Copy, Back Up Your PC's Drive With Ease

Drive-imaging utilities from PowerQuest and Acronis can work within Windows

By Lincoln Spector

Drive imaging, the best way to back up your entire hard drive for disaster recovery, used to require rebooting to DOS. New software now allows you to do much of the chore in Windows. I looked at shipping versions of Drive Image 2002, from longtime contender PowerQuest, and True Image Deluxe, a new entrant in the field from Acronis.

For Drive Image 2002 ($70), PowerQuest substantially overhauled its predecessor, version 5, though the new version remains backward-compatible. New features include LAN support and a scheduler with a great new option. After scheduling an image creation, you may tell the scheduler to wait until you shut Windows down to run Drive Image. When you instruct your PC to shut down, a small program that monitors Windows then proceeds to launch Drive Image.

Best of all, Drive Image has partitioning capabilities. This is important because the easiest place to put an image of your hard drive is onto the hard drive itself--but that requires a second partition. In contrast, True Image Deluxe, $50, doesn't include this.

Though less versatile than Drive Image, True Image is a cheaper, easier-to-use imaging tool. Both programs support CD-R, CD-RW, Iomega's Zip and Jaz, and other storage devices; both run in Windows; and both come with a bootable, non-Windows environment for situations where running in Windows isn't practical.

You can interact completely with Drive Image from inside Windows (version 5 offered limited Windows usability). But if you tell it to back up or restore the system partition (the one containing your Windows folder, probably your C:\ partition), the program will have to exit Windows, reboot, do the backup (or restore), and then reboot your system. For other partitions, Drive Image can do its backup and restoration from inside Windows.

For its part, True Image can back up the system partition while Windows is running, but it must exit Windows if you ever need to restore the C:\ partition.

Neither program is hard to use, but True Image is slightly easier--both because it relies more completely on wizards and because it offers fewer options. Unfortunately, one missing option is quite important: True Image can't verify the quality of a backup. As a result, you may not know that a backup is bad until you try to restore it. This drawback alone should make you think twice about buying this software.

True Image isn't so simple to use when you try to restore an image from multiple discs. It's not clear which CD you should put in first. And when it's time to insert another CD, you're told: 'The drive is not ready. A possible reason may be poor media quality'. That's not a comforting message to receive if you're recovering from a disaster. Acronis may correct True Image Deluxe's problems in some future version, but until then the $20 extra for Drive Image 2002 is clearly money well spent.

From the August 2002 issue of PC World magazine

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