Who makes a *good* disk imaging utility?
November 27, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting a new laptop. How do I make a backup of what's on the hard drive, before I blow it all away?

My goal is to make a copy of the "unadulterated" operating system, so that I can put it back on there before I send it off for service, if necessary.

I remember using an old version of Acronis TrueImage to do this before, but it doesn't support SATA drives. I would tend to think that the newer versions of the software might support it, but I'd love some sort of free solution...

I'm basically looking for a bootable CD rom that will let me make an image of the hard drive, and save it to a network share (preferred) or, I suppose I can find a USB hard drive around here somewhere.

Bonus points if it does some sort of compression to the image as it saves it. Extra extra bonus points if it does *good* compression, like LZMA.
posted by fvox13 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love Linux

A great method, if you're not afraid of the command line. Any bootable Linux disc will have this tool available.
posted by fearnothing at 12:54 PM on November 27, 2011

Get an external hard drive. They are good to have either way.
Back-up everything on to the external drive, then re-load it into the new computer.
(and periodically back up all your data on to the external drive anyway)
posted by Flood at 12:56 PM on November 27, 2011

Is there a reason you're planning on restoring the HD for service? The tech folks who'll be ripping your machine apart in the event of a hardware problem are almost certainly going to just throw on a fresh image anyway, regardless of what you send.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:07 PM on November 27, 2011

I use Clonezilla to backup to an external USB drive. It does compression, several different levels, if you want it.
posted by DarkForest at 2:08 PM on November 27, 2011

Fearnothing has it--any Linux LiveCD (free) will allow you to use dd to clone drives. I recommend using Ubuntu if you are a Linux novice. Consider an older release like 10.10 because the user interface is extremely Windows-like. (I just realized that I'm assuming you are running Windows...is that true?)

If you don't have any Linux experience, you might check out this guide to use Clonezilla. I have never used this tool and consequently cannot vouch for it personally, but HowToForge's guides have never steered me wrong in the past. If you follow this guide, when it asks for your Samba server, that would be referring to a Windows server where you want to store your files. Samba is the package that lets Linux talk to the Windows network filesystem.
posted by wondercow at 3:28 PM on November 27, 2011

Buy a cheap used replacement drive on eBay, then use this to replace or to clone your notebook hard drive. You can always swap out the internal drive for the used drive that you purchased. If this seems too hard (its normally fairly straightforward to swap a drive), you can clone your existing internal drive, using a SATA Apricorn hard drive clone kit to duplicate its contents. Put the clone in a USB external drive caddy. This is $19 - it won't break the bank, it is way easier to use than any freeware, and it is very reliable. For a little bit more, you can buy the Apricorn kit with an external drive enclosure.
This is really excellent cloning software. It allows you to resize the partitions if your new disk is smaller or larger than the internal hard drive you are cloning (content size permitting). I have been using versions of this software for at over ten years, over at least six notebook drive upgrades - I never had a failure yet.
If you clone (rather than swap out) your hard drive, make sure that you nuke the existing drive's contents, using Darik's Boot and Nuke. I *never* trust the guys who are supposed to "recycle" your machine to remove all personal data from the hard drive.
posted by Susurration at 7:15 PM on November 27, 2011

If you're using anything above the home editions of Windows Vista or 7, you may want to use sysprep to generalize the system prior to capturing (especially if moving to different hardware).
posted by samsara at 5:53 AM on November 28, 2011

Thanks for the suggestions... I'm comfortable enough with Linux to give dd a try. Always been too scared because I've heard that it stands for "drive destroyer" if you use it incorrectly!
posted by fvox13 at 6:20 AM on November 28, 2011

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