Category: Disk duplication utilities
Name of tool: Drive Image v3.0
Company name: PowerQuest Corp.
Windows platforms supported: 3.x, 95, 98, NT (Workstation only), 2000 Professional only)
Simple, yet powerful and effective disk copying and duplicating utilities.
**** = very cool, very useful
Quick and simple means to duplicate an entire hard disk partition. Images can be split up into smaller files to be copied onto CDs or Zip drives.
Doesn't support NT Server or Windows 2000 Server editions. May need to boot from Windows 98 floppy to see NTFS or FAT32 partitions on NT and Windows 2000 Professional PCs.
If you install lots of software for a living (which is really at the core of what I do), then you can't live without Drive Image. If you have ever installed some piece of software that subsequently prevents your machine from booting, or want to run multiple operating system versions on the same computer, then take a careful look at this product. It is also useful when you are migrating to Windows 2000 Professional from NT or 98 and want to make sure you can return back to these older operating systems in case 2000 doesn't do the job.
Ordinary backup programs are file-oriented, copying each individual file to a tape drive or other medium. This is useful when backing up individual word processing and spreadsheet documents, but useless when trying to preserve the state of your entire operating system. Just trying to track down which DLLs and other Windows effluvia have changed after some software install is a daunting task.
Enter programs like Drive Image, which allows you to take a quick snapshot of an entire disk, and then restore the disk back to this state later on if subsequent software installations mess things up. While the concept is simple, the solution is very complicated. There are different file formats to contend with - even in the Windows family there are FAT, FAT32, NTFS. Everyone has somewhat different hard disk configurations and partitions. There are slightly different operating system versions as well. Drive Image handles these with wonderful flair.
There are other disk imaging products, including Symantec's Ghost and Altiris' PC Transplant Pro. I like Drive Image: it has a dirt simple interface and works reliably.
To use Drive Image, you first have to make a copy of an entire particular partition on your hard disk. If your disk has multiple partitions, make sure you copy the right one! You have several options, including compression and data integrity checking as you make the copy. That's about it. When you want to restore your disk back to this state, you pick the image you have created and go - realizing that everything on your partition will be erased since you made the initial image copy. You can also set up the product to produce images as a series of smaller files that can be copied to a CD RW or a Zip drive.
I found the best way to work Drive Image is to set up two partitions on your hard disk - one that will contain your files and a bootable operating system, and one that is basically a spare and has room enough to contain the image or copy of these files. While this means you effectively have only half the capacity of your drive, given the costs of storage, it is a relatively cheap price to pay. Drive Image can compress your data so that an image takes up about half the size of the overall files. I also like booting it from a Windows 98 floppy, rather than the Caldera DOS floppy that is created by the Program, or running it from within Windows 98. This way, you are sure that all of your operating system files will be copied to the image.
I have been using Drive Image for years, and it delivers the goods. The worst possible thing that can happen with these any of these imaging products is to create an image that can't be restored - something that has happened to me with some of the competition.
Drive Image is just one of numerous disk utilities from PowerQuest. They also make Partition Magic, which allows you to manage multiple bootable operating systems on the same disk; Second Chance, which can create checkpoints for discrete system restores; and Drive Copy, to move files from one hard disk to another. Drive Image is the best of the bunch, and one that I use frequently to save time in setting up new systems.
**** = Very cool, very useful.
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool.
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.
David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant and corporate IT manager. Since 1995, he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.