Best Free Drive Cloning Software

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Introduction

Notwithstanding claims of others, I cannot pretend to be entirely unbiased in my reviews; indeed, an “unbiased human” is an oxymoron. While I am in the process of preparing a 2011 update, there are two points that I would like to mention: bells and whistles and the availability of reliable customer service.

Whatever else developers claim their programs are capable of, those programs must be able to accomplish their end; the importance of how they get there is most often a matter of personal preference. My bias dictates that, within the parameters chosen by the user, a disk imaging program ought to be able to faithfully create and restore the image. To me, factors like resources consumed, GUI, speed of operations, and others are a matter of personal choice or are influenced by the users’ hardware and operating system. Can we agree that, regardless of its features, if a program cannot consistently create and restore accurate images, it is useless? Simplicity and the conjunction of my and others’ experiences vis-à-vis reliability will greatly influence my reviews; comments are welcome.

Disk imaging has rapidly become a must have tool for most users because of its convenience, speed, and altogether ease of use. With disk imaging software a user can safely recover their computer from a system crash or a bad virus infection without having to worry about reformatting and reinstalling the operating system. With drive imaging there is almost no reason at all to have to reinstall Windows because it offers you the ability to restore an image to your hard drive in a fraction of that time and accomplish the same thing while keeping all of your programs and important data. For many users this has made Windows backup and other file backup solutions redundant.

There are two different types of disk imaging programs, online and offline. Most imaging software nowadays are online programs, meaning that they can run and create images inside of Windows while the operating system is running.

The offline type are the programs that run in an alternative operating system such as MSDOS or Linux, to create and restore backup images while Windows is not running. Although most Windows users' love the normal GUI driven programs, there are advantages to using either type of this software.

Most applications offer different options for creating images. You have the option to back up only the used sectors on the disk, which will create an image of only those sectors on the hard disk that are in use by the file system. This option will make the backup much smaller than if you were to create a clone of the drive. A clone is exactly what it sounds like, an exact sector by sector mirror copy of the entire drive including the unused sectors. These images can be saved to an external hard drive, a USB flash drive, a separate partition on your internal hard drive, burned to a CD/DVD for safe keeping, or saved to a network share. Some applications can use image backups as a file backup and mount images to a drive in explorer so individual files can be restored. There are several other options that can be found within the different free programs available, but for most users the default options provided with any of the applications below should suffice.

With the release of Windows 7 in October 2009, Microsoft provided us with some new and improved features. One of the more talked about features is the new enhanced Windows Backup and Restore application which now has the ability to create disk images. I myself do not use the built in backup because it does not have all of the features and extras that I require, but I have tested it thoroughly and have gotten to know how it handles for this review. I have to say that it is a very solid backup solution that is reliable and is able to create and restore backups in a reasonable time and faster than some of the other free options around. The program will create an image of any partition on the hard drive if it is formatted to use the NTFS file system but it always includes the system partition and does not let you opt out. The drive that you are saving the backup on must also be formatted to use the NTFS file system. The new Window 7 backup is much improved and while it does not include some of the bells and whistles that other programs may have, it is a solid and simple solution to drive imaging, although not quite as comprehensive as some other choices.

ToolTip: For any of you devoted disk imagers, there are two tools that you must have, and yes, I will be checking up on you! I can't devote the space I would like to here to discuss them, so if you have questions, please comment below, or go to the forums for more involved issues. First is EasyBCD (free for non-commercial use), a GUI editor for the BCD store, the file that controls the overall booting process in Windows Vista and 7 (sorry XPers, this only works with the newer OS), but it can do so much more. For example, boot CD image files, the '.iso' files, stored on your HD, floppy images, '.img' raw format, it gives a GRUB/GRUB2 choice for multibooters, it can fix many boot errors/problems that plague so many while imaging/partitioning, and on and on - the website has extensive documentation to help get you going.

The second tool is Super GRUB2 Disk {SGD}, and though it sounds of interest to only Linux types, that isn't the case. If you do run into booting problems, and YOU WILL, booting into this CD/floppy/USB (yes all in one image file!), brings up a choice, the first is 'Detect any OS', which can often save you from even serious MBR/boot issues, and this does work for XP!!. The third menu item is to detect any bootable iso files in the folder 'boot-isos', where you can store your EasyBCD boot files, too. Booting isos is iffy, so it's good to have two methods to work with. But with EasyBCD you can have an image of the SGD, along with full access to a number of full LiveCD Linux distros, giving you the ability to boot a wide range of rescue and other boot environments without needing the CD.

 
Discussion

 

Because Macrium has incrementally been improving their newest 5.0 release since it came out, ironing out a few bugs, making their recovery media adequately install drivers, I have gone back to them for the top spot, especially after finding out you can clone a working, running system with it, I think that is very new, and don’t recall anyone else doing that.

 


 

Macrium Reflect Free Edition is a very solid application that is great at what it does. The free version lacks some key features others have, notably differential/incremental and file/network file support.  

With Macrium you can create an XML definition file and save it to your desktop so that all you have to do anytime you want to create a backup is double click the file and the operation will start without anymore user input. You can also start a backup through the context menu when you right click on a partition in Windows Explorer. The application offers a convenient and easy way to schedule backups with the XML definitions files via the GUI.  

The program now has the capability, possibly unique feature amoung free imagers, of cloning your working and running system; very, very handy, and it's already made my life easier. Macrium didn’t include the file backup option in the free version, but the software can mount any backup image that you have created so you can explore and restore any individual files if the need arises.

Now in the new version 5.0, Macrium includes a PE recovery, eliminating  a major objection. The new PE recovery is quite nice, offering the same functionality as the installed version, most of their driver problems in creating the recovery media appear fixed. These improvements have lead me to place it just ahead of Paragon, by a small but not insignificant margin.

 

It was very hard to choose a top pick for this category. Any of the top three here should satisfy most,  the new Paragon Backup and Recovery (Advanced) Free edition now falls a bit behind Macrium.

This is a program that is very much improved over some of their older Drive Backup editions. Backup and Recovery 11 has some notable extras over some other free programs such as the ability to carry out some very basic partition editing, as well as full support for ext2, 3, and 4 Linux file systems. It was very fast in creating an image of an 8 GB partition, taking just over nine minutes and creating an image that was just over half the size of the partition with the default option for compression.

It is the only program that I reviewed with the option to create differential backups which will save a lot of time and space by backing up only the changes that have occurred since a full image was created. It restores seamlessly to smaller partitions, a very welcome, and sometimes desperately needed, ability few other free packages offer. 

The application also has a Linux based bootable CD that you can build in case something happens and your computer will not boot. It can schedule predefined backups to run automatically and the program also gives you the option to password protect your backup archives. Of note, is the ability to virtualize systems disks to facilitate migration to such an environment, though this only worked with Windows systems, and with Paragon offering the best support for Linux file systems, this oversight perplexes. 

An untested but interesting feature is its 'Backup Capsule' concept, where the backup is a hidden full system mirror that can take over should the original become damaged. 

Overall, Paragon Backup and Recovery Free is a reliable program with some great features that is well suited to handle the needs of most users.

Drive Image XML is another great free utility for drive imaging. I had only used this software one time before and it was a few years ago and other than the very long 28:30 minutes that it took to create an image of that same 8 GB partition, I thought the program was very solid.

I still do not like the GUI very much, but the program is easy enough to use. Runtime didn’t give very many options for creating an image mostly just the essentials, you can create a raw sector by sector image (clone), and you have two options for compression and neither are any good by default, but you can tweak them to be better via preferences.

The program also has a feature called ‘Drive to Drive’ which will create an image and restore it directly to a second drive without saving the image first. You can also explore backup archives and restore files from the archives in a similar fashion as is available with Macrium Reflect. You can also schedule backups but you have to manually set that up with task scheduler, just the same the program has support for Bart PE/Win PE and has plug-ins available on the website. But building the bootable media and installing the plug-in is left entirely up to the user even if they do include a short tutorial on the site about creating the Bart PE boot CD.

Drive Image XML feels is a little different than the other software in this category but it is certainly a reliable imaging program that has a very good feature set capable of covering the needs of most users.

There are a few different options for users that are looking for a good free drive imaging solution and some of the most reliable options are offline programs. The choice that stands out above the rest for me is PING (PartImage Is Not Ghost).

Most offline solutions can be kind of intimidating and hard to figure out at first but PING is almost too easy as it leads you through the steps needed to create an image one by one and offers a short explanation of some of the options available.

(New editors note:  With all due deference to my very able predecessor, the choices offered as you step through the procedure may easily confuse with nomenclature and concepts not used in typical Windows systems and environments.)  

The program can create incremental backup images and will save you significant time in doing so. It can also backup and restore the BIOS and it can create a bootable restoration disk to make restoring your backups that much easier. The software was developed to offer a free alternative to the very popular Norton Ghost and over the years it has gained a better set of features than Ghost making it a great choice for anybody.

Clonezilla is the other free offline software that stands out to me. Although it can be complicated upon first use it is a very good program and probably the most popular offline free drive imaging application.

It contains a beginners mode with all of the advanced options selected for you and all you have to choose is the partition or disk to backup and the location to save it which can be a USB drive, CD/DVD, or network share. The expert mode can be really confusing if you are not sure of what you are doing and generally the beginners mode should suffice for most users. The program can perform a disk to disk copy or just the regular disk or partition image backup but it is slow in doing this taking almost thirty minutes to create an image of an 8 GB partition.

However, Clonezilla does come in different packages, you can get it with the G-Parted boot CD or with UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) which contains several other programs on one CD making the possibilities even greater.

Some hard drive manufacturers offer free software utilities to owners of their products to aid them in such tasks as diagnostics, disk management, and installing new hard drives. Of those tools made available a couple of manufacturers are offering free disk imaging software for users of their drives to use as long as they own the drive.

Owners of Seagate hard drives are eligible to download and use the Seagate Disk Wizard tools. Disk Wizard is essentially a slimmed down version of Acronis True Image that is available for free.

Owners of Western Digital hard drives also have a great option for disk imaging. Western Digital offers the Acronis True Image WD Edition which is much the same as what Seagate offers to its users.

 
Related Products and Links
 
Quick Selection Guide

Macrium Reflect Free
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very easy to use and fast. can restore individual files, works with linux files systems, ability to clone hard drives--including the working system partition, schedule backups easily, very stable and reliable, great compression of backup images, can convert to vhd virtual format, includes WindowsPE recovery. Best of category in frequency of updates.
No incremental or differential backups, no file/network support-only in non-free edition.
5.2.6433
2.2 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP/Vista /7 /8

v5.2.6427 released 22 October, 2013
View release notes here

Backup & Recovery 2013 Free
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Fast backup and restore, differential backups, basic partitioning capabilities, can restore individual files, cyclic backup, good compression options, can clone hard drives.  Recovery media is full-featured, can do most of what the installed application can. Works with Windows 8 including Storage Spaces.
Some compatibility problems with Linux recovery media, no PE environment recovery, program requires registration for download.
10.1.19.16240
102MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8

v10.1.19.16240 released 18 March, 2013
View the changelog here

Drive Image XML
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Drive to Drive image copy, restore individual files from images, ability to restore images to different drives. Provisions for incorporation into WinPE environments via plug-ins. Simple, basic, reliable.
No incremental or differential backup, backup process is very slow compared to others, not many options for creating backups, almost no default compression, has no recovery media included and users have to create their own XP-only based disk, users also have to schedule tasks manually with Windows Task Manager.
2.5
1.78 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP/2003/Vista/7
Clonezilla
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Supports a huge array of file systems, very reliable and stable, available on several different boot CD packages with many extra tools, and as a standalone liveCD, a very popular program
Offline only, can be difficult to use or complicated on first use, no incremental or differential backups, can not explore or restore files from images, not very fast
http://clonezilla.org/
2.2.0-29
133.2 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
All Windows and Linux, Intel based Mac OS

v2.2.0-16 released 29/10/2013

PING (PartImage Is Not Ghost)
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Can create incremental backups, possibility to blank local admin password, can backup and restore the BIOS, can create bootable restoration CD, some basic partition editing available. Many rescue utilities included
Is an offline program, not many options for creating images, rescue utilities not nearly as extensive as PartedMagic.
http://ping.windowsdream.com/
3.02
33.8MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All Windows and Linux

 
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Tags

drive imaging, disk imaging, cloning, clone hard drives, copy hard drive, differential imaging, incremental imaging, hard drive imaging, image backups, drive backup.

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Comments

by sicknero on 26. March 2014 - 12:06  (115304)

New version of Paragon Backup and Recovery Free is out.

(http://www.paragon-software.com/home/br-free/)

by pseudoid on 12. March 2014 - 22:24  (114976)

I was contemplating to install Clonezilla but I am glad to have come to Gizmo's FREEware site that recommends the Macrium Reflect. I will install and use Macrium instead and just hope that I can use a 128GB USB stick for the back up. Thank you Gizmo!

by Scoop on 12. March 2014 - 23:14  (114977)

I've been using Macrium (free ver) for a while with successful repeatable results for cloning and full-HDD imaging. I use it on my 2 PC's at home and my Mom's Desktop PC. I think you'll like it. The user interface, my opinion, is very user-friendly.

I burned the Clonezilla ISO download for a backup clone/image freeware tool. I've only cloned with it once but it worked ok.

by movrshakr on 15. December 2013 - 18:42  (112960)

Much discussion above, including some from me, about the problems getting a bootable CD with Macrium reflect.

I simply do not have the time or inclination to research and test this, that, and the other workaround to get it solved. I moved on to updating the commercial backup program I had been using.

The purveyors of this product need to get a handle on this, quick, and fix it.

by crombierob on 13. March 2014 - 11:43  (114990)

====> OOPS this is a reply to pseudoid <=====

You should be using a bootable CD
Sometimes one must instal the program, to create the CD, BUT from then on you should use the CD.
The only other use that should be made of the installed program, is to browse an earlier image, (say to extract a file).

The free Seagate DiscWizard, is made by/from Acronis.

by crombierob on 16. December 2013 - 3:45  (112967)

I have not used Macrium, but if it can create an iso, then the following 'preaching' from me should be applied.
Surely ('Airplane') you'all should have by now settled on your favorite/reliable burning program.
If you have got your act together, then do NOT be allowing other programs to do burns for you.
Instead let them create an iso, and use your reliable program for the burns. And if it offers to Verify the burn, then verify.

by Scoop on 14. December 2013 - 23:11  (112949)

Has anyone tried "Redo Backup" with cloning? I recently burned the ISO and booted up with the CD today to look at it and I don't see any option for cloning. I see the Image setup dialog and it appears to work (I didn't run an image yet) but I can't find any option for cloning the Source HDD to a Target HDD.

I looked at the DIsk Utility menu and Accessories, everything that was available but don't see any mention of cloning with this tool.

I have the redobackup-livecd-1.0.4 version CD.

by rachmadp24 on 23. November 2013 - 12:20  (112477)

thanks for the recommendation software, such Macrium how they look good, I used to use a commercial program to make backup drive system.

by Thomas J Thomas on 20. November 2013 - 15:52  (112411)

I did a complete system image copy with Macrium Reflect Free Edition of my W7 laptop about 18 months ago,

I tend to do a complete fresh install every 18 months or so. This week I wanted to do a complete factory restore of my laptop, But alas somehow my manufacturers recovery partition (Press F 11 and select restore to factory) has become corrupted.

Never mind I said, I got the option now to go down the Macrium Reflect route, I put in the 18 month previously created rescue disc and..........NOTHING.....ERROR MESSAGE DISC WONT LOAD.

The BKU files(BKU = Back Up)are safe and stored and I believe correctly copied on my external HDD, but I have no way of installing this snapshot out of the box 18 month ago clean fresh BKU including all partitions at the time.

Don't worry I am not asking for help, I have contacted my manufacturer, and they are going to post out some Factory Restore W7 Rescue Discs. (Basically what the recovery participation would of done).

The moral of the story....... if the rescue disc does not work when you want to restore a image then you are in big TROUBLE.

Irony of all Irony while I am waiting for the postman/postwoman I decided to experiment with other programs, The in-built W7 Create a system image and create a rescue disc..... WORKS

Paragon Backup & Recovery 2013 Free Create a rescue disc.....WORKS

PLEASE NOTE...In my tests I didn't actually restore anything and by...WORKS...I mean the Rescue Discs I created are recognised when I try to boot from the discs, and on both occasions when I removed my HDD (Imagine If I Am Installing A Copy To A New Drive) I can follow the instructions up to..........which image would you like to restore.

I get none of this with Macrium Reflect........Including after also RECENTLY burning a new rescue disc......with both options offered Linux and Windows PE 3.1

That's My Experience.....

by kenjzur on 14. December 2013 - 20:43  (112947)

I HAD the same problems; could not boot on bootable image DVD/CD's and flash drive. Yet, they booted fine on my other older machine. Yet it wouldn't boot on the very machine that created them. The solution - AHCI BIOS option. If this option is on, (which many OS's support) then these cd/dvd, flash bootable images will not work/boot. Check your bios, turn off AHCI (normally associated with SATA/IDE functions) and reboot your restore dvd/cd or flash. It should now work. Also, changing the bios allowed me to boot on flash drive.

ps 1. Don't forget to turn on the AHCI when your done restoring. If your system had it on at time of install, it needs it to run!

ps 2. Don't forget to turn off AHCI when doing off-line image backup as well.

Hope this works for you

Ref:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Host_Controller_Interface

by crank on 15. December 2013 - 15:16  (112959)

Hi people, I'm not dead yet! I had to leave as editor, but still want to participate. This is a great series of posts on the rescue media, this AHCI issue isn't something I'd thought of or heard about before. The performance boost going to AHCI is substantial, there are few reasons to NOT be using it, and it shouldn't be the issue with the Macrium rescue media, though it seems it could be. AHCI has no effect on the data on the disk, it's a standard, or protocol for the OS and the disk drive to talk to each other. Windows requires a Registry tweak to enable it, which is stupid, and is fixed in WIn8. Once you set the msahci key to '1', then windows can speak 'AHCI', and will still handle IDE, but if the BIOS is set to AHCI and windows hasn't been tweaked, in my experience, you get a crashed boot, usually BSODs pretty early in the boot process.

I don't see why it could make a difference doing an off-line backup, assuming you've managed to boot to begin with. And Windows should do fine if the BIOS is set to IDE, you'll just suffer a big performance hit.

Remah, that's great info on creating an ISO file, that is almost always how I created rescue media, but that was for convenience, it hadn't occurred to me that Macrium might not be doing good direct burns. It isn't that surprising because I concur with you about how often CD/DVD burns can go bad, it is definitely always a good idea to verify important disks you've burned.

Thomas J Thomas, just an FYI, if you get into a desperate situation trying to use the rescue media to rescue your system, one option is to take the image file and the HD to another PC and burn it 'on-line'.

And one last note, the built in imaging in Windows is great, works most of the time, MOST! being the important word to stress. You also need windows own created rescue disk, and that one isn't a sure thing either. I've been told by my PC while trying to boot from the rescue media I just created on that machine, that I was trying to use the wrong version of windows rescue media!!! And I've had numerous times where windows just refused to work with the image file it created. All of the programs can have their problems, Macrium has been, for me, the least problematic overall.

by Scoop on 14. December 2013 - 23:06  (112948)

kenjur,

Thanks for the AHCI info. I'm running Win 7 x64. My HDD BIOS is set to IDE from the install. I was running a Raid 1 array and that was one reason I hadn't changed my BIOS to AHCI among other reasons.

I've read some articles about issues when the BIOS is changed, after the initial Windows install, from IDE to AHCI, that it can cause some issues with programs, etc. That's one reason I hadn't tried it yet.

That said, thanks again for this info as it explains why my bootable media works well.

by movrshakr on 3. December 2013 - 18:42  (112745)

Very interesting this comment about the rescue disk...
I did a Macrium Reflect image and that went smooth as glass.

But rescue disk to be able to restore it is a whole different matter. You can make either a linux version or a WinPE version. I first made a linux version because my (now very old) commercial imaging program used such. It booted into a black screen--then NOTHING. Bailed out of that and Windows would not start. It entered a Startup Repair mode FOR 45 MINUTES, then said it could not repair startup.

Fortunately, the computer booted into Windows, but more slowly than normal.

So, I made a WinPE rescue disk for Reflect. That one does not even boot the computer--it just proceeds into normal boot even though the WinPE rescue disk is in the DVD drive.

BOTTOM LINE: with Macrium, I can make an image fine, but if the computer is hosed, I cannot restore that file because I cannot make a working rescue disk. UNACCEPTABLE.

by Thomas J Thomas on 5. December 2013 - 17:28  (112783)

Thank you very much for your comment Movrshakr

I 100% agree with you.

At the very least creating a rescue disc from the linux option should work.

The way I understand it after you checked the Bios and told your computer to boot from DVD/CD Disc Drive first, hard drive second etc. etc

The disc is then suppose to tell the computer.....boot from this disc ignore any operating systems and follow the instructions on this disc please computer.

But after many many retry’s even thou Macrium says disc burned successfully I still get nothing while trying to boot off it.

I too believe this is UNACCEPTABLE.

However there is a update please see my reply to Remah directly below this one.

by Remah on 4. December 2013 - 5:37  (112750)

Most problems of this sort are not due to the software but to the optical drive or the optical disk (CD/DVD/BD). But one way to get more information about what is causing the problem is to create an ISO file rather than burning directly to disk.

Choose "Create ISO image file" when Macrium Reflect gives you the option to select DVD/CD burner. Then use another burner like ImgBurn to create the disk. Make sure that verification is turned on so the burner software will confirm that the file on your CD/DVD disk matches that on your hard disk.

You can also compare that ISO file with the CD/DVD or compare the two CDs/DVDs to see if there are any differences.

by Thomas J Thomas on 5. December 2013 - 14:38  (112784)

Thank you very much for all your comments Remah.

I have read them all, but this is honestly my first chance to respond to you.

I can see you are making great efforts to help and identify any possible problems, and its obvious you believe in Macrium Reflect. I 100% admire you for this.

I had/have given up on Macrium Reflect, but because of you & Scoop's belief in the product I did decide to give your "Create ISO image file" a go.

After burning and trying to boot from that disc..........

In W7 Machine I get ......> ISOLINUX 3.07 2005-01-12 copyright 1994-2005 H. Peter Anvin <......
then a flashing "-" But then of course nothing happens.

In XP Machine....Now prepare yourself for a shock..........

I get a black screen then "Files Loading" then a "Green Macrium Reflect Background Screen", then
"Welcome To The Image Restore Wizard".

My conclusion since the rescue disc is NOT suppose to be operating system dependent,is that there's something about my W7 machine that Macrium Reflect doesnt like,..... Bios, Motherboard, Whatever. ( I haven't experimented on a machine with no HDD or empty HDD yet. )

Anyway since W7 is my principal machine I am done with Macrium. I will report later in the new year how the in-bulit W7 create system image/disc way gets on with me, as well as the separate Pargon way.

I can confirm the iso image way seems to work in actually creating the disc, but my W7 machine doesnt like that disc. It was a pleasure to actually see the Restore Wizard Page...albeit in XP.....I wasn't seeing it on any machine before.

by Remah on 7. December 2013 - 1:06  (112810)

Yes, I am trying to help. :)

I've used lots of free imaging programs and liked them all. Even Windows backup. Reflect just suits me more than the others.

I was also editor for best free CD/DVD burner so I've tested a lot of dedicated burning software and only had about a 40% success rate across all the computers, settings and media types I tested. So problems with burning are very common.

I was hoping that you'd try again with the WinPE disk. I'm not so knowledgeable on the Linux disk. Although I have also had a similar problem, maybe it's the same issue, using the Linux disk on the PC it was created on. I never resolved it.

I have also seen problems with using WinPE disks on different hardware than the platform the disk was created on.

by Scoop on 4. December 2013 - 11:07  (112762)

Remah,

Good point about the burners. I recall now that I had problems burning the ISO with my external DVD Burner and when I tried the same ISO burn with my internal Desktop Tower burner (different product brand), all worked ok.

I also use ImgBurn for all my media burns.

by Thomas J Thomas on 5. December 2013 - 16:43  (112785)

Hiya Scoop I hope you are still following this post.(Smile)

Just to let you know, the postman arrived, I put Manufacturers Rescue Disc's in and WHAM my computer is back to day 1 out of the box clean install....Success

All I have to do now is when, my computer is set to how I like it, and all those windows updates and system files are created, and my chosen software installed. And when I know its 100% safe & secure.

Then I need to create a new system image, but I think we all know its not going be with Macrium...lol

I'll post here in the new year how the in-bulit W7 create system image/disc gets on with me.

(Note New Comments Are Also Above Since We Last Corresponded)

by Scoop on 5. December 2013 - 23:19  (112795)

Hey Thomas :) Bummer about Macrium not working for you. Wish it had gone better but the good part is that there's more options, W7's backup option as well as the other freeware cloning/imaging tools.

Glad your PC is back to normal.

I'll be trying "Redo Backup" for my next clone and will post back about how that goes. That one looks appealing to me since it's an ISO download and no installation on the HDD.

I read your earlier post and it's my understanding that you're right, a Recover (ie, cloning/imaging tool's bootable media) should load to your RAM and should boot up without issues but I'm not an experienced user with this as much as other readers here.

Regarding Macrium, I have read posts elsewhere that mention some difficulties in creating their bootable media. From what I read, once the issues are resolved, the software/tool itself is reliable.

I tested Macrium on a family member's PC a few days ago with a full-disk image and recover, and also tested the cloning option and both worked ok but after encountering difficulties with creating my own PC's bootable CD, I understand your decision to go with another tool.

Best for your imaging/cloning activity and have a great holiday season :)

by Scoop on 3. December 2013 - 22:08  (112748)

movrshakr,

I recall having a little difficulty with the ISO build with Macruim Free, when creating the Rescue CD.

Once I got it to work, I created a dedicated CD for my 2 PC's and a family member's PC.

I've created, booted up on all 3 CD's, and restored full-disk images and have cloned via the boot CD's without problems.

I'm only guessing but it may be that the ISO builder with the Free version may not be robust across different PC's.

That's a bummer, what happened with your experience. It's hard to say what happened there but since these Rescue CD's boots to memory, you should be able to restore an image or process a clone to the Target HDD.

I ran a Macrium clone process on a family member's PC this morning and tested the cloned HDD. All worked ok.

I downloaded another freeware "Redo Backup" and booted the CD. It looks like a very simple tool with basic cloning and imaging options. I'll try that one the next time I clone.

by Scoop on 21. November 2013 - 0:30  (112421)

Thomas,

That's a bummer to hear about your experience with Macrium Free recovery CD. When I read your post it reminded me of what I've read elsewhere about these Macrium (Free ver) WinPE Rescue builds. According to some experienced Macrium users, that part is the weak link of the recovery methodology.

I had to burn a couple of ISO builds before I was successful in creating a CD that would boot to my Laptop. The Linux version wouldn't boot and my first attempt with the WinPE version also had problems when I burned to a DVD. When I burned the same ISO build to a CD, it booted up on my Laptop. According to some experienced Macrium users, DVD burns can result in intermittent results regarding bootable media. I usually try to use CD media for Rescue and bootable requirements.

Whenever I install an Image/Cloning tool, I test the Rescue media and the imaging and cloning processes on my spare HDD. I'll process the image recovery or clone, then I boot up on the newly-imaged or cloned HDD and test it for a few minutes, browser, e-mail client, launch some apps, etc. Then I re-install my everyday "C" HDD and shelf the spare HDD for emergency or troubleshooting use. This way, I know that the process works if needed in the future.

I use one of 2 spare HDD's, for my Desktop and Laptop PC,s to maintain a shelf-ready clone in the event of any HDD failure or intrusion (malware, etc) where I don't want to spend time cleaning/recovering the affected HDD.

I use the 2nd spare HDD as a "test" platform HDD, to test imaging and cloning using freeware such as Macrium.

I installed Paragon Free on my Desktop but haven't tested it yet.

Basically, I like to have 2 known/verified with successful bootup's PC recovery tools for flexibility and as a safety net in the event my primary tool encounters problems.

I've only recently begun to image using the full-disc method. I'm storing a few of my Desktop and Laptop PC images as well as a family member's PC image on an external 4 tb HDD.

by Remah on 21. November 2013 - 22:53  (112447)

I'm a long time user of Reflect and the current WinPE procedure and recovery disks work very well compared to earlier versions. Many negative comments about this relate to the older versions particularly when we had to setup WinPE ourselves and Macrium support for it was limited - that was sufficient to put-off many users from using Reflect.

While waiting for improvements in Macrium's WinPE support I concurrently used Acronis and Paragon free programs. They all had their issues when it comes to actually restoring images so as you say, test recovery procedures as far as you can to make sure they work when you really need them.

by Thomas J Thomas on 21. November 2013 - 19:50  (112436)

Hiya Scoop...Thank you very much for your reply,

I read it with great interest and I am somewhat amazed that the failing disc syndrome seems to be common with Macrium. But still, I have come to the conclusion that my big mistake was not testing and going thru the rescue disc process immediately at the creation time.

I myself am new to drive imaging. I have been Backing Up (BKU) my data with the excellent SyncBack Freeware for years now and with absolutely no problems, including restoring.

I got into drive imaging research after Laptop/Desktop manufacturers started, to stop selling their machines with a installation disc, and the new machines had the OS pre-installed on the machine inc the recovery section.

As a old school man who is

1]...use to upgrading the pre installed HDD capacity.

( My 1st XP Laptop had a 60 GB HDD.....Imagine that lol...the task was simple back then because of the XP installation disc )

2]...Also being a fan of a complete re-install every now and then.

.......................................................

I knew I had to up my game and find out what the modern way was now.

I soon researched and got into disk drive imaging, I like the idea and I know the theory behind the idea, and as of now I will certainly do what you do....TEST TEST TEST....and then TEST AGAIN

So I thank you for that, the thing that upset me with Macrium Reflect is when you create a rescue disc it says task completed successfully......but still that's no excuse I should have tested and checked.

Scoop when the postman/postwoman comes and I get everything to how I like it...In this household I will be creating system images for future re-installs & future HDD capacity upgrades, and of course any serious virus infestation.....

But I will do exactly as you did from start to finish with your spare drives and I aim to perfect it, the only thing is.....

I will be doing it with the in-built W7 system image feature and/or Paragon.....no offense Macrium but you had your chance

Thanks again Scoop.

by Scoop on 21. November 2013 - 22:55  (112448)

Thomas,

No problem :) Hope the info helped.

I probably overkill the full-HDD backup scene but the cloning in particular has paid off a couple of times over the last 2-3 years with a couple of malware hits that got past my frontline AV walls.

Macrium: I got interested in it from reading over at the Windows 7 forum. There's a thread over there where Macrium users discuss that tool.

I've run into another minor detour with Macrium but this issue isn't limited to this tool. I bought a SATA/USB Adapter Cable to try and clone/image using the cable in conjunction with the Macrium boot CD. The CD (WinPE 3.1) won't recognize the SATA HDD when plugged into the USB port. This issue is also present when another cloning/imaging tool.

Macrium will recognize my external HDD when I use my Laptop 2.5 HDD SATA/USB Enclosure which I've been using it to clone for a couple of years.

There's a lot of discussion and diverse opinions on the "cloning vs Imaging" threads around the 'net. It depends on what one's goal is with both.

The main advantage that I like with maintaining a cloned HDD is that I can test it faster than recovering a full-HDD image file.

It's also faster (unless one is running scheduled incremental/differential images daily) to recover from a HDD failure or infection or a user error (making a mistake in the Registry or downloading something that's causing problems).

The advantage of imaging to me is that one can store multiple snapshots of the HDD on another device.

I have images of my Desktop PC, Laptop, and another family member's PC on my external HDD. The only downside is that full-disk images are not compressed that much, or not as much as I had expected when selecting the "medium" compression mode in the Macrium setup.

Since the free version doesn't include incremental or differential imaging options, I have to use the full-disk imaging method.

That's not too bad though, in my opinion, since I can test the full-disk image and not be concerned about an incremental chain image being corrupt or missing.

I'm not sure how valid the corruption probability is though, since I've not tried the Macrium Pro version.

When I was researching various imaging freeware's, I did read some posts elsewhere about that occurring, ie, running a long-standing image chain and then trying to restore to a HDD. If one of the chain images (incremental/differential) is corrupt, then the entire chain is rendered useless.

That's what I've read but I can't confirm it.

This is one reason I prefer staying with the Macrium free version since, for my needs, I'm only interested in storing a few snapshots of full-disk images.

by Remah on 21. November 2013 - 22:41  (112446)

It's a bit unfair to blame Macrium Reflect for problems that are common to all writable disks and are not necessarily produced by the program.

Even dedicated CD/DVD writing software regularly have failures writing or copying disks. It is essential to check that your media works because defects in the media and disk writer hardware cause many problems. Disks written in one optical drive often do not read in others so if you are working with multiple CD/DVD drives than check they work in all of them.

A major reason for problems is using cheaper disks. I almost exclusively use the cheapest disks I can find but I can only do this because I always use write verification, generally use ImgBurn which more clearly detects and indicates disk problems when writing, (Edit->) and it doesn't bother me if I have to throw many disks away. (<-Edit) I also try out all restore disks that I create because, as you have found out, it is a real problem if they don't work when you really need them.

As to the latest versions of Macrium Reflect, I have had no problems creating many WinPE and Linux disks on many different system using both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions. When I help friends with their PC problems I generally setup their backup software, make the backups and ensure that they have working restore disks.

by Scoop on 21. November 2013 - 23:19  (112449)

Remah,

I agree. I had to use my 2nd DVD/CD Burner to get a working bootable WinPE (3.1) CD with the Free version.

I also burn with Imgburn and I use Verbatim media. I also burn dedicated CD's for each PC so I have one for my Desktop PC and another on for my Laptop in addition to one for a family member.

All of mine are WinPE 3.1 CD's and I have verified 2 of the 3 PC's with a full-disk image and recovery to my spare HDD's.

My first attempt with the Linux CD didn't work out, wouldn't boot on either of my PC's but I tabled that for now since my WinPE CD's all boot up ok and have been tested.

The only issue that I'm having is that neither WinPE boot will recognize my SATA/USB Adapter Cable's HDD. I think that's due to the Adapter Cable being USB 3.0, even though USB is backward-compatible.

Since my USB 2.0 Enclosure does work with the Macrium WinPE CD on my Laptop, I'm wondering if that's the issue with that Adapter Cable.

I have version 5.2.6433 (x64) loaded on my PC at present. That's the version I used to create the WinPE 3.1 CD's on both PC's.

The thing I have noticed, on both PC',s is that the free version doesn't seem to load all of the drivers when building the ISO for the burn.

I asked some experienced Macrium Free users and they said that this isn't a problem and they have seen this as well when creating the WinPE Rescue media. As long as the ISO build contains the drivers necessary to communicate with the required interface items on the PC, then it should work, according to what I've read elsewhere about using the Free version's Rescue media.

by Remah on 22. November 2013 - 1:52  (112451)

Normally, and in this case, the version of USB cable makes no difference for a USB 2 enclosure. The 4 pins for USB 2 are the same whether the cable is USB 2 or 3. The USB 3 capability is provided by an additional set of 5 pins at the rear of the connector.

Your problem will probably be because any SATA/USB combination cable or adapter is not officially supported by the SATA or USB standards. In fact it is officially excluded and discouraged. So you use them at your own risk. Personally, I wouldn't use one because troubleshooting becomes more difficult.

Yes, WinPEReflect won't load all your Windows drivers. But you can add other drivers when the WinPE disk is running. WinPE Reflect can search disks and the Internet.

by Scoop on 23. November 2013 - 18:19  (112487)

Remah,

Thanks for the info about the SATA/USB Adapter Cables. I ordered a 3.5 SATA Enclosure to use for my Desktop PC when testing and backing up with Macrium.

by Scoop on 18. November 2013 - 23:59  (112361)

Hi all, new here and a basic "Cloner" for a couple of years. I've recently begun to use Macrium Free to learn the "imaging" part of the scene.

[Commercial reference removed]

Most of my HDD's are Seagate "Barracuda" product-line drives. I'm running Windows 7 x64 with a 1 Tb HDD on my Desktop PC.

I don't custom-partition. Both of my PC's, Desktop & Laptop are the standard 2-partition Windows install HDD, "Sys Reserved" and main partitions.

I recently downloaded Macrium Free 5.2.6433 and attempted to burn a bootable WinPE 3.1 CD. After a few attempts, I created a bootable CD. During the ISO build, the program queried me for drivers missing, need to add, etc. After seeking advice from some veteran Macrium users at the Win 7 forum, I chose the "continue without loading drivers" option. The missing driver was 1 USB driver but after booting up, that driver wasn't required for offline backup operations.

I processed a couple of full-disk images and tested the Recovery process on my Desktop PC without problems. My spare HDD accepted the image Restore and booted into Windows ok.

I've run an image on my Laptop but haven't tested the Restore process yet.

I tried to clone with Macrium by following a method in several YouTube tutorials by dragging/dropping both partitions into the "Destination" HDD. Since the MBR partition was included ("Sys Reserved"), I'd expected the resulting Target HDD to be bootable upon testing it after the cloning process completed.

The Target HDD didn't boot. I got the usual "System error, hardware change detected", etc, messages when booting. I checked the usual things, BIOS boot priority, HDD detection, etc.

I tried the cloning process again, this time ticking the "Entire Disk" box in the Macrium setup screen, instead of ticking the 2 partitions' boxes.

For the "Destination" HDD, I ticked the HDD icon located on the left-hand side of the setup screen.

After the cloning process completed, I tested my Target HDD and this time, success. It booted up Windows and I exercised it a little, launching apps, etc.

The confusing part of the Macrium cloning setup screen, for me, was that when I ticked the "Entire Disk" box, that automatically ticks the 2 partitions selection boxes.

That would seem to be identical as what I originally attempted, but apparently there's something in the Macrium program that requires the user (or in my case) to tick the "Entire Disk" box and let the program auto-select the partitions.

Bottom line is that I've successfully booted from the WinPE Rescue CD on both of my PC's and processed an image recovery and a cloning process with my Desktop PC.

I found the Macrium Gui screens to be user-friendly and a little easier, for me, to navigate vs Acronis with the exception of the cloning setup as I mentioned previously.

As with anything, once one successfully navigates a product's setup steps, future setup's will be no problem to process and complete successful results.

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