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18 Aug 2020

The Perfect Norton Ghost Alternative

Anyone who has worked in IT over the last 20 years will be familiar with the words 'Norton Ghost'. Becoming a firm favourite for doing the basics well, the software became iconic among IT enthusiasts and professionals alike. However, after hitting a raft of challenges, Norton Ghost was discontinued in 2013.

Despite this, its legacy lives on. Even in 2024, Norton Ghost still has the power to conjure feelings of fuzzy nostalgia. Unsurprising, perhaps, given that it was around throughout much of the nineties, a period that feels like the very early years of home computing.

Fortunately, Macrium is on hand to help with a powerful and popular replacement for Norton Ghost. Macrium Reflect is a simple tool that can be used to image and clone Windows disks, but Macrium also has a number of products that include additional powerful features that can provide you with the flexibility and security required to protect your data effectively.

We’ll look more closely at what Macrium Reflect offers you over Norton Ghost, but first we’ll go over the reasons why Norton Ghost was discontinued.

The rise and fall of the first disk cloning tool

It’s worth noting before we continue that there are (or were) two different products bearing the Ghost name. Alongside Norton Ghost — which is what we’ll focus on throughout this post — there is also Ghost Solution Suite (GSS), a fully featured deployment platform aimed at the enterprise market.

Why did Symantec discontinue Norton Ghost?

Norton Ghost was one of the first, best, and most popular, disk imaging tools available for many years. Indeed, the extent of its popularity can be demonstrated by the fact that ‘ghost’ became a colloquialism for making a sectorwise copy or clone. However, Symantec, the company behind the Norton series of products, quickly killed off its popularity by slapping on a price tag.

A subsequent decline in popularity led to Symantec discontinuing the product in 2013, removing support a year later and encouraging users to move to Symantec System Recovery. This product is today known as Veritas System Recovery, owing to Symantec’s earlier merger with Veritas.

By the time Norton Ghost was discontinued, the market was in a very different shape to how it would have looked when the software was first launched. The final nail in the coffin was Symantec’s failure as a business — its remains were purchased by Broadcom in late 2019, which is where you can find small remnants of Ghost and Ghost Solution Suite. For a full explanation of Symantec’s rise and fall as cyber security behemoth, this Forbes article is very good.

Why can’t I keep using Norton Ghost?

This might seem like a fairly obvious question to answer: you can’t keep using Norton Ghost because it’s been discontinued. Except it isn’t that straightforward — you can, for example, use the most recently released version of Ghost (version 15) with Windows 7 and earlier.

However, if you choose to use Norton Ghost with Windows 7, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no support in place if things don’t work properly. In other words, you are taking on the risk yourself. And given that backup is a non trivial task — one in which you’re specifically trying to eliminate risks by protecting your data from a range of disasters — ensuring that it’s reliable, and that you have support and guidance if you need it, is surely one of the absolute essentials of good backup.

What are the advantages of Macrium over Norton Ghost?

Aside from the issue of support, there are many advantages to using Macrium Reflect as a replacement for Norton Ghost. This includes:

  • Faster imaging and cloning
  • Support for modern hardware and driver injection
  • UEFI and GPT booting

What about Golden Image deployment?

For many organizations, deploying a golden image across many workstations or servers is a really important task. It allows them to ensure consistency at scale. This is where Ghost Solution Suite — mentioned at the start of this post — comes in.

Although Ghost Solution Suite remains a viable option for users that want to deploy golden images, we think Macrium Deployment Kit is a far more effective tool. Not only does it allow you to deploy to an unlimited number of workstations or servers, a single license allows up to 5 IT technicians to deploy the image with separate USB sticks.

Furthermore, compared to Macrium Deployment Kit, Ghost Solution Suite is a little more clunky when it comes to ad hoc tasks — so, while it can be used for golden image deployment, it doesn’t offer you the flexibility that you get with the Macrium product.

What other users say about switching to Macrium Reflect from Norton Ghost

You might not be surprised that we’re talking up Macrium’s alternatives to Norton Ghost. But you shouldn’t take our word for it — there are plenty of former Norton Ghost users that vouch for the effectiveness of Macrium.

Here are a few we’ve found from community forums around the web:

“I could not get Ghost to work. I finally gave in and downloaded Macrium Reflect, and it did the whole job with 1-click and no problems.”

— User on Norton’s community forum; Ghost vs Reflect

“I strongly recommend the free version of Macrium Reflect… Apart from being free it is simple to use with a clear user interface that looks a bit like Disk Management and it will create a bootable Recovery thumb drive that uses WinPE. I just updated mine.”

— User on Norton’s Community Forum: Ghost & Windows 10

“Macrium Reflect is probably my favorite right now due to its ease of use.”

— User on Spiceworks Community Forum; Alternative to Norton Ghost

In conclusion: why you need an alternative to Norton Ghost

It’s clear that there are a few clear reasons why you need an alternative to Norton Ghost:

  • It’s no longer supported, which means if something goes wrong with your backups you’re on your own.
  • Even if it’s compatible with the system you’re running, it may not be compatible with hardware and drivers — this could compromise your backups.
  • Using Norton Ghost now is not only unsafe, it’s also remarkably slow.
  • You don’t have the full feature set that you’d expect from backup software.
  • While there are enterprise descendants of Norton Ghost, these are not only likely to be relatively expensive, you can achieve the same results with backup software like Macrium Reflect.

Try Macrium SiteDeploy® for free

Macrium SiteDeploy® is the leading Windows OS imaging and deployment solution. Designed to reduce the number of manual steps performed during the deployment process, it can significantly cut complexity and reduce deployment time, potentially saving IT teams days of work.

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