Backup program O&O DiskImage Professional ($50, 30-day free trial) impressed me with its no-nonsense workflow. Unfortunately, the program doesn't quite match up to the competition feature-wise. I like the way DiskImage keeps the details out of your way. While programs such as Acronis True Image use a strict step-by-step approach, presenting every option for your perusal before you can create an image, DiskImage simply allows you to select which drives or partitions you want to image, asks you where you want to store the image, then proceeds on its merry way. There's a drop-down menu at the bottom of the destination selection dialog that allows you to tweak options such as validating the image, converting it to .VHD for Windows Virtual PC use, or shutting down your PC.
Interfaces that don't render properly when the Windows XP display is set to 120DPI (large font mode), such as the first two dialogs shown by O&0's DiskImage Professional, are a red flag for me. If a programmer doesn't know how to size or situate dialog and window elements correctly, then it's hard to trust the rest of their coding. I didn't encounter any more such problems, but it did get my back up. The real sticking point with this program, though, isn't the interface glitches, but a lack of features.
Two things separate the men from the boys when it comes to imaging programs: Recovering the system partition from within Windows, and the capabilities of recovery CD. There is no facility to restore the operating system partition with DiskImage from within Windows, a task that's usually handled during a reboot before Windows is fully engaged. Also, despite being Windows Vista-based, DiskImage's recovery CD didn't recognize the network controller in my VMWare virtual machine; it's the only recovery disc that's ever given me this problem. O&O said it would find the card if I installed the VMWare tools (part of VMWare Workstation), but that fix didn't work for me. Using the recovery disc on physical PCs proved problematic as well, booting on one PC out of three.
The DiskImage recovery disc has a nice interface, and you can of course load drivers post boot as with any Windows PE 2 disc, but searching for a network driver is not my idea of a productive use of time.
O&O DiskImage Professional is a near thing. I love the approach and the interface (sans bugs), but the bread-and-butter features need upgrading.