Close-up photo of the inside of a hard disk drive

Copy that!

There are many ways to ensure that you can recover quickly from a failed disk drive.  Backup of the data is probably the most critical. But for those cases where you have a lot of software with customized settings, it is worthwhile to backup the entire configuration of the drive.  And that’s where drive imaging comes in.  I typically recommend you take an image of a system or server on a quarterly basis.  That way if you get hit with a virus or drive failure, you can get your configuration back with a minimum of hassle and bring back the data after that.

My favorite drive imagine software is CloneZilla.  It comes on several of the popular rescue kits, such as Hiram’s Boot CD, the Ultimate Boot CD, and Parted Magic.  There is also a CloneZilla Live CD and this might be the best one to have, since it supports the thorny UEFI on new motherboards. Unfortunately, it lacks RAID support so you might need to consider alternatives.

At a recent meeting of the Oregon Computer Consultants Association, we discussed our favorite disk imaging software and came up with a lengthy list.  Here are the highlights:

  • Acronis True Image which was the popular favorite. This tool can restore to different hardware (perhaps due to the proprietary disk drive driver that also means you will need to use Acronis for any repairs to that system).  It also has the ability to convert Acronis images to Windows Backup files and vice versa.
  • Macrium Reflect which came in second favorite to Acronis with similar features
  • CloneZilla which I mentioned above can see UEFI when booting from their Live CD
  • AOEMI Partition Assistant which can clone or rescue disks.
  • Drive Duplicator from Aluretek, which is a physical device with slots for two drives to copy from one to the other
  • Spinrite, the venerable drive utility which includes imaging tools
  • MiniTool’s Drive Copy which sees all the hidden Windows 8 partitions

So there is my short list.  In my experience, cloning can take a long time and there are some gotchas.  That’s why its good to have some other options to fall back on when your favorite one doesn’t work.  On the same note, please do at least one full test using a pair of spare disks to ensure that the copy and restore results in a fully functional drive – especially when you are creating images to save space.


Photo by Mister GC