Free Hard Disk Imaging Software
Hard disk image (or partition image) is a file that contains all the data that is needed to recreate a particular disk or partition. Hard drive may be split into many partitions. Each partition has own file system andunder operating system it is visible as one disk. Disk or partition image is usually created for backup purposes or to copy/clone the whole disk. Disk image (or partition image) is a convenient way to create a complete backup of the disk—it allows the fastest restoration off all the files including operating system.
Disk imaging software is used to create, write and manage image files which are usually compressed to save disk space. We can create a complete image where all the clusters and sectors are written to the image or we can save only used data. Each file system has tables that define which disk sectors are used by folders and files. By taking into account this data the disk image will be smaller but will still contain all the data to faithfully recreate the disk partition. Some disk tools also have a function to create a virtual disk from an image file. The disk will be mounted as read only, but you will be able to easily extract individual files.
Creating disk images is a quick and efficient method of creating a complete backup of any disk. With disk image you can restore any partition regardless of the hard drive size. One example of practical usage of disk images is when you install operating system on a new computer. When everything is installed and configured properly you create an image of the disk. Now you can use the computer and whenever there is a problem with file system corruption or hard drive failure you replace the drive if necessary and restore the disk image. With a simple operation you will have the operating system with applications installed in minutes. This approach can also be used when the disk becomes cluttered with many applications that you don’t need anymore or can not be easily uninstalled.
One disadvantage of creating disk images is that this operation is time consuming and needs a lot of space to store the images. So you will create images only few times a year. In the meantime you should make ordinary backups of individual folders and files. One potential problem when creating disk/partition image is when we need to make an image of the system disk. In such case if this is a Windows system the imaging software can use the Microsoft Volume Shadow Service to bypass problems with locked files used by the operating system.
Free Hard Disk and Partition Imaging Software
HDClone in its free edition allows basic operations with hard disk partitions. You can create images and clone them to other hard drives. This is a Windows application but there is also a bootable Floppy/CD image which can be used to write images to new hard drives. Professional and enterprise versions have more features and support more hardware.
DiscWizard is a free disk tool from a disk manufacturer Seagate. DiscWizard can create and format partitons and partition images. It is available for Window and MAC OS X.
MaxBlast is another free Seagate disk image sotware.
This is a collection of various system tools to diagnose, analyze, recover, repair and troubleshoot computers. The tools are packed into a bootable CD/DVD/USB disk image so they are OS independent. Ultimate Boot CD can also be used for hard disk cloning or disk image creation.
This is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD/DVD/USB disk image. It supports all major linux partition types and can be used to create/restore partition images.
This is an open source Linux disk utility. It can create and restore partition images which can be transfered over the network (Samba/NFS) or split to many smaller files to fit on a CD/DVD. Partimage saves only used disk space and thus reduces image file sizes.
Partition Saving is a DOS, Windows and Linux partition management tool. It can compress image files and save only used disk data.
g4u or ghosting for unix is a bootable floppy/CD/DVD tool based on NetBSD that uses network and FTP to load/save disk image files.
Private Edition of DriveImage XML for home usage is free, while Commercial Edition needs to be purchased. This is Windows software for disk/partition image creation/restoration. You can also run DriveImage from bootable CD/DVD. DriveImage can use Microsoft's Volume Shadow Services to make a disk image of live system drive.
This is a Windows version of the Unix command line dd command to backup partitons.
Ntfs Fat Generic dump is Windows/Linux tool to create or restore FAT or NTFS partitions. NFGDump supports compression, encryption and split images.
This is a collection of forensic tools for Windows operating system. They can be used to collect the evidence, to analyze and to prepare system for forensic analysis.
Dubaron DiskImage can create/restore partitions from any media. It supports image compression, has a graphical interface and is released under GPL license.
This is a live Linux ISO (CD/DVD) image with tools to backup and restore disk partitions. It supports many network cards, CD/DVD drives, and file systems.
Clonezilla is a Linux software to clone backup or disks. There are two versions: Clonezilla Live as bootable tool on CD/DVD USB disk or Clonezilla SE as server version which also supports features to massively clone disks.
Macrium Reflect for personal use is free. It is a Windows disk image backup/restore software. It supports compression, Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service and has a built in scheduler. To work with empty new drives there is Linux based Rescue CD with network access and full GUI.