For PC users, system failures are a part of life. A hardware or software conflict can sometimes only be solved with a time consuming reinstall of Windows. Taking the plunge and starting again means a long list of software updates have to be performed before your PC is restored to its former glory.

Perfect Image 11 aims to solve this problem. Backing up an entire disc partition means that you keep registry entries, personal settings and all installed files, making system restoration less frustrating.

There is nothing new about this idea; tools including Norton Ghost and Partition Magic have been capable of this for years. For system administrators needing to install applications on a large number of machines, a tool like Perfect Image is a godsend, allowing a single corporate Windows install to be cloned onto multiple machines.

Avanquest makes the task of backing up data easy with a simple interface and the use of wizards. You create an image of a single partition or an entire disk, which can be restored using a bootable disc. A backup only saves the data from a partition, so a 30GB partition with only 5GB of data only requires 5GB of storage. The program can read FAT, NTFS, Linux or ReiserFS partitions.

You have control over backing up to a local drive, a network location or spanning a handy set of blank recordable DVDs, which is is useful to have if you have a total disk failure.

Perfect Image 11 adds an AutoSave tool that sits in your system tray and copies anything it deems as a 'work file' into a folder tree. The program supports backing up multiple versions of files, but doing this isn't easy. A folder tree is created for different versions of each document, but there is no easy way of telling the differences, bar the time the file was modified. Nor is it easy to select a specific version to restore.

If this specific function was made easier to use, Perfect Image 11 would offer a truly unique feature. The package is similar to every other backup tool, even in price. Perfect Image is worth considering, although with several other programs all doing a fine job, it becomes a case of picking up the lowest priced tool.