burned onto a disc using a laser. Hard drives, and tape on the other hand, use magnets to record data.) So when PC Magazine announced that they were giving away the full version of Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 (the newest-but-one version of the software) to registered users of their site, I decided to check it out.
At first it seemed that none of the logins I already had for PC Magazine and Ziff-Davis sites worked, but apparently the site just wanted me to use Internet Explorer instead of Firefox. In any case, it’s easy enough to register as a user, and it’s free. I registered initially because I sometimes download white papers about backup technology (and then have to explain to hapless salespeople that I only wanted them for my column).
I didn’t really need Ashampoo, as I already have Nero Burning ROM. (And I blush to admit how long it took me to get that pun in spite of the logo with the Colosseum in flames—an anachronism, by the way, as the Colosseum wasn’t built until after Nero died.) I haven’t done a detailed comparison of the two programs, though one would expect Nero to have a few extra features to go with its much heftier price tag.
I don’t use nearly all of Nero’s features, and unless you’re a dedicated disc creator, you probably wouldn’t, either. In any case, while Nero has a backup utility, it doesn’t jump out at you when you start the program. I’m not sure I even installed it when I put Nero back on my computer after the latest reinstall.
Ashampoo, on the other hand, touts the following among the hot new features of Burning Studio 6:
- Multi-disc file backup and restore on CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs
- Create compressed backup archives with powerful password protection
- Restore archive contents to their original locations
(Curiously, the hot features for Burning Studio 7 are all to do with video DVDs and bootable discs; they don’t appear to have upgraded the backup capabilities significantly from version 6.)
“Backup or Restore Files and Folders” is the second option on the main splash screen, and it’s certainly easy to do. I selected the whole Podcast Asylum folder (4.5 GB, just the right size for a DVD) and clicked “continue,” and the backup proceeded along its merry way.
Not speedily, I might say. Burning the data to the DVD wasn’t that time-consuming; it must have been the conversion to the proprietary .ashbak format and the data verification. The result is four .ashbak files of just about 1 GB each, and I imagine that if I’d been backing up a larger quantity of data, I’d have had several DVDs full of these 1 GB .ashbak files, rather the way my Ghost backups are made up of numerous 2 GB .ghs files.
The good and bad news about proprietary formats like this is that you have to have the Ashampoo Burning Studio software in order to restore the files. That can actually be a help, if you don’t want everyone and his brother to be able to get at your data. (Ashampoo lets you password-protect the files as well as compressing them, too.) Restoring is straightforward: you can choose the backup that’s on the disc in your drive or a backup from another location (Ashampoo will back up to other media than CDs and DVDs). Beyond that, your options are to restore data to the original location or to a custom location, and to overwrite files already in that location, or not.
The verdict: it works, you can get it free while the offer lasts, and if you prefer optical discs for backup, it’s probably a good choice. It doesn’t make complete drive images, and you can’t automate or schedule it, two limitations which mean it would be a bad idea to rely solely on Burning Studio 6 for your backups. But for those end-of-year archives, it’s got possibilities.
Of course, you can use Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 to make ordinary copies of files onto CDs and DVDs. To do that, you use the “Burn Files and Folders” option instead of the Backup utility. And you can do all the other usual things one gets a program like this for: copy discs, make audio CDs, burn disc images, and make video DVDs. Judging by the ratings it gets at Download.com, it does these things pretty well. I’ll have to try it the next time I need to make a CD for my mother.