One of the most useful disk utility tools ever made has been tweaked and updated this year. Drive Image 2002 has the same core disk partition management abilities of previous versions, but there are some user-friendly additions too.
As you’ll see from our review of a previous version of Drive Image, this piece of software effectively allows you to treat entire disk partitions (which are commonly shown as hard drive letters) as though they were files. You can copy these files to another drive, store them on tape or a network drive and even back them up directly to CD-R or other removable media.
The major advantages here are two-fold. First, this is a very fast way of backing up a drive; typically 10 minutes per gigabyte of data, depending on the performance of your system and the speed of the media to which you’re backing up. But second, and more importantly, restoring the backups is exceptionally easy, because the entire hard drive partition is stored, not just the individual files. This means that the boot sector, registry, hidden and system files are all restored to their original locations. If you do suffer a data loss disaster, you can restore everything with a few clicks of the mouse; no need to partition, format and reinstall Windows first.
New to this version is the option of backing up partitions from within Windows (previously the software would drop to DOS first to perform such operations). But this only works for non-system partitions, i.e. not for your main boot drive, so it’s actually not a huge improvement. What is nice is the ability to automatically create a ‘backups’ partition on which to store your copied partitions, although storing this on the same drive – or even in the same PC – as your main partitions isn’t a particularly sensible move. If you lose the whole drive, or someone steals your PC, you’ve lost the backup too.
It’s better to make use of Drive Image 2002′s ability to handle removable drives and network drives natively. Not all such drives are supported, but the support is certainly more comprehensive than in previous versions. You can backup your hard drive partitions straight to CD-R or to a network drive, or to pretty much any other drive that can be given a drive letter, including PCMCIA drives.
The user interface has been improved in this version, with wizards taking you through the process of partition management if that’s what you prefer; standard menus are available for more capable users. There’s also the option of extracting files from existing disk images, so you don’t have to restore a complete partition just so that you can get your hands on an older copy of a document, for example.
Backed-up partitions can be password protected and you can determine the level of compression and integrity checking. FAT, FAT32, NTFS and Linux Ext2/Swap file systems are all supported, so you can backup most types of OS without fuss. For more advanced users, there are utilities for backing up and restoring the MBR, cleaning the boot sector (to remove viruses or restore some types of Linux partition properly) and viewing the partition table.
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