Regularly backing up the information on your PC is important for two reasons: to protect your files and to protect your Windows system. In the past you would use a file backup utility to protect the documents created each day and a separate program, such as Acronis True Image or Norton's own Ghost, to save an image of your C: drive. In an emergency you could restore this image and recover your entire system.

Norton's Save & Restore is the logical combination of these two forms of backup into a single application. You might think this would lead to extra complication in the interface and a more awkward program to use. In fact, the opposite is true.

The main menu of Save & Restore offers just four options: Back Up Now, Edit My Backup Schedule, View Progress and Performance, and Copy My Hard Drive.

The first option of these is where most of the work is done. Here, you can design each backup job, using a Wizard that takes you through all stages of the process. You start by selecting the backup type - system or file - which determines the following screens: the files and folders you want to include in a file backup or the drive you want to copy in a system backup.

With a file backup option you can choose common folders, such as My Documents or Internet Explorer favourites, as well as files of a specific type - all jpg or wma files, for example. You can further customise the file-set by adding specific folders or files to it.

Easy back-up

Backups can also be scheduled and the program suggests typical regimes for both file and system backup, offering the first daily and the second weekly. You can alter these frequencies through the scheduling option on the main menu. Backups can be made to a second hard drive, CD or DVD drive or across a network to a server. They are compressed by default and you can add password protection if you need it.

Symantec has succeeded in producing a backup application that combines the two key components of a secure PC and has made it easy enough for anyone to use. So there really is no excuse, apart from the comparatively high price of Save & Restore, for not having a sound backup regime, even on a home PC. Simon Williams