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Cloning or Imaging HDD

Updated: 02/01/2008
I am not an affiliate of any of the programs listed here.

Drive Imaging versus Drive Cloning?
Differences Between Cloning, Imaging, and Backups
Backing Up & Cloning a Win 98 HDD Using XXCopy
Cloning a HDD Using Linux
Cloning or Creating an Image File of a HDD Using Various Programs

Why not have a Full Copy of your computer's HDD by either Cloning or Imaging the HDD by using a Second Internal HDD or an External HDD as a Serious Backup Plan in case some malware infects your computer or the HDD crashes for some reason!!??
At least then you could use that backup copy to restore all of your original files, folders, programs and personal settings in one fell swoop!!

F = Free & $ = Money

Drive Imaging versus Drive Cloning? - I suspect at one time there was a much more rigid technical distinction between the concepts of "Image" versus "Clone". There still may be, but I suspect that in popular usage, there is a bit more interchangeability between the two.

In general conversations I tend to refer to an "image" (noun) as being the physical data (structure/contents) copied captured off a source drive or partition. I may then apply the "image" to one or more target drives using that previously captured information. I suppose you could refer to the process of capturing the data off the source drive as "imaging" it (verb), as well as when you image (verb) apply the image to the target. Depending on the method and software used, it may be a complete image (sector by sector capture of the entire partition/drive -- whether blocks in those sectors are in use or not...good for forensics) or simply a file/folder based image that only captures files/folders/structure that are active blocks on the drive and not any "unused block" sector data.

When I refer to "cloning" a system I tend to refer to using an image to make one or more exact replicas (sector by sector) of a source drive to one or many target drives. I use "cloning" as a process description or verb form.

Regardless, the point is that what we are attempting to do is copy the system, application, data files, and structure from one hard drive. It may then be used as a backup to restore back in the case of a failure...or it may be used to replicate that data to other drives. Imaging/Cloning is a bit more expansive than a "backup" whereas an image/clone should (typically) restore an entire operating system, a backup would simple be concerned with capturing and preserving data for restoration in failure, but not necessarily the operating system itself.

Claus Valca was kind enough to allow me to quote part of his article here on my site...Please Read The Whole Article for some wonderful information about backing up your HDD including a bunch of links to various programs, both Commercial and Free. While you're there, check out the rest of his awesome Grand Stream Dreams Blog as he has lots of tecnical info there and you could easily get "lost" for a coupla hours readin' stuff...Not like I did this myself, ya know. :-) 02/01/2008

Here's an excellent Explanation of the Differences Between Cloning, Imaging, and Backups graciously provided by gridert! Thanks gridert!!

The terms Cloning, Imaging, and Backup are used by different companies to mean different things. And, sometimes wrongly. In order to understand what a package is doing you are going to have to read the documentation carefully.


Cloning: Is copying sector by sector from one object to another, in the process totally destroying the contents of the target object. I use the term object because cloning can happen at the disk or partition level. For a lot of people with their disks partitioned into one partition, it doesn't really matter. However, there are packages that will clone at the partition level. The nice thing about cloning is that the resultant object is immediately useful. In the case of disk cloning, one can replace the source disk with the target disk and the system will work. Some packages call this imaging. One can also grab copies of files that have been deleted or destroyed.

Imaging: Is copying sector by sector an object (disk or partition) to a file on the target object (usually a file within a partition within a disk). Or, it can be onto tape. In this case data on the target object is usually not destroyed (except for tape, there are some tape archivers however that can add onto an existing tape). The advantage here is that usually with compression, multiple copies can be made to the target object. And, not everything has to be copied each time (i.e. incremental backups). One can also recover lost or damaged files, and sometimes one has a choice of which one to restore. The disadvantage is that in recovery one must do something to convert the image back to something bootable. Most packages provide that something, ranging from the simple to the complex. And, many packages use the term cloning when they mean imaging and imaging when they mean cloning. *sigh*

Backup: Is saving the data somewhere else. What really gets confusing is that cloning and imaging are methods of backup. There are others. Usually I view backup as saving the data and not necessarily worrying about the system. You can backup a system, and not be able to recover a working system from the backup directly. Karen's Replicator is like this. It's good at saving data. It's not good at saving systems. Thus one needs to use the right tool for the right job.

Personally: I use Karen's Replicator to copy my never lose always have pictures, music, and video to another system (a PII/266 with a 40G hard drive running Win98, makes a dandy little server). I also use Dantz Retrospect Express (which is now EMC Retrospect) to image my system to a WD External Drive. Thus, if I lose my hard drive. I will need to recover it with Retrospect. If that fails, I can at least get the never lose always have pictures, music, and video from my server. Perfect backup. No. Better than nothing, you bet!* 08/01/2006

Backing Up & Cloning a Win 98 HDD Using XXCopy

ONLY if you're using Win 9.x, can you use XXCopy to CLONE the HDD. Then you can continue using XXCopy to keep the cloned drive updated with incremental backups. F

http://www.xxcopy.com/xxcopy10.htm - (Disk Clone Operation) - The disk clone operation has become one of the most popular usages of the XXCOPY utility. Therefore, I decided to have this dedicated page just for the subject. But, if you just arrived at this page for the first time and have not really learned much about XXCOPY, I would like to remind you that this Disk Clone capability is rather a small portion of what XXCOPY can do for you. If you are in a hurry, go ahead and finish your disk clone job by following the instructions below. But, I suggest you come back and explore the rest of XXCOPY.

In this article, I would like to discuss the most common case of disk cloning operation. Some related topics which were once part of this article are moved to another page, XXTB #20. (see next link)

Note: The technique discussed in this article applies primarily for Windows 9x and ME cases. If your C: drive is loaded with Win NT4/2000/XP, you will not get a bootable disk. If you have a dual-boot system (Win 9X and NT/2000/XP), then it is best you perform the operation from Win 9x. But even in that case, the newly cloned drive will not be dual-bootable because XXCOPY does not touch the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a hard disk (we believe it should be handled by FDISK or other tools).

As of this writing, we do not have a simple solution to reliably produce a bootable system disk for an NT4/2000/XP system using the XXCOPY utility.

http://www.xxcopy.com/xxcopy20.htm - (Variations of /CLONE Switch) - The topics included in this page were originally in the Disk Cloning article XXTB #10. Since most first-time visitors want to learn the simple disk clone operation and tend to be in a hurry, I decided to do them a favor by removing much of the variations and related materials from the page and keep the other article focused on the disk clone case only. Here, a few variations which are related to the /CLONE switch are discussed.*

http://www.xxcopy.com/xxcopy06.htm (Incremental Backup Using the Archive Attribute) - When XCOPY was the only "officially" designated system archive utility in MS-DOS, the Archive attribute had its usefulness. Or, if only one backup regime in the system manipulates the Archive attribute bit and no other programs modifies the bit, the scheme works well.

However, there are many backup and archive utilities that are capable of clearing the Archive attribute.

Unfortunately, the operating systems do not enforce this "only-one-program-can-modify-the-Archive-bit" policy. Because of possible interference with other applications which might clear the Archive attribute, we consider that the incremental backup scheme based upon the Archive attribute too risky to depend upon.

Therefore, we do not recommend the use of the /M switch to perform any system backup operation. For an incremental backup, XXCOPY's /BI switch performs similar function with more confidence by comparing the files in the source and the destination with regard to the file size AND file date/time. If either of the two does not match (or the file does not exist in the destination), the file will be copied. This method is nearly as efficient as looking at the Archive bit.
* 06/13/2003

Cloning a HDD Using Linux

Jim Locker posted these Linux instructions for imaging a hard drive on The Motley Fool's Help With This STUPID Computer board in a thread he titled, "Changing laptop HD using Knoppix." Thank you Jim for granting me permission to use a portion of your thread on my web site!

"My laptop hard drive started to malfunction when I was at a trade show in Vegas a couple weeks ago. I had to use the command line to patch things up enough to keep going, and I had to give my presentation with a visibly malfunctioning system. Such fun.

When I got home I ran diagnostics on the system and concluded that the HD was going out - the bad blocks list was starting to grow quite quickly.

Now, this system isn't important; reloading it is no big deal since I keep nothing original or important on it. Nonetheless, the time to reload packages and service packs and so forth is time I would rather not spend. Also, the Win XP install information is a hidden partition on the HD. I have it backed up, but still losing it could prove a big problem.

So, I decided to image the HD, then load the image on the new HD.

I can't use Ghost for this because I was going to image the HD to a Linux partition on a different machine (DADSBOX) and Ghost doesn't support this. Also, Ghost has rather limited capabilities when you are using a network, requiring both the source and the destination machines to be booted into DOS. Naturally, since this is a laptop, I can't have both drives plugged into the laptop, and plugging both drives into another computer requires reconfiguring another computer, which is (to say the least) a nuisance.

So, I decided to do it with Knoppix, running Knoppix on the laptop and connecting with my Linux machine (could as easily have been a Windows machine) to shove the data across the LAN to the intended destination.

So I loaded Knoppix on the laptop, opened a console window on the laptop, changed to root, and created a mount point on the laptop for the space on DADSBOX that I wanted to access:

mkdir /mnt/space

Then I mounted the share on DADSBOX (which is shared through SAMBA with the name "space", but if this had been a Windows box could have been my C drive, or E drive, or whatever):

smbmount //dadsbox/space /mnt/space -o username=jiml,password=mypassword

Then I imaged the drive from the laptop to space on DADSBOX. As I did it, I broke it up into 100 meg files rather than try to have one big 30 Gig file on DADSBOX:

dd if=/dev/hda | split -b 100000000 - /mnt/space/LTRecover.img

This didn't work because of bad blocks on the old HD; when it hit the first bad block there would be a read error and the transfer would stop. So I reran it with the flag set that continues even with a read error:

dd conv=noerror if=/dev/hda | split -b 100000000 - /mnt/space/LTRecover.img

So, this command ran for about 4 hours and moved 30 gigs to the partition space on DADSBOX.

I then swapped the hard drive, reloaded Knoppix, opened a console window, changed to root, created the mount point, mounted space on DADSBOX, and imaged the entire thing back to the new hard drive, reassembling the files as I went:

cat /mnt/space/LTRecover.img.* | dd of=/dev/hda

I then booted the laptop into Windows XP to make sure it worked. It did work. I scheduled a complete surface scan using Chkdsk to correct all the errors that have to be there, and as I write this that run is underway. There are lots of errors, but this doesn't surprise me because the old HD was going down quickly. I expect Chkdsk will recover almost all the data without incident, and as I have said, there is nothing really critical here anyway; everything that matters is stored someplace else.

Now, the hidden partition that contains the system install/recovery stuff did fail to restore properly; the partition boot sector is badly corrupted, so I just reformatted that partition and when Chkdsk is done I will simply load the backup copy onto the partition.

In any case, this proved to be a pretty straightforward operation that demonstrated a capability that otherwise would have been painful, which is why I posted it here."* 01/18/2005

Cloning a HDD Using Various Programs

If you have a Windows OS, you can use any one of these programs to Clone or create an Image of your HDD.
Please be sure check the File Systems Supported and Operating System Requirements!
Program Names and Versions may have changed since the link was added!
There are both commercial and freeware programs listed here.
And one of them even works with Macintosh Computers...EMC Retrospect.

Acronis True Image Home - Complete file and system disk imaging backup and restore software for home and home office users that can protect your entire system and family pictures, videos, music, and important documents stored on your home PC.* 02/17/2006 $

BootIt Next Generation - BootIt Next Generation (BING) is a partition and multi boot manager with a powerful and simple to use set of tools for partitioning, imaging, and multi-booting your computer.  It combines the features of several standalone products costing hundreds of dollars more. Image for Windows (IFW) is a Win32 based backup and restore utility that creates a snapshot of an entire partition or volume to a set of files or directly to most CD-R/RW or DVD writable drives. If something should ever happen to that partition or volume, you'll be able to simply restore the snapshot image. Image for DOS (IFD) is a DOS based backup and restore utility that creates a snapshot of an entire partition or volume to a set of files or directly to most ATAPI or ASPI available CD-R/RW or DVD writable drives. If something should ever happen to that partition or volume, you'll be able to simply restore the snapshot image.* Fred Langa had a nice review of this program in his July 3, 2004 Newsletter. 08/05/2003 $

DriveImage XML - DriveImage XML is an easy to use and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives.

The program allows you to:

  • Backup logical drives and partitions to image files
  • Browse these images, view and extract files
  • Restore these images to the same or a different drive
  • Copy directly from drive to drive
  • Schedule automatic backups with your Task Scheduler

  • Image creation uses Microsoft's Volume Shadow Services (VSS), allowing you to create safe "hot images" even from drives currently in use.

    Images are stored in XML files, allowing you to process them with 3rd party tools. Never again be stuck with a useless backup!

    Restore images to drives without having to reboot.

    DriveImage XML runs under Windows XP Home, XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 only. The program will backup, image and restore drives formatted with FAT 12, 16, 32 and NTFS.
    * 02/17/2006 F

    Drive SnapShot 1.3 - Disk Image Backup/Restore for Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/PE/x64/Vista - SnapShot is disk imaging software that enables the user to back up, restore and view backed up hard disk data, easily and safely.* - From TinyApps April 13th, 2004, Newsletter, "Drive SnapShot 1.3 is simply the most amazing drive imaging software for Windows: Create disk image backups while running Windows; Continue your work, while the backup is in progress; Access files inside of backup images via any shell (like Windows Explorer); Compatible with FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, RAID; Does not require installation, nor will it change anything in your system configuration. (via Detlef Loeffelholz)."* $

    EMC Retrospect - EMC Retrospect is an award-winning software product that protects millions of computers worldwide by providing best-in-class data protection for servers, desktops, notebooks, and business-critical applications. Patented technology makes Retrospect easy to administer and delivers fast, reliable backups with smart restores. Customers using Retrospect include small and midsize businesses, distributed enterprises, as well as home and home offices.* Compare Home editions for Windows and Compare Home Editions for Macintosh. 02/17/2006 $

    HDClone - HDClone copies the complete contents of hard disks and other IDE/ATA/SATA, SCSI, and USB media on a physical level. This allows to create even backups or copies of complete operating system installations smoothly. In combination with the special 'SafeRescue' mode of HDClone, this technique is also perfect for rescuing data in case of defective hard disks. Furthermore, HDClone works independent of partition layout, file system and operating system. Thus, it also works with proprietary data formats which could not be accessed otherwise. Besides copying complete drives, it is also possible to apply it to certain partitions only. There are four versions available: Free, Basic, Standard and Professional.* 02/28/2006 F & $

    Norton Ghost 10 - Win 2k and Win XP Home/Pro Only - Save the stuff you care about with the new Norton Ghost. From photos and music to tax documents, Norton Ghost 10.0 automatically backs up and recovers everything on your computer. Reliable, efficient, and versatile, Norton Ghost optimizes backup space, works with a wide range of media devices, and brings back your entire system in a few short steps.

  • Backs up everything on your computer - digital music, photos, financial documents, applications, settings, operating system, etc. - in one easy step.
  • Recovers your system and data even when you can't restart your operating system.
  • Makes incremental backups to maximize space and save time.
  • Makes backups on the fly, without restarting your system.
  • Backs up to almost any media, including CDR/RW and DVD+-R/RW drives, USB and FireWire® (IEEE 1394) devices, and Iomega® Zip® and Jaz® drives.
  • * 02/17/2006 $

    I found mention of the Radified Guide to Norton Ghost in the Feb. 1, 2004 TinyApps.org Newsletter. 03/08/2004

    Paragon Drive Backup - Drive Backup creates a backup image of entire hard disk, including operating system with all user preferences and settings, applications and data files. Paragon's Hot Backup technology allows to perform real-time hard disk imaging backup without Windows reboot or any application's interruption. You will be able to completely restore operating system with all installed and configured applications, valuable documents and files with no reinstallations required. You can also restore separate files form disk's backup image.* 08/01/2006 $

    Partition Logic - Partition Logic is a free hard disk partitioning and data management tool.  It can create, delete, format, defragment, resize, and move partitions and modify their attributes.  It can copy entire hard disks from one to another.

    Partition Logic is free software, based on the Visopsys operating system.  It boots from a CD or floppy disk and runs as a standalone system, independent of your regular operating system.  It is intended to become a free alternative to such commercial programs as Partition Magic, Drive Image, and Norton Ghost... (read more).
    * 04/10/2006 F

    Partition Saving - This program has as goal to realise saving, restoring and copying of disk element (whole disk, Master Boot Record, partitions table, partition). This allows saving hard disk contents to restore it later in case of a problem and this without loosing time with installation and configuration of all software.

    This program allows running following tasks:

  • saving an element (hard disk, partition, floppy disk, device).
  • restoring an element that was saved before.
  • copying an element.
  • copying of files created by this program with modifying their size or deflate rate.
  • checking of created files.
  • simulating element with created files.

  • For all information about partitioning or program please read additional information.
    * 06/04/2004 F

    SmartSync Pro - SmartSync Pro is a universal full-featured solution to back up and synchronize data to the local drive, external Flash/USB/ZIP drive, CD/DVD, NAS, network volumes or even remote computer.* 06/14/2006 $

    TwoCybers, a.k.a. Gordon, a friend of mine at TMF, recently posted that he has been using this program since March 2004 and says, "For a very moderate price you can get a great Backup program at www.SmartSync.com. According to the Help files you can password protect your backups. You can schedule automatic backups. I find customer support for this software (only via email) excellent. I use it for backup to an external HDD connect via USB."*

    SyncBack Freeware - (Windows 98/NT/2K/ or XP) - SyncBack is our multi-award winning freeware program that helps you easily backup and synchronise your files to: the same drive; a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc); an FTP server; a Network; or a Zip archive.

    SyncBack was first released in November 2003 and quickly established itself as the finest freeware backup program available.
    * 08/24/2004 F

    XXCLONE - XXCLONE views a Windows disk as a collection of files and directories and with a few exceptions, its access to data on the disk is carried out as a logical (file) access operations using the standard Windows file I/O Application Program Interface (API).

    Whereas, nearly all of competing products on the market that are designed for disk cloning operations access the disk using physical, low-level (sector to sector) device I/O technique.

    In short, XXCLONE is a special purpose file-copy utility with extra features to make the target volume self-bootable (this portion of the operation still requires low-level disk I/O).   It is not a disk-imaging tool that treats a disk as a collection of sectors.   Much of XXCLONE's advantages is a result this fundamental difference to its competing products.
    * The freeware version of XXClone is not supported in any way except through the XXClone Google Group. F & $

    I personally tested the Freebie Version of XXClone with Win XP Pro for myself and XXClone worked perfectly!

    After I Clean Installed Win XP Pro on this HDD, installed a few programs, and changed a few system settings, I cloned the HDD using XXClone to a Slave HDD and then made that HDD the Master and rebooted.

    Everything worked perfectly! XXClone even popped up when I first booted and said it detected that the HDD Drive Letter was correctly changed to C:\. All system setting changes I made were correct and a coupla Fav Links I added to IE were still there.

    I then added Office XP, ran all updates, made some program setting changes, and installed a few more programs. I then re-cloned the HDD and rebooted and once again XXClone confirmed the Drive Letter was changed and everything worked as expected.

    One Warning: The Freebie Version of XXClone will overwrite ALL DATA on the Target Device!! Meaning, you can not create several different clones on the same Backup HDD being used with the Freebie version. If you want more power and features, then I'd highly recommend that you purchase the Pro Version of XXClone.

    BTW: When I cloned 2GB and then 3GB of data across two HDDs via IDE Cable, it took 15 and 20 mins respectively.

    Update: I recently talked a friend through using XXClone for the first time over the phone. I didn't remember to warn him that XXClone would overwrite everything on the Target Drive and he had several other Partitions on the HDD he was using. Guess what? XXClone did not overwrite those Partitions. It only overwrote Partition 0, the first Partition on the HDD. Meaning, it may be possible to create several different Cloned Copies of the HDD by using multiple Partitions. However, none of those Partitions will be Bootable, so be careful in using the Freebie Version. Updated: 02/01/2008

    Update: I installed Office 2007 on my computer and then Cloned the HDD once again using XXClone and my whole system was trashed. Even though I knew I wouldn't get any technical support from XXClone, I at least expected to get a response from them using their Google Forum acknowledging the issue, but they wouldn't even reply to my posts. I cannot recommend such a program where the developers refuse to reply to their customers, even if the customers are using their freebie version of the program.

    *These people and/or sites have been quoted directly.
    Company names and logos belong to and/or are copyrighted and/or trademarked by the site owners.

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