Your data can be corrupted anytime by a malicious software, your hard disk can crash at any moment and you may become a victim of computer theft etc. among many other mishaps leading to your data being inaccessible to you. To protect your data against all such unfortunate events, you should regularly create backups of your drives. While Windows itself has a backup feature, its more complicated and not very easy to use. Instead you can use free DriveImage XML to create image backups of your drives.
DriveImage XML is free for personal home use. It makes use of the volume shadow copy services in Windows, allowing you to make the backup of all the files including those in use by Windows. It stores the image in XML files, allowing you to process them with other third party tools. You can browse through these drive backup images without having to extract files from them first. In addition to creating the drive backup to a file, DriveImage XML can also make a drive-to-drive copy using which you can clone a drive to another drive even if the source drive is in use.
You can download DriveImage XML from the Runtime website. The download is a setup installer of around 2 megabytes in size. It is supported on Windows XP, 2003, Vista and 7. After the installation, you can run it from its Start Menu shortcut. In order to create backups and restore from backups you need to run DriveImage XML with the administrator privileges. You can do this by right-clicking on DriveImage XML shortcut in Start Menu and select Run as administrator from the context menu.
Using DriveImage XML is pretty easy. If you want to create backup of a drive, then you have to select the Backup section from the elft side menu. Then select a source drive that you want to backup. Click Next to start the Drive Backup wizard. The drive backup wizard would take you through the backup process step-by-step. Basically, you have to select a destination folder where the backup XML file would be stored and the filename for the backup. There are also options for reading in-use files, compression and splitting large files.
The backup process locks the source drive and creates a volume shadow for it – allowing DriveImage XML to copy all the files even those which are locked by Windows. The backup process may take from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the size of your hard disk and data compression options.
The Restore feature works in a similar manner. You have to select the Restore section from the left side menu, then select a target drive that you want to restore from an image. Clicking on the Next button would start the Drive Restore wizard. In this wizard, you have to select the backup XML file, choose a target partition and click on the Next button to start the restoring process.
The Drive to Drive copy feature of DriveImage XML allows you to create a clone of one drive to another. This is very useful if you want to move your Windows installation to another disk drive. The process is similar to backing up or restoring a drive. Just select a source drive, a target drive and let DriveImage XML handle the rest.
The Browse section of DriveImage XML is very useful if you just want to have a look at the contents of your backed up images. You can view a file, extract it or launch it. If you select to View a file, then DriveImage XML will show it in its on viewer app. If you choose to Launch a file, then it would be opened in the usual program associated with that filetype in Windows. There is a search feature too for helping you to search through the backup for a file.
In addition to the DriveImage XML software for Windows, there is a DriveImage XML LiveCD (this is free too) that allows you to boot into Knoppix Linux and run DriveImage XML from there. If you are getting errors like ‘unable to lock drive’ or ‘unable to start volume shadow service’ in Windows, then you can use this LiveCD and do all your backup, restore and cloning operations.
All in all, DriveImage XML is a smart, compact and full featured tool for all your backup needs. It can create backup images of your disk drives, allows you to restore them, create direct drive-to-drive clones and also enables you to extract and view individual files from the drive backups. And all these features are packed behind a very simple and easy to use interface.