How To: Backup Your Entire Hard Disk using DriveImage XML
Image Source: DriveImage XML
Disk Imaging or Ghosting tools, such as Norton Ghost, have been around for a number of years and allow the user to make a complete backup of the hard disk, including the operating system, drivers and personal folders. This functionality ensures imaging tools are very popular with systems administrators, who are used to dealing with critical hardware and software failures and need a contingency plan for worst case scenarios.
Unfortunately, most disk imaging tools are a little too complex for the non-technical user to master, and the imaging process cannot usually be run in the background, necessitating some downtime. This is enough to put most users off, meaning only IT professionals and the most dedicated of home users are bothering to create full snapshots of their Windows installations in case disaster should befall an important PC.
The disk imaging process doesn't have to be an esoteric and overly complex one, however. DriveImage XML is a free and easy to use application that is capable of creating a snapshot of any hard disk, whilst working in the background (and without interrupting whatever you are working on). Once the disk image is created, it can be used to restore your computer to a known, healthy state in the event of a critical hardware or software failure.
Access the Related Download link for this article and acquire the installer file for DriveImage XML (dixmlsetup-222.exe). The installer file is very small and should transfer to your computer within a few seconds. Once this is complete, run the file to start the installation process and follow the on-screen prompts.
Launch DriveImage XML using the shortcut on the desktop or within the Windows Start menu, and when the application interface appears, click Backup.
DriveImage XML begins scanning your computer for connected drives, which are displayed a few seconds later. Select the disk you wish to create an image of (the C drive is usually the primary drive in Windows, and this contains the boot sector and Windows operating system) by clicking it, then choose Next, then Next again to start the DriveImage XML backup wizard.
Specify the location the backup file should be stored in the Directory field. Check the Raw Mode box if you wish to include unused disk space in the backup. This is not usually recommended, as it will increase the size of the image. It will also mean that the image can only be restored to a drive that is equal or greater in size to the original.
Check the Split Large Files box if you intend to store the disk image on multiple CDs or DVDs. If you intend to use an external hard drive to store the image, you can leave this option unchecked.
Select the Compressed option to reduce the size of the disk image by around 30%. Note that this option will slow down both the backup and the restore process.
For the Hot Imaging Strategy option, leave this at the default "Try Volume Locking first" setting. Click Next to begin the imaging process, which may take several hours, depending on the performance of your computer, the settings you specified and the amount of data being backed up.
When the imaging process is complete, there will be several files present in the location specified in Step 4. One of these will be an XML file, and there will also be one or more DAT files (depending on whether or not you opted for the Split Large Files option). Transfer all of these files to a safe location on a separate drive, or burn them to CD/DVD if you chose the Split Large Files option.
Tips & Advice
- Once the disk image is created and safely stored in a separate location, it can be installed on a second machine running DriveImage XML. Simply launch the application on the second machine, connect the disk where the image is stored, then choose the Restore option in the DriveImage XML menu. Locate the XML file associated with the disk image and specify the drive where the image should be restored to (this cannot be the current system drive). Click Next to begin the Restore process. NOTE: the Restore process will erase everything else stored on the target drive.
- To restore individual files that were backed up in the imaging process, select the Load Image option in DriveImage XML and locate the disk image XML file. The application will display the folder listing for that image, and any files can be dragged across to the desktop in the normal way, whereupon they will be restored.