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Disk imaging software: Best picks for 2019

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Let’s all agree on one thing: backing up data is vitally important. Saving time and effort while doing it, is equally crucial. So let’s talk about disk imaging software, and let’s start with defining a disk image. A disk image is an exact copy of a storage device, e.g. a hard drive or a memory stick, that preserves the content/data and its entire structure. Such copy is a single ISO image file. Disk images might be compiled in form of a virtual hard disk (VHD), system backup, disk cloning, CD or DVD burning, system’s portable version, etc.

Disc image software could be very handy both for personal and business use, for example you want to replace an old hard drive, that has dozens of programs, systems settings and so on, with a new drive. Or you just want to keep a system backup just in case. Those special tools we’re reviewing below, provide options to do the job professionally and effortlessly.

Acronis True Image
  • Image backup
  • Cloud storage
  • Antimalware
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Paragon Hard Disk Manager
  • System backups
  • Partition manager
  • Continuous backup
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EaseUS ToDo Backup
  • Disk imaging
  • Cloud storage
  • Antiransomware block
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Disk imaging software is often referred to as disc cloning software. While these two processes basically do the same – copy disk data, but there’s a difference. Disk cloning copies the contents and creates a bootable OS on a hard drive, and disk imaging only makes a backup copy of hard drive contents.

However, many of disk image tools include cloning functionality as well (adding more confusion to our already confusing and complex world of today). 

10 top disk imaging software tools

Having used and tested these disk image programs, we have few more things, comments and aspects to add about each of them. They are diverse in price (even few free apps), functionality, design and efficiency. As a user, you should seek features like file backup, system backup, backup to cloud, disk cloning, compression rate. As a business, you probably would have to decide which data backup type to work with: physical storage or cloud servers. Most of the disk image software we’ve reviewed, provide drive-to-drive type of backups.

The most recent version is Acronis True Image 2019, with 30 days demo version. With support for all kind of Windows OS, they also added several key file system types for disk image, disk partition and/or disk cloning, namely NTFS, Ext2/Ext4, ReiserFS(3), Linux, SWAP, HFS+HFSX, FAT16/32/exFAT. Except disk imaging, True Image supports all backup modes – full, incremental and differential (with additional Changed Block Tracking technology to speed up incremental or differential backups).

disk image software review

Acronis disk image tool is probably one of the most popular within its category, due to feature-rich set that includes disk imaging, mirroring, cloning, partitioning, data synchronization. A USB drive would be the best option for disk cloning, while HHD and/or SSD would be optimal to create an OS image that one could then boot from a drive.

Windows OS / other: Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP, MacOS, iOS, Android, web.
Pricing: 30-days trial, $50 for home version.

Hard Disk Manager 15 is remembered for one great feature: ability to make sector-level backups to a virtual disk. Besides, for this task HDM works in asynchronous mode, which ensures continuous processing even if connection is unstable. This program allows creating, formatting, deleting, moving and resizing partitions on a hard disk.

disk partition software

It is primarily and more suitable for disk partitioning than disk imaging, though it can create images too. It allows FAT to NTFS and HFS to NTFS conversion. Among advantages of HDM we may find user-friendly interface, easy workflow, free version for personal use, disk storage up to 2,2 TB (with rare IDE, SCSI, SATA, AFD, FireWire, included).

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2000.
Pricing: $40 home version.

After installing the Todo Backup 11.5 choose Disk/Partition backups option to prepare a particular object. Via System backup the process of making an OS image from the C drive begins. It is worth noting, Todo Backup supports drives up to 16 TB in size. Then one has to specify the storage. There is an opportunity to create full image-based backups on Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. Users also may add their own descriptions to the copied system images on a storage device.

disk imaging tools

Todo Backup is capable of performing file backups, disk backups, partition backups of files/disks, as well as disk cloning. Disk imaging function utilizes 2 different disk partitioning modes – MBR and GPT. Overall, it would be simple for any user to create a bootable .iso file with Todo backup.

Windows OS: Win 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, MacOS.
Pricing: $28 home version for 1 PC.

AOMEI Backupper 4.5.6 for Windows 10 and down to XP is available for download on the official website. Is supports English, Danish and Turkish languages. It can make a Windows system image for further copying, restoring or sharing. Bootable images based on Linux or Windows PE are available as well – when you boot on Windows PE, there are 2 modes to choose, UEFI or BIOS.

disk imaging software for windows

AOMEI will create an .iso file to store on CD, DVD, USB, or any other drive. Log file are generated automatically after every disk imaging job. This program uses MBR partition table. Free edition is still very limited, and Pro works for 2 devices.

Windows OS: 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP.
Pricing: $0 home version, $50 Pro version.

[email protected] Image 9.1.4 is available in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, with 21-day free trial. It uses a disk image explorer as tree view, similar to Windows Explorer interface. This program supports image types with .dim and .adi file extensions, and disk sectors 4096 bytes large. One can create a virtual disk as .raw image or .adi file and view it in Windows Explorer read-only mode.

disk cloning software

Program supports FAT and NTFS file systems for creating disk images. There’s also an option of scheduling the  incremental and incremental backups. [email protected] Image works with virtually any possible kind of media storage. Pricing starts at $39 and varies depending on the feature set. For example, in a more costly version one could create a boot disk based on WinPe 10.

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP.
Pricing: $40 home version.

Handy Backup 7.9.0 works with files on FTP, SFTP, FTPS and cloud servers, network-attached storages as well as client data in Outlook or other email services like Gmail. It lets you save disk images and their partitions to a VHD drive. Worth mentioning, that full disk imaging service is available only in a paid version.

disk imaging program

Standard edition costs $39, Professional costs $99, and one has to pay additional $10 to upgrade to the latest version 7. Handy Backup supports all types of local and external hard disk drives. For effective work, this disk image tool requires 150 MB on a hard drive and as little as 128 MB of RAM.

Windows OS and other: Win 10/8/7/Vista/Server 2016/Server 2012/Server 2008, Linux.
Pricing: $40 home version.

21-day free trial of Iperius Backup is by no wonder limited, i.e. cloud storage via Google Drive and Dropbox – to store data on either one of them one has to generate API keys. If you buy a license, you get disk cloning, FTP backup, cloud backup, ESXi backup, Hyper-V backup and other useful tools.

free disk imaging software

The weak side of Iperius Backup is restoring data: recovery is possible only via a Windows boot disk. However, this tool supports standard VHD/VHDX formats, is compatible with Office 365 and is good for basic backup tasks.

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, Win Server.
Pricing: $38 home version.

To install the free version of Macrium Reflect 7.2 you receive notification by email with a registration code. At the moment there is English language version only. Macrium Reflect automatically detects the OS and offers to download proper additional components.

best disk image software 2019

It is very slick disk imaging software compared to other in the list, it allows disk images, partition images, folder backup (though no file backup). Creating a boot disk does not take much time, images are based on WinPE and are presented as standard .iso files. “Home edition” expands tools with Rapid Delta Cloning (only for NTFS).

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP.
Pricing: $70 home version.

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SmartDeploy is a bit atypical “animal” for this area: by creating an image file on a virtual machine, we get a .win file in result. And it is possible to encrypt the file with a special key. SmartDeploy installer file amounts to 1,33 GB and may take 30 to 60 minutes to deploy to a computer. Free version works for 15 days after which it will require the license code.

best disk imaging software 2019

Pricing depends on the number of devices in use, although the Basic license at  $30 covers up to 100 machines. It assumes a fine opportunity to save costs, especially for large companies that could deploy an OS image to a network of computers fast.

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP.
Pricing: $23 home version.

R-Drive Image 6.2 has a nice and easy-to-use interface with all the necessary settings one click away. A full-featured demo version is compatible with Windows (2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, Server 2012) and is available ‘no charge’ for 30 days from the moment of installation. R-Drive Image supports all kinds of file systems – for example, ReFS.

best disk imaging software

Disks are divided into sections by a new standard of partitioning known as GPT (GUID partition table). There are several more types of partitions available in a paid version, of course. With this utility you can create whole disk images (as one big system) or divide it evenly into smaller files. To select the backup destination, just select a corresponding icon to start the task – R-Drive Image free demo proposes a choice between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 data storage, while more external devices are available in the advanced version.

Windows OS: 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, Server 2012, Win 2000/2003/2008.
Pricing: $35 home version.

Disk imaging software guide

What is disk imaging software?

This is a type of software tools that allow users to create an image of the hard drive or the whole system – as a backup option, or to clone it. In its initial idea, this process involves creating an exact copy of the disk, with all installed programs and settings, and then storing it in a special compressed format. With the help of this option, users can safely install an exact copy of the system on another computer or hard disk, in case of unpredicted failure – be it a virus attack, system crash, or some external problem.

Why use disk imaging software?

With uprise of virus and hacking technologies, and overall broadening of PC functionality, security issues have become even more relevant. Many viruses can destroy or damage your system, which can lead to its failure or complete collapse. For such emergency cases, we can use disk imaging software that will allow to restore data, with all the settings and programs preserved, with minimal data loss or even without it. Also, most imaging programs allow creating media storages, that later can be used to extract, unpack, restore a backup, even if the computer does not boot from its own disk. Usually, they are flash drives or CDs.

Key features

Disk imaging is the key function of course. Note, that the speed of process and the size of output files are important. For basic understanding, disk imaging is the process of creating an exact copy of a disk for its backup recovery. During it, one large file (usually compressed) is produced, which is later used for recovery process. Disk cloning is the process of cloning all the data on disk, and the output file will be the same size as the initial one. Although it might seem similar to creating a disk image, there are certain differences. Cloning creates an exact functional copy, so it can be replaced and used as the main one if something happens to the original version.

File backup is used to make restoration possible. An important function when a user has to take care of security of just some parts/folders/files, but not the whole disk. This option is often found in disk imaging programs, which is not surprising, because it is similar to what is required to create disk images, but on a smaller scale.

Boot disk option is the creating of a device to boot a disk image. Since disk image usually takes a lot of space, it is usually stored on external resources for convenience and data security. This function allows users to create a “boot disk” out of external devices, which when connected automatically allows to restore data.

Encryption while making a disk image is applying encryption methods to protect data from intruders. Made possible via password that is added to access a disk. Also, this function is important when there is an option for transferring data to external resources, so that during the process no one could interfere.

Scheduling is intended for creating updated versions of disk images regularly, or according to user's preferences. To get the latest versions of a disk, you can set creating or updating (for already existing image). A user spicifies date, or day of the week / time period, when the program will automatically update. The task is to decrease the chance of data loss to minimum.

Cloud backup allows uploading data to cloud resources. And since a disk image usually takes a lot of space, it is a common practice to store it on 3rd-party resources for the practicality's sake. It is also important that data would be saved even if the system is physically malfunctioning, so that you can transfer it to other devices. Some disk imaging software tools offer access to own cloud servers, for an additional payment.

Top-10 comparison & tests

We’ve selected 10 popular disk imaging software tools, mostly for Windows, to review and test, and here’s the first batch of information to compare. They are diverse in price (even few free apps), functionality, design and efficiency. As a user, you should seek features like file backup, system backup, backup to cloud, disk cloning, compression rate.

Acronis True Image EaseUS Todo Backup AOMEI Backupper Active Disk Image Hard Disk Manager Handy Backup Iperius Backup Macrium Reflect SmartDeploy R-Drive Image
File backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️
Image backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️
Boot disk ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Scheduler ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Disk cloning ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
FTP, SMB/AFP ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️ No ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️
System backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No ✔️
Encryption ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No Limited ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ No
Trial (days) 30 30 No 30 10 30 30 30 No 30
Home version $50 $28 Free $40 $40 $40 $38 $69 $23 $30
Pro/Premium $60 $37 $50 $69 No $99 $99-300 No $30 $35
Platforms Windows, cloud, web, Mac, Android, iOS Windows, Mac Windows Windows Windows Windows, cloud, web Windows Windows Windows Windows

As a business, you probably would have to decide which data backup type to work with: physical storage or cloud servers. Most of the disk image software we’ve reviewed, provide drive-to-drive type of backups.

Performance tests

The second part of our disk imaging software review were several tests of performance. Basically, we conducted few key tasks with each program and measured the times – e.g. disk image (system backup), files backup, restore, etc. For the results you see in the following table we need to set our specifications and conditions of testing. First of all, we tested free trial versions only, and not all of 10 tools provide full functionality in free versions.

We used a desktop PC with 8 GB RAM, Intel Celeron CPU G550, 2,60 Ghz, running on 64-bit Windows 7. Its system C-drive size for disk imaging task is 88 GB. For file backup test we used a file folder that is 1,7 GB in size. To test the cloud upload speed and compression ration we used a 660 MB folder. Thus, 50% ratio would mean the program compresses a folder to be 330 MB in size. The same file then was used to measure times to restore a saved ZIP folder – where this feature was available.

Acronis True Image EaseUS Todo Backup AOMEI Backupper Active Disk Image Hard Disk Manager Handy Backup Iperius Backup Macrium Reflect SmartDeploy R-Drive Image
Backup files 01:20 01:25 01:05 N/A 01:25 00:35 01:15 00:30 N/A N/A
System backup 50:30 92:30 62:10 47:30 N/A 139:00 N/A 34:30 N/A 114:00
Cloud backup N/A 32:00 N/A N/A N/A 02:00 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Compression ratio 44% 44% 37% 55% N/A 45% 3% 56% N/A 68%
Restore from zip N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 00:05 00:15 N/A N/A N/A

Pricing

Usually, disk imaging programs offer a trial period, and suggest a paid subscription afterwards. A typical trial period is 30 days, but there might also be shorter variations. Most companies offer to buy a program for a period from one year. Depending on needs and number of devices, subscription options will differ: the average price for home version is about $30-$60. In addition to the standard version, most vendors offer professional, advanced and other types of products with advanced or extra features. Those prices may vary from $40 to $100-125 on average, although there are exceptions for $300 and more.

How to select imaging software

Today, cloud storage instead of external physical device for data becomes more and more relevant. People want to be able to use a backup copy at any time. Therefore, when choosing a program, pay attention to this aspect. Another important function is data encryption while transferring it to cloud servers, to ensure it will be unusable for hackers if they get hold of it.

Many disk imaging tools can operate in the background and utilize minimum amount of PC resources. So, it is worth paying attention to whether a program can run in the background or not. Also, when choosing a disk imaging app, consider its sale offers. The fact is that some companies, for example, SmartDeploy, offer their product only as wholesale, and subscription starts with at least 50 devices.

Its also good to find out whether or not the disk update schedule is available. Most programs contain this feature, but nonetheless. Data transfer via FTP, SMB/AFP would be a handy option for companies with PC networks. All in all, it is recommended to start with trial and determine whether a tool suits or not. MacOS users will need to look thoroughly for disk imaging software for Mac specifically, as those are scare.

FAQ

Q: What is a disk image?
A: Disk image is a copy of the entire contents of a storage drive. The disk image represents the content in the same way it appears on original drive, including both data and structure information.

Q: Why do I need data backups/disk images?
A: Backup copies of disk images could become really helpful, when breakdowns or other force-majeure circumstances arise - to recover data without loss. They can also be used when a user plans on setting up multiple PCs with similar or identical settings.

Q: What is the difference between disk imaging and disk cloning?
A: Disk imaging software is often referred to as disc cloning software. While these two processes basically do the same – copy disk data, there’s a difference. Disk imaging copies the contents and creates a bootable OS on a hard drive, and disk cloning only makes a backup copy of hard drive contents.

Q: What encryption methods do disk imaging programs use?
A: Usually, these are AES-128, AES-192, AES-256 bit encryption.

Q: What is the most popular OS for disk imaging software?
A: More than 70% of all programs, related to disk imaging, are designed for Windows OS. Some operating systems, such as Linux and macOS, have built-in virtual drive functionality, althouh Windows 8 and 10 have it as well.

Q: What file format are disk images in?
A: In most cases, file format is tied to a particular software package. Programs define and use their own, often proprietary, image format, though some formats are widely supported by open standards - ISO, IMG, AA, AFF, BIF, BIN, CDM, CUE, etc.

Q: What is the best disk image software?
A: In this category (directory above) you will find some really good disk imaging tools, such as Active Disk Image, Hard Disk Manager, R Drive, EaseUS Todo Backup.

Q: Is disk imaging and backup basically the same thing?
A: No, but they are similar in their purpose. Many disk imaging apps include the option for backups, and vice versa. With expansion of all kinds of software, these two features are often offered in one package, but not always, as there are programs only for backups or only for disk images.

Q: How to clone a hard drive?
A: You need only two things: good software and detailed instruction. The first one is on this page, the second one you can read in our guide "How to clone hard drive" (https://thinkmobiles.com/blog/how-clone-hard-drive/).