Paragon Hard Disk Manager review
It is believed that Paragon Hard Disk Manager (HDM for short) is one of the leading backup / disk imaging software. Paragon HDM consists of four different utilities: Backup & Recovery, Drive Copy, Partition Manager and Disk Wiper. These tools are grouped in two parts: Backup & Recovery and Disk and Volumes.
Hard Disk Manager is developed by Paragon Software Group, established in 1994 in Russia. Currently, its offices are spread over the United States, China, Japan, Poland and Russia, and the HQ - in German city of Freiburg im Breisgau.
|Vendor||Paragon Software Group (website)|
|Software category||Backup / Restore / Utilities|
|Release date||October 2014|
|Latest version||v.17 (February 2019)|
|Operating systems||Windows (7/8/10), Mac (Mojave, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite)|
|Download file size||191 Mb|
|Functionality||Backup/recovery, manage partitions, disk copy, disk wipe|
|Storage options||HDD, AFD, SSD, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, BD-R/RE|
|File systems||NTFS, FAT16/32, Linux Ext2FS/3FS/4FS, BtrFS, HFS+, BitLocker encrypted HD|
|Price||$49.95 / 1 PC license / Home use|
Paragon Hard Disk Manager can do:
- Backup (entire PC, disks/partitions, folders/files, automation)
- Data migration (copy partition, copy HDD, migrate OS)
- Disk wipe (using different algorithms)
- Partitioning (create, delete/undelete, format, change volume label, file system conversion, split/merge, convert to MBR/GPT, etc.)
- Recovery media builder.
This is just a shortlist of capabilities. We have installed the trial version of the program for this review. Several functions are locked. HDM is very simple (at first glance): English interface, only 2 action areas. Although there are many options. Installation is typical - download, launch, install.
System requirements: Windows 7 or newer, 2GB RAM, 500 MB space, up to 1GB free space for installation, opened ports in firewall (inbound and outbound 80, 443), web browser.
There is also HDM version for Mac computers with same core features - disk management, bootable restore media, data backups, disk wiping. However, there are certain restrictions, e.g. file system conversion and scheduling not included, FAT32 restore limitations, etc. Here’s a brief introduction:
Backup & Recovery
This tab has two parts: backup options (add, remove, import, rename) and information (source, destination, etc.). Also, there is the Restore From File tab, to specify path to an archive file. Backup information offers timeline layout (default) and table layout. The list of backups can not be sorted, they are displayed chronologically.
As a backup source, the next options are at hand:
- entire computer (all partitions)
- disk / volumes (with system partition, a partition with boot files goes along)
- files / folders (select from location on PC or specify file types - video, documents, music, images).
- virtual machines.
As destination users may select local folders (network drives aren’t displayed, which is a disadvantage), external drives, network locations. Every backup task has room to configure. Placed in the lower area, there are 2 tabs with settings: Backup Strategy and Options.
Backup Strategy allows to set a schedule, type of backups (full, incremental, detrimental), notifications and exclusions. Options contain compression level (none, fast, normal, best), password protection, backup splitting, sector-by-sector mode.
FYI: The difference between 3 main backup types. Incremental backup consists of files that have changed since the previous archiving. Differential backup implies files that have changed since the previous full backup. In Full backup each new copy includes all selected files. Incremental and differential backups could only be performed after the initial full archive was created.
In addition, you can select the type of backup container (.pvhd, .vmdk, .vhd, .vhdx). Paragon image type (.pvhd) is recommended. If you have a Paragon Backup File (.pbf - legacy file type) to restore, click the three-dot icon in My Backups and select Restore from PBF.
Other options are Scheduler (daily, weekly, monthly, on event - system start, user logon). There are three advanced settings: Run Backups, Wake up from sleep / Hibernate before backup, Run missed backup as soon as possible. Exclusions is easy to understand, and with just a single limitation - no possibility to add files, folders only (!).
Each backup task has a timeline, displaying data - hover the mouse over the mark to view information on the backup type, date, or to restore, pin as important, mount/unmount as logical disk, delete, etc.
To recover files there's no separate tab, all previous backups are displayed on the Timeline. To restore from external backup source, navigate to Restore From tab. In addition, there is an option to explore/export files from an external archive. Overall, a user has two ways to restore files: individual files or entire archive.
The restoration window is displayed after selecting the Restore item from Backups menu. Select a restore source (all files, disks, individual files/disks), select destination (original location or a new one manually), select backup version. Restoring individual files is also possible via Explore and Mount menu sections.
Disk Management (Disk & Volumes)
This is the second key part of Paragon Hard Disk Manager, with a variety of tools to manage disks. Operations include 4 basic ones: Connect Virtual Disk (e.g. a backup created using Paragon HDM), Find and Copy OS (unavailable in trial), Copy Files and Folders, Refresh.
When selecting Connect Virtual Disk, a user can select 1 of 3 permission levels: 1) Allow write to disk, 2) Allow non-destructive write on disk, 3) Read only. For virtual disks basically the same operations as for physical hard drives are available.
Operations with HDD
Operations with partitions
Operations with unallocated space
(not available in trial)
(not available in trial)
View / edit sectors
Convert MBR to GPT
(not available in trial)
Move / resize
View / edit sectors
View / edit sectors
Change primary slots
Split / Merge partition
Format / Change volume
Delete / Hide partition
Check file system / Test surface
Change serial number / cluster size
Convert to logical
Let’s briefly describe some of those helpful operations.
- Wipe disk/data/free space deletes data permanently via various selectable algorithms (Gutmann, HMG Infosec, VSITR, GOST, etc.).
- Convert GPT to MBR (MBR to GPT). Note, that if a disk contains Windows OS, it won’t launch after conversion.
- Update MBR. As a measure against ransomware (programs that could corrupt the Master-Boot-Record disk sector), Update MBR function will overwrite a corrupt sector with a standard.
- Move / Resize. If a partition turns out too small for user needs, this feature allows to take away free space from one partition and move it to another one. Or one can take free space and create unallocated space before/after the partition (Move and Resize Partition).
- Split partition. To split existing partition without losing data.
- Merge. The opposite to Split function, merge two partitions into one without data loss.
- Format volume. Paragon HDM supports NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, Linux Ext2FS, Ext3FS, Ext4FS, Linux Swap, XFS, BtrFS, HFS+, alternative file systems in sector-by-sector mode, as well as disks encrypted via BitLocker.
- Set partition as active / inactive. If a bootable partition isn’t active, OS will not start. Thus, with multiple partitions, it would be better to have important partitions inactive.
- Check file system. Analyze file system integrity and repair errors. Recommended to perform this check before data copying, despite possible lengthy process.
- Test surface. Check HDD surface for potential problems, unstable sectors. When found, HDM just marks areas as unusable.
- Compact / Defragment MFT. 2 different functions, though serving a single purpose - optimize NTFS. NTFS partitions could accumulate redundant records about deleted files over time and slow down a PC. These options aid to counteract that.
Settings & Help
Though Paragon Hard Disk Manager setting are scarce, there are two interesting options: Email settings and Recovery Media Builder. Email settings allow to configure an SMTP server to send notifications and reports via Gmail, Mail.ru, Outlook, Rambler, Yahoo, Yandex or manually set (IP address, port, encryption, login, password) service.
Afterwards, one can enter email addresses to send notifications to. All tasks in HDM have the Notification icon where users can configure it - type in email addresses and set the event (upon failure only, or upon both success and failure).
With Recovery Media Builder you can create bootable media (CD/DVD or USB-drive) and use it to when the system does not boot. There are two versions: WinPE-based and Linux-based. This tool can be used on different PCs, due to the possibility to include additional drivers. Also, recovery media has one extra feature - Correct Boot. Find it in Disks & Volumes -> Restore from file. Options are: a) Windows installation to correct, b) Correct the master boot record, c) Correct boot parameters, d) Correct EFI boot parameters.
Help. There is no offline user guide or tutorials, yet upon clicking the View Help item (Help Center section in the sidebar), there is a User manual PDF which opens in a browser. Also, there are tooltips in all tasks - just click a blue Info icon where you see it. A big drawback is that there’s only English language for interface and the manual.
Testing Paragon HDM
We are testing Hard Disk Manager on a laptop with Windows 7 x64 Ultimate, 8GB RAM, 320 GB HDD and dual-core Intel CPU. For pure conditions, we are not using antivirus protection. We have decided to create backups on a remote PC (connected via 1Gb LAN) with SSD. Our goal is to measure the size of backups and speed a program is capable of.
The HDD on our laptop is divided into two partitions: C (151 GB total, 51.1 GB used) and E (146 GB total, 122 GB used). We’ve tested all types of compression on disk C, and for disk E - only Normal. As a follow up, we’ve also made tests on a separate folder (Users on disk E), where the OS and files of different formats are stored.
Size of selected data, GB
Size of backup, GB
Compression ratio, %
Avg speed, Mbps
To our surprise, we’ve found out that, when restoring, the size of files in the created archive is lower than on the original disk. We compared folders both in backup and original, and they coincide in number of files.
For instance, the used space on disk C is 51.1. When we mount the backup as a virtual disk, it then displays 47.39 GB, and the same size after recovery. Yet, when we create the backup via Recovery Media, it is the same as the original size - 51.1 Gb.
Another odd issue is CPU consumption. As we see in the graph below, Paragon utilizes only one core of CPU, thus making it 61% in total. Therefore, it is highly plausible that Hard Disk Manager is not optimized for multithreaded encoding. This is definitely a room for improvement by vendor developers.
It is to the benefit of Paragon Hard Disk Manager that it actually contains 2 different utilities - backups and disk management. For one price you get two products, essentially. Paragon HDM is easy, though its not perfect: only one interface language, frequent crashes and other minor issues are present.
The exclusion list does not offer to exclude junk files (e.g. pagefile.sys, hiberfil.sys, temp files, browser cache), while some similar software does, for example Acronis True Image. Also, why the non-compression backup of disk is smaller than the disk?
During our use and tests the program crashed frequently, 5 times to be precise (twice during backup and three times during mounting). And finally, backup task fails if the system boot disk is included in the source, and even if we only want to do a backup of the system boot disk alone.
So, here are key pros and cons:
- Backup and disk management tools
- Select files by type option
- Connect virtual disk option
- Fair pricing
- Not possible to sort backup list
- Network disks not visible in Backup Destination menu
- No stats/reports on backups
- Not possible to add individual files to exceptions