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How do I create a disk image using DriveImage XML?

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 As I mentioned, it’s free for personal use. After it’s installed, run it.

DriveImage XML Home Screen

Click on Backup on the left hand list.

DriveImage XML Backup

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.

DriveImage XML Backup Wizard Start

Click Next.

DriveImage XML Backup Wizard Selections

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.

DriveImage XML Backup In Progress

And after a while (including a period after being “100% done” while it writes additional information to the XML file) the backup completes.

DriveImage XML Backup Complete

We can then see the backup on the removable drive:

Backup files created by DriveImage XML

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.

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13 comments on “How do I create a disk image using DriveImage XML?”

  1. I use Partimage, a utility on the Linux based System Rescue CD for all my imageing needs.
    It runs outside any OS and will create a recovery
    image from NTFS and ext3 partitions.
    It only creates an image from the used parts of a partition and has optional compression levels.

    I create an image before doing anything risky like large updates and on a regular basis as things change.

    With Win 7 for instance my partition is 22 GB with 9 GB used.
    Partimage creates a 4.1 GB image that I save to a 16 GB fat 32 thumb drive.
    The image needs to be saved to fat 32 media for restore.
    For instance Partimage can’t restore an image from a NTFS formatted thumb drive.
    Takes about 20 minutes to create and a restore takes about 3 minutes from the thumb drive.

    I have 6 OS’s on my 320 GB drive and all of them are backed up with Partimage.
    I save copies to an external drive as well as my thumb drive.

  2. Very good article, Leo, and nice comment from Frank Golden too :-)
    I would also prefer PartImage.
    Is it possible to restore the bootable c: drive with it?
    What about the rescue partition some laptops come with? Can it be saved also?

  3. Macrium Reflect has a free image software and it prompts you to create a boot disk.

    It works well and is pretty simple to use.

  4. Top class instruction for imaging software. I will check it out but I recently had to restore my boot disk twice [ mentioned elsewhere ] and since you have to reload the winXP software to use any image utility anyway – I simply copied over a back up of the windows directory, the registry [ most important ] and program directory plus documents directory with Karens replicator; Bingo, everything back.
    The beauty of KR is it has programed back ups and multiple source / destination configurations.

  5. I had downloaded DriveImage, but was hesistant to use it. Leo, your directions certainly made it look easy.

    Had purchased and installed Acronis True Image Home 2010, but after doing a ‘backup’ there were files added to other partitions, which I had not selected.
    Also, their backup instructions were somewhat confusing – to me, anyway.


  6. I have used Drive Image XML a lot.

    It needs something else to create the partition it will restore into (assuming you are restoring the C disk boot partition). I use a Linux Live CD for this purpose. You also need to make that partition the active one.

    I have restored Windows XP with DriveImage XML many times, but it doesn’t seem up to the task for Vista or Windows 7 with their new boot architecture.

    It’s great in that it runs both from within Windows and also from a bootable CD. Its bad in that you have to make the bootable CD yourself, either Bart PE or Ultimate Boot CD for Windows.

    It’s great in that if there are bad sectors on your hard drive, DIX will stop, tell you and let you skip over them. Much better than some competing software that dies when encountering a bad sector.

    It’s great in offering a “raw” option, not all competing software does (True Image I’m looking at you). Downside is that backups made using the raw option can’t be mounted to browse files contained in the backup.

    Annoyance: it takes a LONG time after the software says its finished until it really is finished. Also, there is no release history, so with the many minor updates to v2, you have no idea what bugs were fixed or features added.

    Macrium Reflect prompts you to make two rescue CDs and I was confused as to what exactly was the difference between them.

    I believe later versions of TrueImage do include the ability to do a sector-based backup.

  7. Ty Leo,
    What I would like is to see is what to do when you need to use it. There are a lot of programs to create them, but not very good instructions on how to use the back-up when your system needs it!
    Thank You,

  8. leo,
    I just read your thoughts on 2010, helping people, then read this on DriveImage XML

    For helping people, this ties in.
    I think one thing that is needed is a short, sweet, concise way, directions, to
    1. Back Up SIMPLY, with easy consumer interface, the whole hard drive, and verify that the data is backed up
    (not worried about scheduling, etc; just ability to DO it from a prompt.
    2. RESTORE, to a new drive, this backed up image, for disaster recovery
    3. INCLUDE easy way to create Bart PE, or ultimate Disk, for booting, to enable restoring; I’ve used computers for 25 years, done lots of programming, and as of yet STILL am totally confused at creating a Bart PE for easy booting
    4. Review ENCRYPTION and PROTECTION of data on the computer, either as files, or at boot time for the whole hard drive

    I know Truecrypt has been reviewed, and that actually has been better reviewed as a mechanism than the disk backup/restore has, and hopefully the DriveImage XML is a start of this

    anyway, kep up the EXCELLENT work, your site is FANTASTIC

    For the record, there is a series of articles (with videos) walking through the entire backup and restore process using Acronis True Image Home 2009: How to Backup.


  9. I have a 3 disk machine – one small fast Raptor (C:) with my XP install and a few games (all on same partition), and two large Spinpoints containing several other partitions. I was wondering if it’s possible to backup my OS drive (C:) with DriveImage XML and omit certain folders, ie the games? This would mean the backup could be 40GB smaller and the games, which are easy enough to re-install, could go back on once the drive was restored – I appreciate that there would be ‘old’ install info in the registry but I can get around this.

  10. Thanks, I have created a mirrow image successfully using Macrium Reflect. Still need a really simple step by step instruction as to how to reinstall if I have a total hard drive failure. Hard to follow the BartPT instructions. I have made a bootable CD from my HP laptop. Will try the Acronis site. Thanks again for the reply

  11. OK I made a reflect rescue disk, and it worked like a charm!! Computer booted and gave me the options as per your Acronis clip. Thanks for all the help, Sonia.

  12. Well done, and absolutely *JUST IN TIME*!

    On Jan 7th, I had a PC come in with a failing hard drive. I printed out your directions and went to work transferring the C: partition of this Vista-based HP, and then the D: recovery partition. The Vista boot issue is handled within the DriveImage program.

    However, some of your options were not the same as mine, but perhaps that was due to doing a drive-to-drive.

    Note that I only accepted that disk failure was imminent after I ran the SeaTools for DOS (recommended by Seagate) on this internal Seagate 3.5 SATA II drive. Of the 9 times I ran the long test of this utility, it only finished (and amazingly reported no errors) once. All other times, the SeaTools program crashed; I ran it two more times after the time it finished successfully.

  13. Will “Macrium Reflect Backup SW” degrade the performance of other programs? Will it track changes of disk-sector by sector in real-time mode, throughout, even when it is not active?


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