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. 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

 
Editor

This software review is maintained by volunteer editor AndyR. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

 
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 George.J on 3. April 2012 - 5:46  (91601)

Did you just miss the party at Gizmo's, when we raised a toast for removing all the cnet (download.com) download links from our site because of this?

by AnonymousPro (not verified) on 1. April 2012 - 10:21  (91532)

It's bad that Easeus hide's the free product(s) so toughly.

I assume this is their attempt to increase turnover in difficult times.
Probably most consumers use the free versions because it satifies for them and don't have the need to pay for more.

Easeus is hopefully wise enough not to dump the free version. I predict that if they do most consumers will start moving over to other free products.
That would be worse for them because it would negatively impact being a well-known brand.

Free software is popular not because people do not want to pay for software, they just do not want so pay so much. The average hobbyist / home (power) user uses tens of software packages and tools, but infrequently and too little to pay many hundreds of dollars (total) each year.
If much of this software would be available for only a *few* dollars. Many more people would be willing to pay for it and a new business model could exist.
(This is already happening with mobile app stores and the Windows Marketplace later this year)

I wonder how Gizmo's reviews will react on this shift in the industry.
Would you review the products if they would be sold for a *few* dollars?

by crank on 1. April 2012 - 16:58  (91546)

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and opinions, you are the first and only response, looking at the thumbs above, there are some who are not happy with what Easeus is doing, or Macrium, I think the sneaky tactic of having a dropdown menu appear only for those who have already visited that page is probably worse than no link at all. I'm hoping to get more feedback before I make a decision of how to handle this.

I like the idea of the desktop market going the route of the tablet/phone software business model, price it low and sell a lot more of them. There are plenty of folk with multiple computers and free or almost free is the only economically feasible route. I will mention this to the rest of the site and see what they have to say. And thanks again for your active participation.

by MidnightCowboy on 1. April 2012 - 12:23  (91535)

Maybe we should cnange the name from Gizmo's Freeeware to make it easier to understand. In other words, even if it "only" costs 10c, it won't be featured here :)

by jkfsan on 25. March 2012 - 7:31  (91106)

I think you may have been a bit hasty. Easeus still offers the free version of Todo Backup (v4.0.0.5).
http://www.todo-backup.com/products/home/free-backup-software.htm

I don't know if they've cut things from the previous versions, but it still seems worthy of a rating.
You can see the feature set here:
http://www.todo-backup.com/products/home/comparison.htm

Can also be found at:
http://majorgeeks.com/EASEUS_Todo_Backup_Free_Edition_d6195.html
http://www.snapfiles.com/get/easustodo.html

by HMonk on 26. April 2012 - 5:50  (92625)

According to EaseUS version 4.0.0.5 added/fixed:

New Features

New support Windows Server 8 Beta and Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Support USB3.0 in WinPE environment
Add common RAID controller driver in WinPE environment
New for NAS management
Display backup type in Recovery process
Improve the performance of network access
Void of default split when backup to network destination

List of issues fixed:

Incompatible with Powerdesk
Incompatible with FloatLED
Incompatible with Outlook 2003
Report of "Invalid path" when select a network destination and click "Goto"
Failed to access network using IP address

However, for me, the unadvertised significant difference between version 4.0.0.5 and its predecessor version 4.0.0.1, 4.0.0.5 cannot accomplish differential backups (which is in the paid version). If anyone wants the full free version do a search and find any number of sites that host the free full version 4.0.0.1. (The full version 4.0.0.1 is an 96.9 MB file; the later stripped down version 4.0.0.5 is an 89.5 MB file and was released on March 15.)

Monk

by Philo Vance (not verified) on 13. May 2012 - 0:34  (93401)

As a long time user of Acronis Trueimage who had tired of their unproductive updates I was overjoyed to discover Easeus Todo Free and even more pleased when they added support for differential updates. Unfortunately Version 4 suffers from the same brain dead interface problems that plague Acronis.

It is *very* easy to set up an incremental plan with the new interface when what one wants is a differential. This bit me when I attempted to restore what I thought was a differential image that was actually an incremental. Of course the system wouldn't boot and until I restored a full backup image I didn't realize I'd created incrementals. Easeus doesn't warn you if you attempt to restore from an incremental that you should restore the full image first.

I have dropped back to 4.0.0.2. 4.0.0.5 has a nag screen that pops up randomly whether Todo is open or not.

Older 4.0.0.x versions do seem to be readily available for the time being via a Google search.

by AnonymousPro (not verified) on 25. March 2012 - 9:18  (91108)

I allways come to gizmo reviews when looking for free software, because the reviews were trustable.
However the last months information on the site seems less reliable and certain products are dumped much to easily.

I have requested to have a look at Easeus Backup ToDo Free in the file backup area. After response that it was not realy a file backup but more a image backup program I have asked why it is not a file backup program and if certain important features are missing. I had posted the links to Easeus Backup ToDo Free product and download pages as well.
>>> Strangely my question was not answered and my POST WAS DELETED! <<<

Now I read here in the Image Backup review section that Easeus Todo Backup Free is not available anymore and has been ditched from it's second place (if I remember well the last rank was second best some days ago).
>>> Fortunately that is not true and the product is still available <<<

Something similar has happend with the screen capture tool PicPick. Many months ago it was somewhere on top of the list. Then the makers seem to have included some searchbar bloatware in a new version that was installed by and could not be opted out during setup. So the product was ditched from the lists. However in later versions this luckily was fixed again and now the opt out is back in the setup but no mentioning about that on Gismo's reviews. Personally I use PickPic a lot and are very happy with it. I learned about it's existence in one of the Gizmo reviews/best lists.

To Gizmo's staff: I love your site and reviews but please be more careful before dumping products and write that products are not available anymore.

Easus has made it more difficult
and stay up to date

by crank on 25. March 2012 - 16:57  (91132)

Thank you for your committed attention to this page, as I mentioned in the earlier, blanket reply, we really appreciate our visitors assistance in keeping up with the deluge of products and information available on the tubez. I'm sorry we seem to have let you down somewhat, I can only plead for an understanding of how difficult it can be keeping up with all the changes as companies churn the market with new this and improved that. I don't know about the file backup discussion, but ToDo is primarily a disk-imaging program, but can do file backups, as can Paragon's offering.

Your comments about PickPic illustrate what I am trying to get across here, it is very hard to keep up with all the iterations products go through, you will find even corporate, profit-earning organizations like the computer magazines are not always completely up to date, there is really just too much stuff out there. The piles of stuff are piled on top of other stuff. No, I'm not trying to do a George Carlin routine, this is an indication of his breadth and relevance:). So please, post a comment on the page with PickPic, we really need you guys to help us out, which is why we always welcome your comments--your thoughts and ideas and discoveries. There were a number of comments deleted involving Easeus, it is a defensive move to limit the spamming that occurs routinely, especially with certain companies, I won't mention any names but it should be easeusy enough to figure out.

Please keep up with keeping us on our toes, we're struggling right along with you trying to find the best free products available to ease our increasingly IT dominated lives without ruining our bank balances in the process.

by AnonymousPro (not verified) on 25. March 2012 - 9:22  (91109)

The last two sentences above should read:

But Easeus indeed has made it quite difficult to find the free products on their site. I had to use Google to find them back.

by Anupam on 25. March 2012 - 9:45  (91111)

You yourself say that Easeus have made it difficult to find the free version on their site, and you had to use Google to find it.

You can see why the editor then removed it, since he was unable to find a free version. I too had visited the site yesterday, and the free version was not to be found on the site. Anyone will believe that they have discontinued the free version, since earlier it used to be quite prominent on the site.

The editor has also mentioned this fact in the Note in the article, that says that he cannot find the free version.

But, now that it exists, and a link is there, the editor will take a look, and may choose to include it again.

It's not that the editors just blindly do things here. A lot of thought is given before a decision is taken, and background discussions do occur too. The team at Gizmo's takes a lot of care in what they do, in providing the users a good review.

Anyways, thanks to you and others who bought to notice that the free version still remains.

by shell24 on 24. March 2012 - 14:11  (91062)

I tried to install Acronus for Western Digital HD, but was unable, something to do with not having proper Windows downloads installed. I have big problems with their downloads they do not install.
I had Paragon Backup and Recovery 2011 and so did a full backup (mirror image?)and was shocked that my C:drive 159 gig became a backup of 351 gig and took 15 hours to do.
So, why is the backup so large? If I have to recover will I have two of everything?
I'm a complete novice, this makes no sense to me.
Also, what about any new files added to my PC from this day on, how do I backup these smaller amounts?
I read thru Paragon's manual and I'm really lost, they speak of virtual environments and partitions etc...what does it all mean?

by crank on 24. March 2012 - 15:52  (91066)

"What does it all mean", the eternal question, sorry, this isn't a philosophy forum, but then, that question would be easier to answer than what Paragon goes on about. Now, on to something completely different, this ballooning C: drive image, I don't know, is it possible, you may have left additional drives/partitions checked when selecting the source for your image? Even if that were the case, 15 hours is way out of line. System disk images should come out substantially smaller than the disk itself, this due to compression, not copying unused space, and omitting various unneeded files, most especially the pagefile and hibernation file.

I have had similar things occur, inexplicably usually, it is possible, I suspect, there was interference with another program, like anti-virus or indexing, that sent Paragon off into the ozone regions. I'm sure this will gladden your heart, but try another image, ensure only the C partition is selected, turn off any anti-virus and indexing [go to control panel and either deselect everything, turning indexing off, or try 'pause', but sometimes that doesn't work[???? talk to the MS gods to figure that one out]]. You might want to look at the ResourceMonitor and see if you can find anything that may appear to be wrestling Paragon for disk and cpu control [try 'resmon' in the run box.]

AND, as I annoy all with repeated admonishing to use more than one backup program, these things are free, are pretty easy to use, and don't take up too much of your time once you get them going. Your chances of successfully restoring your PC having 2 independent options are significantly higher, trust me on this, from personal experience, numerous times.

As to dealing with new/changed files, Paragon will do an incremental/differential backup, which you can schedule to automatically run at your level of paranoia, an incremental will save what has changed since the last incremental backup, a differential always goes back to the base full image and backs up what has changed. A given incremental will be smaller than a differential, except for the first incremental, but restoring is a bit more problematic as the software has to 'walk back' the data, accommodating each change recorded in the string of incrementals, the differential is always 'one step' away from the base. Hope that makes sense [there's always a first!!!, [as opposed to confusing others, which I am good at, very good, it's nice to be good at something]]]

Oh, BTW, the answer to the general question of what does it all mean is '42', I thought everyone knew this???

by George.J on 23. March 2012 - 12:39  (91016)

The top pick isn't a surprise, I have been using Macrium Reflect Free for 2 years and definitely impressed with it. It's also a small download.

by Sool (not verified) on 23. March 2012 - 10:20  (91008)

I have struggled with Macrium Reflect Free ever since version 5 was released.

The program runs OK, but the Linux Rescue CD sucks, whereas this worked perfectly under version 4.

The original version 5 CD would boot my PC, but then couldn't see my hard drives. The latest version (dated 21 March v5.0.4353) now initially sees my hard drives, and lets me select an image file to restore from, but the following destination window is an empty white box that contains no target drive information; hence I can go no further. Selecting the image file was also weird, because these are listed in a completely random order, as opposed to the newest image file being first.

In addition to my own PC I see the same outcome on two dissimilar PCs and my laptop half boots, but then hangs.

Macrium's response to restoration issues is to use the PE Rescue CD, but that entails a 1.7GB download from Microsoft, and the Macrium forums suggest that it doesn't fix many problems.

So, once again, I have used my old Macrium Rescue CD to restore my system back to using v4.2.4093

by crank on 23. March 2012 - 17:01  (91030)

I'm sorry you haven't been able to get it to work, recovery disks have always been touchy. The first 5.0 release PE media did not work well for me, but the latest works well. I haven't perused their forums, I need to, but I would encourage you to try the AIK/PE media build, the large download isn't needed after the install of AIK, and most of the download isn't ever used, it is other programs and documentation. Maybe you could get a friend to DL: it for you and then install, or even download to a DVD-RW? I don't know what could work for you, but I can guarantee that what you read in forums may have little to no relevance to your own situation.

Personally, I can't fathom this universal difficulty these software manufacturers have providing a near-universally usable recovery disk, there are numerous OpenSourced linux distros with fully functioning OSs they could use, with their application added in. The PE versions are somewhat the same thing, the drivers are on the system as they make the disk, why can't they find them? You can use Double Driver:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-windows-driver-backup.htm
a great thing to use in general, to back up, and also of near equal importance, collect the drivers in one spot. Then, if the PE disk asks for drivers, they are easy to locate. Good luck, and thank you for discussing your situration.

by Sool (not verified) on 25. March 2012 - 18:38  (91144)

Hi Crank

For now, I am more than happy to stick with version 4. It works, the Recovery CD works, and I use them both to backup and restore my system partition with alarming regularity. I was just a little gutted when version 5 came along and broke things that were previously working perfectly.

I am given to understand that the version 4 Recovery CD will restore images created under version 5, so Macrium could include the older ISO as an alternative option.

I have also discovered that a Macrium Reflect 5 script has been released for Winbuilder, and having incorporated this into my LiveXP, this gives me the fully working version 5, including its restore function, all within the PE environment.

What worries me, is that I get the impression that not everybody gets to check out the restore function with imaging software. They see the images being made, and assume that they'll be able to restore them if required, but they never get to actually try it until they're up the creek, when it may be too late.

by big-red (not verified) on 21. March 2012 - 1:21  (90901)

Easeus seem to be weaning us off the free edition. They claim 'improvements' with their new releases, but seem to be chopping out features. I've just upgraded from 4.0.0.2 to 4.0.0.5 and there seems to be no more encrypted backup option. I've also read that 'monthly' backup scheduling has been removed (?). It's a pity, as this software has been a great imaging option. Think I'll revert to version 3.

enjoying these software discussions - Nick

by crank on 22. March 2012 - 20:32  (90991)

Nick, thanks for calling that to my attention, I definitely hadn't noticed. I REALLY didn't notice that there is no more free edition, I was looking to download a later version, mine is 4.0.0.1, and I can't find one. I will look around a little bit more, but I think they only offer a 2-week demo now, and you can't get the PE recover from there [sometimes these companies will hide the free edition, so maybe I missed it, I must dig around a bit more]. Hold on to your old versions folks, if you like the product. More to come. Thanks again for your comments, I was going to argue a bit with you, they may be whittling away at some of the features, but they've been really improving them, offering more capabilities with every new version. Now the latest feature is partitioning your wallet.

by uktech (not verified) on 17. March 2012 - 11:13  (90745)

Hi, just thought I should mention that there are a couple of points that I feel need some clarification. According to their website, Easeus Free version does not perform incremental imaging. Moreover, there is no exclusion filter for data backup - as far as I can tell - which is not good, when you want to exclude that huge file from your backup.

It is unfortunate, that the one area that people should learn about, if they use computers at all, is complicated by three words that are very often misunderstood by the novice: backup, imaging and synchronization.

Easeus ToDo Backup is one of those products that while very good, blur the boundaries between imaging and backup.

Fantastic site and most comprehensive disk imaging articles - we're all better off for the information and effort you have generously provided.

Many Thanks.

by crank on 18. March 2012 - 9:11  (90786)

Hello uktech, thanks for taking the time to give us your thoughts and ideas. I am curious where you found this information about Easeus, I am at their page:
http://www.todo-backup.com/products/features/incremental-backup.htm
describing how to do [:)] either an incremental or a differential backup, has "Incremental backup software - EaseUS Todo Backup, not only supports full backup and incremental backup, but also supports differential backup." I have used this myself.

The blurring, I understand, but welcome the extra capability, but I am not sure what you would mean by an image, would a real image be sector by sector, or only code for zeroes, or then thee is the hibernation file and the page file, a strict image would include these and now you are talking significant waste of time and disk real estate. I'm easy, you can call it anything you want if it will take my broken PC and return it to a fully functioning condition with no loss of data.

Syncing data is very handy, but for me has always proved problematic, it's my general state of chaotic PC usage that makes it difficult--there can be directories full of data where older data is newer data, deleted data is 'to keep' data, installed programs uninstall themselves, removed programs keep reappearing, etc. ;) Don't try to understand, if you did they'd want to study you too. Shhhh

by Bundy (not verified) on 15. March 2012 - 16:46  (90658)

Like your page, keep up the good work.

update to Clonezilla:

You can use the tool partclone-utils to mount the image directly, and extract single files from image.

by crank on 18. March 2012 - 10:18  (90788)

Thanks for your comments, and the heads-up. It's amazing what one simple comment reply can lead to, somewhere over 2 hours to get back to this response, everything from one distro not being able to meet dependencies, to my router going rogue, and an urgent desire to get a new mouse and keyboard, and now I can say that partclone looks very promising, very simple to use from linux. I thought maybe I could image the partition my system is on [one partition for '/' which is the only partition other than swap, but no luck, it errored out. Is it possible to do this with this program, telling it to clone the /dev/disk of the working system? I have it installed now so I will try to give it more of a workout later, it's 0517 and I need a nap. Thanks again for your inputs.

by DanielF (not verified) on 10. March 2012 - 4:25  (90161)

Crank,
I have a RAID5 array that requires special drivers (which I have) to access the partitions.
I bought [commercial program edited out] to do image backups and restores, but it requires WinPE to create a recovery CD, which I don't have and don't want (for various reasons). Despite what it says in the manual, Acronis no longer support BartPE (which I have) or Linux bootable CDs.
Your reviews don't mention whether any of the free options can create a boot CD that handles RAID5 access (with the drivers I have), possibly because your system isn't RAID5 so you haven't tested this feature!
But do you know of any that might be able to do this?
Rgds,
Daniel
(Gerroa, Australia)

by GeoffE (not verified) on 24. March 2012 - 1:14  (91045)

A bit off topic ...

Daniel ... Gerroa? ..lol.. I am in Figtree! I bet no-one else here knows what a tiny (and beautiful) little place Gerroa is. I was down there in Headland Drive just a couple of weeks back. Check it out on GoogleEarth the rest of you!

Now, just to bring this comment back on topic ... I have been using DriveImage XML for a few years now and using it with BartPE as my recovery tool. It has been flawless but I am always ready to check out new software. Thanks for the review Crank.

Gerroa??? ..lmbo..

Geoff
Figtree Australia (not far from Gerroa ..lol..)

by crank on 24. March 2012 - 16:33  (91067)

What, do we look like a travel blog? Sorry, I'm basically an obnoxious sarcastic pig, but hey, it's something. Actually, thanks for commenting, it always gives me 'wow' feelings when I get comments form people from all over the world, these tubez, cool ain't they? I'm sure Figtree and Gerroa are lovely settings for the numerous deadly critters rife in your inverted lands.

DriveImageXML is a fine product, basically a barebones, get the job done offering, and it does this well. I tend to enjoy, and very much use, a lot if the 'frillier' capabilities offered by our top picks. The reliance on BartsPE can be problematic for users with later systems. The creation of a Barts is beyond a lot of casual users abilities, or desires, to deal with. This includes me, Barts hasn't worked well for me on most of my systems, though I'm sure I could deal with it with enough tweaking, I just haven't had the time or inclination to, especially now with the Win7 based PE environment options becoming more prevalent.

So have a good one, thanks for adding your comments here, we appreciate all, even those from Figtree, a huge city no doubt.

by crank on 11. March 2012 - 10:27  (90220)

I used a RAID0 for a while a number of years ago, but you are correct, I don't have RAID at the moment unless you count the mirrored volume I used windows to create less than a week ago. The program I mentioned on the Partition page may work for you, "Äomei Dynamic Disk Manager Home Edition", at http://www.dynamic-disk.com/ddm/aomei-dynamic-disk-manager-home.html, it is free, but the limitations of the free edition are not made obvious. It works with all kinds of RAID, but most of it is as a front-end to what Windows Vista & 7 will do, and it is primarily a Partition tool, but will create virtual disks.

ToDo handles dynamic volumes, as does Paragon, and Macrium Reflect says this: "Support for Dynamic disks is available in the Macrium Reflect Professional and Server editions.

Important Note: Dynamic volumes are cloned/restored not disks." It works with volumes, but not disks, I don't know how this pertains to your situation, and need to give it more thought myself.

One last idea, maybe because I think it is really cool, is a tool out of MS SysInternals, disk2vhd, it is so easy to use, with one command in a command processor window, will create virtual disks of every disk in your system, these can be used as quick backups, can be mounted giving file-level access, and even used as is in virtual machines. I don't know what it would do with a RAID though, but you might want to check it out. Good luck, I hope this has helped out.

by quitenew (not verified) on 6. March 2012 - 23:53  (90030)

Hello. I consider myself as not much more than a noobie when it comes to cloning my hard drive. What I want to do use simply make a full, exact copy of my hard drive so in the event of the worst I can simply reinstall from this instead of the laborious task of installing everything one by one. What is best suggested? And easiest to use?

by crank on 9. March 2012 - 4:40  (90118)

That is what this category is for, any of the programs can do this, but it is better to not make an 'exact' copy, this would include copying all the unused space, all the tmp files, and especially the hibernate and page files, gigabytes of space wasted, and time spent laying down billions and billions of nothing. Probably the easiest one for most people would be Easeus ToDo, with it's near one-click 'System' backup. Paragon is best for it's versatility, and Reflect is just a great all-around program missing a couple of the bells and whistles. Hope this helps.

by quitenew (not verified) on 9. March 2012 - 15:31  (90143)

Thanks for the reply Crank. With the EaseUs program can it be used in case I needed to reinstall all my software on the laptop? In other words and just to confirm-it would eliminate having to reinstall Vista as well as my software applications?

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