Imaging and Cloning
Quick Start:- Directly download and unzip ImageForDOS 1.x (~820k free functional trial). Have a blank floppy diskette or a blank CD at the ready and run the contained MAKEDISK.EXE to create a bootable floppy or CD (or a CD ISO file for burning at a later stage). When ready, reboot to the floppy or CD you have made and follow the straightforward prompts to make and save an image file of the chosen HDD (Hard Disk Drive) partition. To restore, simply boot to the same boot disk and follow the prompts once again.
If the link for ImageForDOS 1.x above fails then either dowload it (image.zip) from the FTP Folder or get ImageForDOS 2.x from TBU. The version 2 suite of IfD, IfL and IfW utilities create different image files with .tbi file extensions that are not backward compatible with the earlier .img files made with the version 1 suite and BootIt-NG. The new applications are more elaborate and therefore do have additional features but are not, in our opinion, as simple to use as their predecessors.
Just as with our archiving section, we see little point in
the comprehensive lists of utilities outlined in the Disk
Cloning section of Wikipedia. Nor do we intend to elaborate
merits, or otherwise, of most of the proprietary software that does
this sort of work.
If you want to use 'Symantec Ghost' or 'Acronis True
'Paragon Drive Backup' and the like - that's fine but up to you. We
believe these big name "glossies" charge excessively for
their products and we in particular decry those that do not provide
trial versions, as
in the case of the aforementioned big three. Dummy-run trials are not
the same as making and
files. There are,
of course, advocates for such software but we firmly believe there are
cheaper or free utilities that do this sort of work just as well or
better. We have found the ones we will discuss to be the most
reliable when restoring after disaster has struck. Please take note
that it is much easier to create than to restore image files - so be
quite sure you know just how you will restore your system if your hard
drive totally fails.
If you really, really value your data and regardless of the promotion of any such "hot imaging", we particularly caution against making images of any partition that you are actively accessing at the time from within Windows. The few products that we will discuss all create true sector-by-sector clones and don't directly access the file systems involved. Utilities that do access the file systems are, in our opinion, not real "imagers" at all but are, in reality, file archivers that just happen to archive a whole partition at a time in an xcopy-like manner. Making image files of partitions is a valid data backup method though we recommend using specific data backup software for such tasks and would promote imaging more as a way of maintaining snapshots of your system as a whole - either for future restoration or to use as templates for cloning the partitions elsewhere.
Certain versions of Vista incorporate imaging and backup as part and parcel of the operating system. We haven't, as of yet, experimented much with these but think it worth reiterating two points: (1) that, however handy, we deprecate "hot-imaging" of system drives and (2) that it is not a good policy to ever rely on material backed-up onto the same hard drive. Always back-up to external and removable media stored in a safe place and try to do this from outside of Windows.
Our own history and migration to TeraByteUnlimited
A few years ago we used to use (almost to exclusion
their cost) the Power Quest suite of utilities that included Drive
Image, Partition Magic, Boot Magic and the superb DataKeeper. Since
being taken-over by Symantec/Norton these programs have been variously
dropped or else incorporated, in ways we don't like, into Symantec's
other products. Fred
Langa was the first to alert us to BiNG
made by TeraByteUnlimited (TBU). We started with the
free trial and haven't
looked back since. BiNG itself is a little bit geekish to use but well
worth the effort to get to know if you want a superb utility that will
do all the partitioning, imaging and boot managment tasks that you are
likely to ever need - and all at a fraction of the cost of obtaining
the equivalent "glossy" utilities. Our suggested programs are never system
the downloads are quick, even on dial-up. Don't be put off by the
absence of a glossy Windows interface - these non-showy applications
are powerful, effective and have proved to be remarkably reliable.
TBU also makes other specific imaging utilities,
notably IFD (ImageForDos) and IFW (ImageForWindows). Version 2 (which is mentioned in the Quick
Start section) of these utilities was released in early 2008 is more elaborate, not backwards compatible with Version 1 and has some new feautures and interfaces. We hardly ever use
IFW since we assiduously try to avoid imaging from within Windows but
if you purchase it then IFD does come as part of the bundle. In line
with TBU's general philosophy these applications can be tried out as
proper functional trials. Creating image sets and one or two other more
esoteric uses are all that do not function in the trial versions. You
might also like to look through their free utilities and accessories
which, in the context of this article, would include PhyLock (for use
with IFW) and TBIView (which will enable you to explore any image
files made by any of the TBU utilities as if you were using
Windows Explorer and to
restore individual files/folders from the image file should that be
IFD (both versions 1 and 2) have been mentioned in our quick start. IFD 1.x is the default
that we recommend because of its simplicity and reliability used on a
wide range of hardware (including USB and Firewire and large hard drives) over recent years. One small note on creating
the bootable media using MAKEDISK.EXE is that if you will be using
older USB1.1 hardware you may want to add UHCI=1 to the first
line of the
IFD.INI options - otherwise leave these lines blank. If the boot disk should fail to boot then enter and check your BIOS setup such that the boot order priorities are correctly set and maybe have a read of our own 'Booting-up Bootable CDs' page.
We have already mentioned our preference for only
system partitions from outside windows. With IFD this goes without
saying. We also like this methodology because the same processes are
involved in creation and restoration. Thus if you have created an image
file successfully then both you and your hardware should have no
problem in running the restoration.
Download the full imagemanual.pdf file if you want to read the complete instruction manual for yourself. Once you have booted to the IFD bootable medium the default options are generally the ones to use. You are simply presented with the various options on its 'ncurses' interface. Such interfaces are navigated using the keyboard. If this is unfamiliar then you might like to know that ESC usually cancels the last request, ENTER executes the current selection and you navigate the screens using combinations of ALT, TAB and the Arrow Keys. In some applications you may sometimes need to make selections by using the Space Bar.
Image creation notes:
- If you are imaging from a fixed internal HDD then usually the plain BIOS HDD (rather then the Direct option) is the one to choose.
- Choosing which HD and Partition that you wish to image should be straightforward.
- You can choose to Save the Image (1) to File or (2) to CD/DVD or (3) to a Partition. Saving to File needs to be on a partition or network folder that can be identified by a drive letter or an UNC network path, whereas saving "to a partition" can be to an entity not seen by DOS such as a hidden or NTFS partition.
- Saving to CD/DVD creates a bootable CD/DVD containing the image file. If more than one CD or DVD is needed, because the resultant file cannot be contained on one CD/DVD, it can make validation and restoration slow and a bit awkward because of the number of times that the various media have to be inserted and reinserted "to stitch the spanned file back together". So try to keep images on one optical medium whenever possible.
- When prompted to validate, we recommened that you agree to this but don't usually bother with the byte-for-byte validation (it will double the time taken) unless you know your media is likely to be a bit dodgy or if you want the maximum reliability.
Image restoration notes:
- Follow the same general guidelines as when creating an image but in reverse sequence.
- The main care needs to be taken when choosing the location for the restored image - particularly if this is to an existing partition rather than to any unallocated space. You will be warned once if you choose an existing partition but make sure you don't inadvertently overwrite a partition that you still really need.
- Images of logical partitions should either be restored over existing logical partitions or to unallocated space within an extended partition. If they are restored to an area outside an extended partition they become, de facto, new primary partitions.
- Make a note that BiNG or GParted (or just Fdisk from a DOS boot floppy) can be used to set a partition as active should that ever be necessary because of a failure to boot to a restored image.
If you have a simple one partition and a one hard
drive system then
such backup and restoration should be particularly straightforward and,
you would normally just replace your current and only partition with
the one in the image file. If you have more elaborate partitioning in
place or, for example, you wanted to restore the image file to a brand
new hard drive it might be necessary (or wise) to partition the drive
the way you want it before restoring to the blank drive. BiNG
are two utilities
that can do this sort of work for you as well as to resize any restored partitions
should that also be desired later-on.
Completely Free Imaging
We have already
outlined why we like the ImageForDos functional trialware (and which is also very
cheap to purchase if you want it). For those that want (completely
freely) to create and restore images of whole hard drives or individual
partitions or indeed of any other part of a hard drive such as the MBR
or Track0 then the dd utility within any Linux distro should be more
than capable of doing this. The various commands to do this (as well as
descriptions of the two utilities PartImage and
outlined in our own 'Backup
with Knoppix' webpage.
The somewhat geekish dd-for-Windows
version of dd can be run from a command line in Windows. The ongoing
problem, once having made an image from within Windows, still means (unless
you will also be able to restore from within Windows) that restoring
the perfectly good image you have made will not be straightforward.
which makes the superb GetDataBack DIY-data-recovery applications,
provides a couple of free imaging applications.
can be run from WinXP
above and also, most usefully, can be configured using a plug-in on a
so that it can be run from that Live CD (and thus completely from
outside Windows on your hard drive); (we have a page of our own that might help you set up a BartPE CD if you find that problematic).
Runtime.org also provide
"plug-ins" for most of its products, which can thus also be
added to the same CD as desired. DriveImage-XML can be used to create and restore as well
as simply browse through its image files and also to extract any or all
files from them. If it wasn't for the complexities of creating a BartPE
CD (so that you can restore without booting to windows) this would be
absolutely premiere freeware. The application creates two files, one
.xml file with "header information" on it and another .dat file which
contains the binary data. The binary data in the .dat component may be
compressed if wanted and the "Raw Mode" can also be chosen if it is
desired to literally copy every sector (used and unused) on the drive.
(both the version for FAT and the one for NTFS) can create raw, literal
images of partitions and/or hard drives. GDB, unlike DIXML
can run under Win95 and
Look at the on-line
or simply select the volume you want imaged and
the tools menu select "Create Image File". Their own on-line
say to only create images of whole physical hard drives but this is not
it just makes it better for their own recovery software to function on.
Save the resultant .img
file somewhere appropriate. You don't have to split the file if saving
to an NTFS partition otherwise, on FAT partitions, you will need to
any image larger than 2 (sometimes 4) GB. The resultant
uncompressed file will be exactly the same size as the hard drive or
partition in question. These files can be used by GDB to recover data
instead of using the actual physical media that they originated on.
These files can also be used by any program (such as dd or WinHex) that
can access and manipulate such raw image files. This is a fairly
straightforward way to create a true clone from within nearly every
version of Windows or by using a BartPE CD with the appropriate
plug-in. It doesn't however offer any way to restore the
partitions or hard drives from these images. Raw images can be restored
using dd from Linux or WinHex from within Windows
Disk and Partition Cloning
We have so far concentrated on creating image files. These files can be used as intermediaries with which to create clones of partitions and hard drives. The utilities recommended all create true clones in the sense that the data is copied sector-by-sector rather than file-by-file (and whether or not the image files were compressed). It is also possible to clone by directly copying the whole partition to another area of the same or another hard drive and indeed complete hard drives can also be cloned in a similar manner.
utilities already mentioned, direct partition to partition
cloning/copying can be done using BiNG, GParted, DriveImage-XML and dd.
Direct disk-to-disk cloning/copying can be done with dd and with another TBU freeware application called CopyWipe. Most hard drive manufacturers also provide free utilities that will do this for their own hard drives and sometimes if there is just one of their hard drives on your system somewhere. The utilities and the websites are changed so often and there have been so many mergers that we are reluctant to provide specific links. If you google for the name of your drive manufacturer plus "downloads" or "hard drives" you should find the relevant page if any of the following links has gone dead. Most makers also have a Wikipedia page with external links that can be helpful. There are links to companies still in business included in the defunct hard drive wiki..
- Hitachi (and IBM)
- Seagate (and Maxtor and Quantum and Conner) (note also that SeaTools, etc, now utilise a customised and pretty effective version of the Acronis utilities).
- Toshiba (have not provided such utilities at this time).
- Western Digital
- Portable Hard Drive Cloning Devices exist but will be far too expensive for the average user or small business.
- If you want to access a drive externally (particularly in the case of 2.5" laptop drives) then consider buying an external USB2 or firewire Disk Enclosure. These are usually only a little more expensive, if at all, than equivalent converter cables.
- There is a very wide range of converter cards and cables for connecting between 1.8", 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives and between SATA, IDE and USB ports/interfaces. Some examples at Addonics but you may need to look around locally or try other on-line stores or Google to find the one that suits your purposes.
- USB Drives.
Accessing USB drives has historically been difficult from DOS and the early (pre Win98SE) DOS-based versions of Windows. Very specific and not easily configurable drivers are usually required. This has meant that it has often been difficult or impossible to access such drives from older DOS-based imaging and cloning utilities. The TBU utilities and those running from a modern Linux kernel or from a BartPE CD should all have native support for USB. It is much better if you have USB2 support on your system since it is often not that easy to properly configure the older USB1.1 protocols which have, in any case, very much slower data transfer rates. If you only have USB 1.1 then if you are going to be imaging to a USB device we strongly recommend that you get yourself a USB2 PCI or PCMCIA card to augment such processes.
- Large Hard Drives.
There is a long history of various disk capacity thresholds creating problems. Now, in 2007, this mostly relates to the 48bitLBA 128GiB/137GB barrier. Assuming your mainboard (or the firmware in your external drive) does support these capacities then you should have no problems when using an appropriate operating system with such hard drives. BiNG and IFD both have such native large drive support. Win2KSP4 and WinXPSP1 are other minima and this also shouldn't be problematic for Linux distros. If you are having real problems cloning a new hard drive then the maker's own utilities are generally the least problematic, since they can usually install a DDO (Dynamic Drive Overlay) on top of the MBR to make the whole drive accessible, when this is necessary.
- Modifying Partitions.
For various reasons you may want to reorganise the partition layout on a hard drive by creating, deleting, moving, resizing or changing the status of existing partitions. We cannot stress enough, whatever software you use to do this, that such procedures are inherently dangerous to data and that any vital data should be backed-up on removable media before you begin. Our own practice is to create image files of the whole system onto an external hard drive before such manipulations but, as a minimum, copy any vital data to some flash memory or to a CD. Making a backup of the MBR is another safeguard that can save a lot of hassle if things should happen to go astray. Having said all that, both BiNG and GParted can "non-destructively" resize partitions as can Partition Magic and others of the more expensive "glossies".