DriveImage XML disk imaging tool restores partitions

Backing up and restoring partitions for disk drives can be complicated. Disk imaging tools such as Runtime Software's DriveImage XML can help admins do the job.

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I've been on the lookout for freeware that can be used to back up and restore partitions either from within Windows itself or from a bootable medium.

Terabyte Unlimited's Image for DOS (IFD)/Image for Windows/Image for Linux collection of utilities came close, but this utility can't be used for more than 30 days without a license. Note: The demo version of the program is fully functional, but if you try to restore a disk image that was created more than 30 days ago, it won't work.

Runtime Software has developed an intriguing disk-imaging tool that falls just short of being a replacement for tools such as IFD. DriveImage XML backs up logical drives and partitions to image files, which are split for easy archiving to removable media or DVD. The images themselves are stored as non-proprietary XML files—albeit very large XML files—meaning in theory they can be processed with third-party tools.

DriveImage XML functions
DriveImage XML runs from within Windows itself. It uses Microsoft Volume Shadow Services (VSS) to allow administrators to image drives that are already mounted—including the system volume itself. This makes it possible to image a system without having to take it offline. Image restoration can also be completed from within Windows itself, but it's not possible to restore a system-disk image from within Windows.

There is a workaround. Simply run DriveImage XML from a WinPE boot CD. But this workaround is not without disadvantages. For starters, you have to create the CD, which is no trivial task.

DriveImageXML has other limitations. It doesn't support incremental imaging (the act of creating images and then saving successive images that record only changes to the same volume). So if you want to make an image of a given partition, it has to be a complete image. (Note: The IFD has the same limitation, at least in its current version.)

Also, because DriveImage XML is freeware, adopting it in a corporate environment where unsupported software is not permitted for liability reasons could be difficult.

About the author:
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com, SearchSQLServer.com and SearchWinSecurity.com.

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This was first published in March 2007

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