Your data is never safe without backup. Virus infection, hard disk failure, computer theft, fire etc. are some of the usual reasons for data loss. While you can use tools like Backup Maker to create backups of important system files, a better way is to create a clone image of the entire hard disk. This way you can just restore the entire hard disk in case of virus infection or other unpredictable disasters, without having to reinstall Windows and other software all over again. The freeware HDClone can help you quickly create disk images for your hard disks and other mass storage media.
Free HDClone is an advanced but easy to use tool to create images of your hard disks or USB disks and then restore data from these images to another hard disk or storage media. It is also able to copy directly from one hard disk to another hard disk (this process is called cloning). It can copy all the files including the system files while running inside Windows.
You can download HDClone from the Miray software website. The download is nearly 20 megabytes in size and allows you to install HDClone on your Windows PC. You may have to restart PC after the installation. When you run the HDClone, it shows up a GUI window with multiple options for Backup, Recovery and Cloning. You can select any option from these but some are not available in the free edition. For backing up your hard disk to an image, select Store entire disk option. Click Next to continue
In the next steps, you have to choose a hard disk, select a image filename and location, choose various options like compression and password protection etc. and then it would start the copying of the files to the image file that you have selected. The process may take a long time depending on the hard disk size and its contents. I tried to make a backup of my 8GB USB key and it took only 2 minutes for the image creation.
If later you want to restore your hard disk from this image, then start HDClone again, select Restore disk option and follow the on-screen directions which involve selecting the image file, selecting the target hard disk and begin copying. The restore process overwrites everything else previously exisiting on that hard disk.
The free edition of HDClone provides the minimal functionality to create hard disk images, restore hard disk from images and cloning one hard disk directly from another. The advanced features like working with individual partitions for backup, recovery and cloning, compressing the images etc. are available in the paid editions.
You can download free HDClone from http://www.miray.de/download/sat.hdclone.html.