DriveImage XML is a free utility which can be used to create an image of a
hard disk – even one that’s in use. Once you have an image you can easily
browse its contents, or restore that image to a hard disk.
DriveImage XML stores its data in an open XML-based format that could be
used by other utilities, should you need, but the basics are handled quite
nicely by the utility itself.
In this article, I’ll walk you through creating an image of your C:
A caveat before we begin.
DriveImage XML is very good at what it does – creating images of hard drive partitions, and restoring those images to hard drive partitions, but it does have two limitations:
Restoring to a boot partition – i.e. Restoring an image of your C: drive from which you can then boot from – is not turnkey. You’ll need additional software (something bootable – typically disc you build using BartPE), and from the DriveImage XML site there are “gotcha’s” that they can walk you through when it comes to restoring Windows Vista and Windows 7 bootable partitions.
There’s no scheduler. It does include command line parameters so that you can presumably write your own scripts to perform scheduled image backups.
Thus DriveImage XML is not necessarily the best choice for a consumer-level regular backup.
However, it’s a fine (and for home users free) choice for backing up drives from which you might normally only want to recover individual files, or backing up secondary (i.e. non-bootable) drives.
To begin, download and install DriveImage XML from runtime.org. As I mentioned, it’s free for personal use. After it’s installed, run it.
Click on Backup on the left hand list.
You’ll see a list of the drives on your system, and information about each. In this case I’ll click on the only drive listed – my Windows 7 “C:” drive – and then Next in the lower right to start the backup Wizard.
On this page of the wizard a few choices are made.
Most importantly the destination to contain the backup. The Directory I’ve selected here is a folder on an external hard disk used for backups.
The file name I’ve left as the default “Drive_C”, though you could choose any name that’s descriptive for you.
I’ve unchecked Raw mode. In Raw mode DriveImage XML makes a sector-by-sector backup. Many people define “image” to be exactly that: an image that contains all sectors on the hard drive – used or not. The resulting raw image cannot be browsed for files, only restored in its entirety. Without Raw mode, DriveImage XML backs up all and only your files, and does so in a way that the individual files can be browsed and restored later.
I’ve unchecked Split large files. The result is that my backup will be contained in two files: an XML file containing a directory, and a “.dat” file containing the actual backed up files. Split large files allows you to instead have that single huge file be a sequence of smaller, numbered files (useful for burning to DVDs or on file systems that cannot support huge files).
I’ve selected “Good (slow!)” compression. I want my backup image to be as small as possible, even if it might take a little longer.
I’ve also checked Try Volume Shadow Services first, simply because I know that drive locking will fail on the system drive which is always in use.
Click Next, and the backup begins.
And after a while (including a period after being “100% done” while it writes additional information to the XML file) the backup completes.
We can then see the backup on the removable drive:
In future articles we’ll examine how to extract individual files from your backup image, and how to restore an image to your hard drive.