A drive image is one type of backup, and it is very handy for when your
Operating System needs to be fixed ...
If your computer failed right now do you have a backup of your data? If you do great, if you don't how much will it cost you to recover that data?
However the most important question is this:
Is the data recoverable?
I am not saying to do an drive image of your computer at the end of each business day.
The usefulness of a image (also known as a Norton or
Symantec Ghost image) of you hard drive is in case of a catastrophic
hardware failure, your power supply goes south and takes your hard drive with
it. Or your hard drive fails.
With an image of the partition(s) that have your data
stored on them you can recover faster with less work
or heartache. To go along with the image you have to have a comprehensive data
back up plan and schedule.
a drive image works:
Along with your comprehensive data backup program you create an image
(a special file) of your
operating system and data partition(s).
Example # 1, a personal system:
Lets say you have a brand new computer (works
with an old one too!),
it either comes with the OS installed or you install it. Then you install your
programs (with all those nagging key codes, activation codes, anti theft
programs, etc....) and you customize your desktop to your liking.
Now that you have invested at
least four hours if not more into just getting the darn thing where you can
actually do some work!
Ok how much did that cost
you? I mean how much is four hours of your business day worth?
imaging program you can create a complete image of the hard drive.
can either create an image of the hard drive itself or of each of the partitions
on the hard drive (partition
image is recommended because you would have to have the same drive from the same
manufacture with the same specifications as the original to recover with a drive
image or more commonly called a "clone" image).
The different programs that will make this
"special file" for the drive image called an image:
- Acronis True Image
- Norton Ghost
- Symantec Ghost
- DriveImage XML
I have used these four programs extensively and have not had any major problems
with the image they made. However the Norton Ghost, Symantec Ghost an
Norton/Semantic Ghost32 is out of production.
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So your hard drive has failed, you get the new one, it is installed now what?
Well if you had a image of the original hard drive partitions you could put the
images on your new hard drive and be back up and running in less than an hour.
Once you have the image on the hard drive, you go to your latest backup and
restore your data.
Done, looks just like the old one, eh? And as a bonus you
don't have to find those key codes, call or contact the program publisher to
unlock the activation again, it is all ready installed!
Example # 2 a business with
Before I get into the why and how; this only works on
computers made by the same company and have the same model number, differences
between companies and models of computers will cause the image to fail on
Lest say you have a business, you are going to expand or buy new equipment.
local computer store or shop wants $XXX per hour to setup and install all your
systems with the OS and all the software you have for each computer.
You will need to check with the program's publisher about
licensing your software, if you have a corporate or enterprise license you will
not have any problems installing all your software on one computer and creating
a copy to put (or deploying as the geeks say) to all the
So to save your self a lot of $$$ you decide to buy
Symantec (Norton) Ghost, or use
Acronis True Image, create an image
on one of the new computers then deploy that image to all the other
To do this you or the tech will setup one system,
load all the software,
Optimize the OS!
Then using ghost create the image.
Note: To make a drive image of an installed Operating System you have to start
the computer from a separate Operating system. You can use one of these options:
- A bootable CD
- A bootable USB Flash Drive
- Have a Dual Boot system
Some bad news: Newer computers have SATA II and III
interface for the hard drive or SSD, unless you have made your BartPE with those
drivers you will not be able to access the hard drive or SSD. You can however
make your own ERD, for more information
Ok where will you put
the image once you decide to do this?
The fastest way is to create
a separate partition on the image computer and not format it. You will have to
either boot the system from dos or use a program like (see my review of this
fine program!) ERD... Commander
your own ERD and then format the partition and
create your image there.
Once created you can then
copy it to a CD or a DVD. This makes the image portable
Before you begin your image:
You will need three things before you can create your
- A way to start the computer and not be in the installed OS.
- A place or storage device for the image.
- A program that makes the image file
How do you start the darn thing with out the hard drive?
Well there are thee ways to start the system
besides using the installed OS. You can use:
Once you have it started and are ready to create the image, where are you
going to store it? You can't use any of the boot devices they are to small, your image(s) may be over 1 gig, the OS partition will be that or more by itself.
You could use the hard drive in the computer if there is enough space to
create another partition of say ten GB or a little more. You could use an
external USB drive, or if you have a second drive in the system use that.
Another place could be the second partition if you have two partitions on the
hard drive, this will only work for the OS partition.
Note: if you are using the hard drive in the computer you should move the OS
image off the second partition before you image it, leaving it on the partition
then creating an image will increase the size of the image by the amount of
space the OS image occupies, say it is 3.3 gig, then the image you are creating
will be the data on the partition plus the OS image of 3.3 gig.
Now you have your images what next? Well you need to store them in a safe
place. Look at the size of the images, will they fit on CD's? or maybe a DVD? If
you used a external hard drive is it reliable? Do you carry it with you when you
travel? Hard drives are extremely reliable but they are vulnerable to shock,
electro magnetic discharge, and voltage spikes. They will fail. Put the images
on a CD or DVD as soon as possible.
Ghost and True Image allow you to split up the image file in smaller sections,
this would be very advantageous for an image of over 2 GB in size, with the
image split into smaller sections you could use DVD's and still have the
complete image. Just a thought...
Note: To create an image you need a way to start the
computer from either a dual boot operating system configuration or an external
OS such as a bootable usb, I use a custom Emergency Repair Disk (ERD),
make one for yourself?
Check this out.
Tutorials for creating and restoring a drive image:
a Symantec (Norton) Ghost drive image
a Symantec (Norton) Ghost drive image
Or you could use Acronis True Image.
recovery is only as good as the last
backup! Backup regularly!
Update 02/12/20 - Since creating this article I have since examined the PE3
(Preinstall Environment version 3) which is a way to make an Emergency Repair
Disk that the Windows 7 installation uses. Add to the fact that the older
version of ERD for XP and older Windows versions may start a Windows 7 or newer
installation you will do damage to the file system with the file and disk
management tools. The disk imaging program recommend by the programmers of the
ERD creator I suggest you use also suggest a newer drive image program called
DriveImage XML, I have used this program and find it fairly easy to use, however
I also have used the Ghost program since if was released many years ago and have
yet to run in to a problem with the images I have created even with the
extremely picky Windows 10.