Clone/Backup Drives using DriveImageXML

26Jan09

Ever dreaded the time wasted on getting your computer back to its perfectly updated state and loaded state? All the updates, the reinstalls, reconfigurations, the tweaks…everytime you have to reinstall Windows? Read on, for this one is probably the one you’re looking for

I have been reading up on data and disk backup/cloning solutions with the linux side of the equation far heavier with really powerful free software solutions, like bacula, clonezilla, partimage, etc. and some solutions on the windows side like abakt, task:bar, cobian backup, besides the rsync, ftp or other synchronisation based tools like synkron, toucan, etc. This post is about a disk cloning and as such I will limit the discussion to disk cloning that I’ve looked through but never had an opportunity to use any of the tool for real-world purpose. Never had the hardware resources to try out such an exercise.

Disk Cloning v/s Disk Backup

Disk cloning has more uses than disk backup (or more appropriately ‘data backup’) and the tools used to backup data/disk may not use the same techniques as a disk cloning tool.

Disk Backup

Abakt, Cobian etc. are file-based backup solutions wherein you schedule a compressed/uncompressed dump of selected folders from a disk partition to another disk (not a partition and hopefully also not another disk that’s been worn out just as much as the source disk, coz that makes no sense at all.) If you know batch scripting and can get the 7z command line tool to archive your selected folders and files with the best compression (lzma) and dump it on your backup device on a scheduled basis, you basically have a data backup solution at hand, but a tool made specially for this purpose may have additional features (VSS for hot backups, FTP auto-login for uploading to a file server, etc.) which makes the backup process that much hassle-free yet reliable

Disk Cloning

Norton Ghost, Acronis TrueImage, DriveImageXML, partimage, etc. belong to this category and often treat your disk in terms of its used sectors/clusters rather than the files and folders that have been written on them. These tools store exact replica/snapshot of a chosen drive or drive partition such that it could be replicated on a target device as is, with the click of a button or execution of a command. I have (and surely you must’ve too) heard of Norton Ghost for like years, but never had been aware of a really reliable disk cloning tool that I could try on the windows machine and that was free…until DriveImageXML (free for personal use, but its usage is more fitting in standalone machine cloning/restoration). Disk cloning is difficult to try without available resources and the right real-world situation as the restore or the replicate process wipes out the target drive to write the backup image to it from scratch to make the disk an exact replica. Here I will explain from my first experience, how DriveImageXML can be used to backup as well as clone a disk.

DriveImageXML Howto

The process of imaging (alternative term for making clone/replica/snapshot) a disk is very easy with DriveImageXML. The only thing I had to do was to try out in a real world situation to check for the efficiency and reliability. You could try it out with usb flash devices, which have very little storage capacity and would be easy to backup on limited space on your hard disk.
The interface of DriveImageXML has 4 main action categories Backup, Restore, Drive to Drive, Browse put in separate tabs, besides the Welcome tab, which shows links to the action tabs and related documentation. This is a howto based on a single use case scenario.

What I have

  • A 80GB hard disk. as 2 partitions. Source disk. in use.
  • A 160GB hard disk. Destination disk. to take over regular operations.
  • A 100GB partition of another drive on the network to store the image data. You could use an external USB hard disk for the purpose.
    In ideal situation you’d use CD’s/DVD’s/USB hard disk’s to store the backup image but never the source disk itself. Keep the backup at a safe distance from the source.
  • Windows XP. or any version above would do. The software needs Windows OS to run. For bootable CD solution, check out BartPE (which is beyond the scope of this article).

What I need

  • Backup both partitions from the 80GB drive as separate DriveImageXML backups.
  • Restore the 2nd partition (D:\ drive) as is. Clone.
  • Restore selected folders and files from the 1st partition (C:\ drive)
  • Almost perfect space-time tradeoff.

How I did it (Backup)

  1. Installed DriveImageXML on the source disk. Defaults should do fine.
  2. Started DriveImageXML. By default its under Start–>All Programs–>Runtime Software.
  3. Clicked on the Backup tab at the lower left section.
  4. Selected the C partition from the list and clicked on Next.
  5. The backup wizard started, showing the selected partition (C Drive). Clicked on Next again.
  6. Entered the destination folder using the Browse… dialog button next to the Directory text box.
  7. The other options available there are as follows : –
    1. Raw mode – This mode if checked would result in an image that is not formatted into any filesystem but is the raw layout of data blocks, unformatted. You wouldn’t need this unless you are not sure whether you’re gonna stick with the filesystem your drive is using a the time of backup. I had this unchecked.
    2. Split large files – splits the binary data files (containing the image data) into CD size chunks. Although with DVD’s and blu-rays out there, although the data should definitely be a lot more, as per stuff I read about FAT32, file creation becomes a problem if filesize goes beyond 4gb, is this true? anyways, not being able to customize the break size is a bummer. I preffered to have this checked.
    3. Compression (No, Fast, Good/Slow) : – You might say Fast seems to be the best tradeoff, but if you got all the CPU processing power to spare, then why not compress it real ‘Good’? 🙂
      In any case, the program dumps out only used clusters, so the snapshot won’t be too huge in size, but compression helps save space, if you are used to liking that idea. Since I was backing up over the network, I wanted to try out with just Fast compression.
    4. Hot Imaging Strategy : – This lets you choose the method you can clone a disk while working on it. So your work need not wait at all.The 2 options available are as follows: –
      1. Try Volume Locking First : – This works on non-OS partitions like the D:\ drive for example. DriveImageXML is able to lock the D partition volume as there are no system files locking the volume/denying the volume locking process. Basically imaging softwares need this feature and if not available, they opt for the next one.
      2. Try Volume Shadow Services First : – This requires the Volume Shadow Services to be enabled and started and is available in Windows XP and later only. This helps image a volume where in the imaging software can’t get a lock on, but can work on a shadow copy of the volume.
    5. Ideally keep the system tweaking to a minimal during image backup for ensuring you get a stable system backup.
  8. Clicked on Next. The backup process will start now.

Once the image is created as a bunch of or a single .dat file(s), the xml tree structure for the source drive’s directory structure is generated. You can give a custom name to this xml file, which basically is the definition file for a backup.
That’s more or less all there is to it. This ain’t a backup solution and it is quite hardware and time resource intensive, so even if you schedule imaging jobs, do keep a substantial window between 2 snapshots.

How I Did It (Restore)

  1. Installed and Started DriveImageXML on the new 160gb HDD after Windows XP was installed on it. Remember that I only intended to copy back only select folders from the original C partition but clone back the D partition.
  2. I did partition the new drive into 2 partitions though much larger in sizes. Remember that despite the small size of the backed up image data, the software works in a way that it can replicate the image on a partition equal or bigger in size.
  3. Cloned the D:\ partition as follows :-
    1. Clicked on the Restore tab at the lower left section.
    2. Selected the Disk0
    3. 2/Drive D partition
    4. Browsed for the XML file, created during the backup process, on the networked location. In your case, it could be your external USB hard disk for example.
    5. That’s all there is to it. The XML file restores data from the .dat file(s). More the compression and larger the size of the image, the more time it would take, but I guess you knew that already.
  4. Restored back select folders from the C:\ partition as follows :-
    1. Clicked on the Restore tab at the lower left section.
    2. Browsed for the XML file for the C:\ partition backup on the networked drive.
    3. The contents of the C:\ partition backup are shown in a file manager/explorer type layout.
    4. I chose the folders I needed to restore and clicked on Extract. I chose to dump them out to my new drive’s C:\ partition itself.

External References

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3 Responses to “Clone/Backup Drives using DriveImageXML”

  1. 1 Jane Goody

    The topic is quite hot on the Internet right now. What do you pay the most attention to while choosing what to write ?

  2. 2 Diabolic Preacher

    ease of understanding.


  1. 1 How to Format a Hard Drive in Linux | sellonrock.com

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