I used to be a technical consultant implementing projects at various client sites. The project implementations usually last for about 2-3 months. Each time after a project completes, my machine will be loaded with lots of documents, source codes, and installed programs. There’s nothing wrong with this except that my hard disk space has decreased and the performance of the machine has deteriorated due to many installed programs. Now that I’m heading to another project, I wished that my machine was at its original state when it was all clean and speedy.
One advice given by our hardware guy would be to use Norton Ghost to create an image of the entire partition when the machine is in a clean state. With the image, we can easily just pop in the imaged cd and restore the entire partition back to the state when it was imaged. At that time Norton Ghost was a software every technical consultant needed.
Now that I’m out of the organization, I no longer have access to a licensed copy of Norton Ghost. It’s time to seek free norton ghost alternatives.
From my research, I found the following free to use imaging tools:
A backup and disk imaging software program for Microsoft Windows developed by Paramount Software UK Ltd in 2006. It creates disk images and file backup archives using Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service to ensure point in time data accuracy. This means that you can create a full backup of your hard drive through imaging even when you’re logged on in Windows.
Standard Macrium Reflect features
- Create a disk image whilst running Windows using Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS).
- Image to Network, USB, FireWire drives and DVD.
- Built in scheduler.
- 32 bit and native 64 bit versions.
- Industry leading compression levels and speed.
- Linux based Rescue CD with Network access and full GUI. Only 6.5MB in size!
- Built in CD/DVD packet writing engine. Supports packet writing to DVD DL media with Windows Vista.
- HTML log files.
Partimage is a Linux utility which saves partitions having a supported filesystem to an image file. Most Linux and Windows filesystems are supported. The image file can be compressed with the gzip / bzip2 programs to save disk space, and they can be splitted into multiple files to be copied on CDs / DVDs…
Standard Partimage features:
- Partimage will only copy data from the used portions of the partition
- Restore your linux partition if there is a problem
- Used to install many identical computers
Clonezilla, based on DRBL, Partition Image, ntfsclone, and udpcast, allows you to do bare metal backup and recovery. Two types of Clonezilla are available, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla server edition. Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla server edition is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency. At the NCHC’s Classroom C, Clonezilla server edition was used to clone 41 computers simultaneously. It took only about 10 minutes to clone a 5.6 GBytes system image to all 41 computers via multicasting!
Standard Clonezilla features:
- Free (GPL) Software.
- Filesystem supported: ext2, ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux, and FAT, NTFS of MS Windows. Therefore you can clone GNU/Linux or MS windows. For these file systems, only used blocks in partition are saved and restored. For unsupported file system, sector-to-sector copy is done by dd in Clonezilla.
- LVM2 (LVM version 1 is not) under GNU/Linux is supported.
- Multicast is supported in Clonezilla server edition, which is suitable for massively clone. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported in your clients.
- Based on Partimage, ntfsclone and dd to clone partition. However, clonezilla, containing some other programs, can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk.
- By using another free software drbl-winroll, which is also developed by us, the hostname, group, and SID of cloned MS windows machine can be automatically changed.
PING is a live Linux ISO, based on the excellent Linux From Scratch (LFS) documentation. It can be burnt on a CD and booted, or integrated into a PXE / RIS environment. Several tools have been added and written, so to make this ISO the perfect choice to backup and restore whole partitions, an easy way. It sounds like Symantec Ghost(tm), but has even better features, and is totally free.
Standard PING Features:
- Probably the best available Linux toolbox for rescueing a system;
- Backup and Restore partitions or files to a MS Network Shared directory;
- Backup and Restore the BIOS data as well;
- Either burn a bootable CD / DVD, either integrate within a PXE / RIS environment;
- Possibility to Blank local admin’s password;
- Create your own restoration bootable DVD (see the Howto Documentation);
- Partition and Format a disk before installing Windows (so to make sure your unattended Windows installation will happen on the right partition);
DriveImage XML is an easy to use and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives.
Standard DriveImage XML Features:
- Backup logical drives and partitions to image files
- Browse these images, view and extract files
- Restore these images to the same or a different drive
- Copy directly from drive to drive
- Schedule automatic backups with your Task Scheduler