I need to send images and stop sending drives.
July 4, 2012 10:19 PM   Subscribe

PC Tech filter: What's a common disk-image format that I can use for storing images of bootable flash media? Sending new media to customers so slow and expensive.

My company is an OEM that ships rack-mounted devices containing PCs running Windows Embedded from either a CompactFlash (CF) or Solid State Drive (SSD). Because of changes in components, primarily motherboards, over the years, we have a few dozen disk images around that're currently stored in an old Norton Ghost format. I mention it's old, because the latest Norton Ghost can't use them-- compatibility ended around version 11.

Now that we're shipping on SSDs instead of CFs, the cost of the physical media is way way higher (practically negligible for CFs, compared to the order of $100 for the SSDs we use), that on the occasions where we just need to re-image the drive, we don't have an image to send the customer.

Most people want something like an .ISO, but my attempts at making ISOs from flash media failed-- .ISO applications assume that you're using optical media, every time, and I don't see a good way around that. There may be hacks, but we don't want the customer to have to hack anything to restore function to his machine.

I'm looking for a good, preferably free/open image or clone format can image a bootable flash-based OS drive of some kind, and write to CF or SSD drives to make them bootable when mounted. Put another way, writing the images should be free to our customers; it's a bonus if creating the images is also free. And Open, because I don't want to pay a license to use the format, if at all possible.

Most of our customers will be Windows users, but if Mac applications that can be made to use the format too, that would be great.
posted by Sunburnt to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about dd?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:32 PM on July 4, 2012

are the disk sizes all the same? you can just use a raw disk image.
posted by joshu at 10:57 PM on July 4, 2012

It sounds like Blazecock's linked dd doesn't do that on windows, but it is what I would use on Linux or Mac to snap a backup image of a whole volume.
posted by joshu at 10:58 PM on July 4, 2012

Paragon Backup and Recovery 2012 works pretty well. It's freeware, too... although technically you may have to pay something for commercial use. Their business software is cheap, though, and works well.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 11:46 PM on July 4, 2012

Best answer: Clonezilla might do what you want. It's an open source version of ghost etc that's kept well maintained.
posted by jonrob at 12:11 AM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: If you want to try adapting one of the many available Linux live distributions to make a self-booting restoration tool, you're welcome to use or get ideas from the save-image and load-image scripts I wrote for my own use in managing images of school computers. These use ntfsclone for NTFS partitions, partimage for FAT and Linux partitions and dd for everything else.
posted by flabdablet at 12:15 AM on July 5, 2012

Although having just become aware of clonezilla, I'm wondering why I bothered. Thanks, jonrob.
posted by flabdablet at 12:19 AM on July 5, 2012

Clonezilla is basically a prepackaged live CD of the utilities flabdablet was mentioning (dd, ntfsclone).
posted by neckro23 at 12:20 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all for your help. I looked at Clonezilla and will try it out this coming week.

If I can even automate clonezilla, that might be even better.

joshu, disc sizes won't be the same, at least not reliably enough, as customers might buy their own media in the case of the CF Cards. Thanks, though.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:11 PM on July 7, 2012

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