Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Norton Ghost 14 - a buggy install, but I'm getting there

I still haven't managed to get Norton Ghost 14 to run. I had version 12 before that and it too was a pain to install.

OK - I upgraded from Norton 360, not Norton Ghost 12 directly. I deleted files manually to clear a 750GB external USB drive for backup, I cleaned the registry manually, I removed stray entries in the registry with both Norton and Registry Cleaner tools. I don't like software that tries to do things automatically. As the Advanced Command kept disappearing I could not get "under the hood". Finally, I got it to appear and stay there!

So what's my computer's problem? Symantec says it doesn't support Dual Boot Systems or systems with software that compromises the Boot Files. This should be clarified - it can work within one operating system on a Dual Boot System (I'll find out - the old version 12 worked OK!). I have Avanquest's bootup software so that I can select an alternative operating system or another Vista installation should my usual Vista fail. I also have Avanquest's AutoSave product which backs up software. By contrast this installed easily and works fine. There's also Microsoft's own backup software. So I'm only being cautious putting on a 3rd backup package to my machine - I don't really need it.

At first, when I opened Norton Ghost it caused Vista to send out error messages that showed a disk was missing. Then Norton Ghost said it was trying to find info about itself on disk M: but it's installed on disk C:. I can't find the path to fix this. I'm backing up to disk O: (as I told it!). In fact I told it to backup to a directory called NortonGhost14 on disk O:, but it wrote some files to a folder called NortonGhost on disk O:.

Norton Ghost kept telling me it couldn't make a Recovery Point. I tried deleting the backup schedule and made a new one, but to no avail. I deleted the computer name, and added it back, again to no avail.

Apart from the Home command, the Norton Ghost commands, those on the left side of the screen, disappear when it can't make a Recovery Point. If it can't make one, why doesn't it just prompt you to make a new one.

Frustrated I search the Symantec website. First the list of most popular problems shows hardly anything. Then I find the Tech Support Forums where other people have had drive letters changed by Norton Ghost. The responses from the Symantec technicians show, by their to and fro conversations, that they don't have easy answers either.

So I try to send in some info from the Norton Ghost 14 application on their Feedback form. It can't do it - Connection Timed Out While Sending Feedback. So I send all the info in an email to support AT symantec DOT com. An automated reply comes back saying that Symantec no longer uses email for support (typical for most software vendors today) - obviously they were overwhelmed with support spam and probably too many problems.

So a couple of days later, I'm obliged to post this on my own site as my second attempt to submit a Feedback form also failed. Note to Symantec: bear in mind many of your Vista users may have security really tight on their websites and eliminate scripts and cookies - my cookies and Javascript are there - but IE didn't think so - and it's possible your apps also have problems with security. It would be really good if your other tools - Internet Security or SystemWorks - could actually check whether Norton Ghost can run on a machine or if it is too Secure or has Bad System Configuration - ideally Norton Ghost should do this itself. It should also show its logs in the app - not hide them away for you to open with a tool.

So here's what I was going to send to Symantec, but can't because of rejection by the server.
How likely would I be to recommend this product? 1 on a scale of 0 to 10 - where 10 is likeliest.
What can we do to improve your satisfaction with the product?
1. Make it install on machines that have multi-boot or use other managers to manage the Boot.INI file. This application should not have to look at the Boot.ini file.
2. Get the bugs out. All the versions I have had have been extremely buggy. The drive letters are not mapped correctly.
3. Enable the software to work when moving from another app - Norton 360, or prior version - and the user manually deletes backup and other registry data. Make sure that you can have an option for clean install with no memory of previous apps.
4. Have long timeouts for external drives that maybe slow.
5. Don't have all the commands except Home disappear if the app can't find recovery points.
6. Have a more complete knowledge base - you don't surface enough bugs - they are hidden in forums.
7. It's a good job I'm not reviewing this product - this is one of the worst products I have ever installed - and I've used many prior versions - all have been poorly programmed with vague error messages.

It says Show Me What Will Be Sent. Here it is:
Details Data System.Collections.ListDictionaryInternal Message The remote server returned an error: (404) Not Found. Source System Stack Trace at System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetResponse() at Poster.Send() at Symantec.UI.Forms.FeedbackDialog.OK_Click(Object sender, EventArgs e) Target Site GetResponse

I then tried to make a recovery disk, just in case it needed one before it could make a Recovery Point. Alas, it didn't recognize my brand new writable disk. It had terrible problems just browsing the list of files - finally I put in Z:\ and it then said the recovery disk was invalid.

So Symantec - if you are listening - please don't ship broken software. Get some decent QA (crowdsource if you like) - or withdraw Norton Ghost. I did actually get Norton Ghost 12 to install with difficulty.

Light is now coming at the end of the tunnel. After waiting about an hour, I actually have the commands down the left hand side working. I can now go and delete the history - finding the stray drive M: from 2007. I can also go through and look at each drive and find which were earlier recovery points from old Norton Ghost releases - the Advanced menu is finally giving me what I want - although it's still really painful to ensure each of three drives that at some time or other have been Backup Destinations are purged of the old backup files. I'm getting there after 3 fretful evenings!

Either after 14 releases it should be near perfect or the code is so old it needs to be completely rewritten. Maybe you should buy Avanquest!


amhey said...

Just after I wrote this CHENGDU YIWO from Chengdu, China announced free backup software. Check out www.todo-backup.com/download/.

EASEUS is their paid software - it may haunt Norton Ghost! www.easeus.com

amhey said...

You can remove all your Norton apps with the Norton Removal Tool found here.

Something weird has happened - after removing info it loads Norton Security Scan. I thought it was supposed to REMOVE Norton software - not install it! Furthermore the window that popped up asked me if I wanted to upgrade to Norton 360 - which was not uninstalled properly on loading the latest Internet Security Suite.

amhey said...

I wish there was a command to Purge History on Norton Ghost 14. I just wanted a clean install!