Best 8 Disk imaging software - Aug, 2020

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. Disk 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.

Best 8 Disk imaging software - Aug, 2020

  • SmartDeploy image
    • 885 Starting Price
    Available on:
    windows

    About

    SmartDeploy is a good program that despite being slightly different in functionality from other programs on this list deserves to be included. The program uses a modern approach to disks cloning and creating their images, that improves the speed and quality of these functions. The program concentrates more on narrow specialization and does not attempt to cover all the functions of programs of this type. We would say that this program is intended more for general office use.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • Intended for mass use
    • Narrow specialization
    • Price

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • The subscription for at least 50 devices
    • Takes much space
    • Limited functional
  • Macrium Reflect image
    Free
    Available on:
    windows

    Key features

    • Live image of current Windows OS
    • Direct disk cloning
    • Ransomware protection

    About

    Macrium Reflect is an excellent choice if you need a good program for creating disk images, backing up data and cloning data. The program also supports backup on local, network and UZB drives. The program shows good speed when cloning files, creating disk images and restoring backup files.Several different versions of this program will help you find the version that best suits your needs for functionality and price.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • High speed of work
    • Useful functions
    • Many versions of the program

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • High prices
    • Difficult for the beginners
    • Only Windows version
  • R-Drive Image image
    • 45 R-Drive Image Standalone
    • 300 R-Drive Image Technician
    Available on:
    windows

    About

    R-Drive Image is a simple and enjoyable program. It provides fast and high-quality disk imaging. The disk image file contains an exact byte copy of the hard disk or partition, and can be created with different degrees of compression in the background, during the standard operation of your PC.R-Drive Image has all the necessary functionality and capabilities needed for applications of this type. In general, the program perfectly cope with its tasks, easy to use and will do everything quickly.

    Key Features: Disk Image, Disk cloning, Boot disk. Schedule. Space control.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • Broad range of options
    • Easy to use
    • Supports all file formats

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • High price
    • Rather low speed
    • Do not encrypt files
  • EaseUS Todo Backup image
    • 29.95 Home
    • 39 Workstation
    • 299 Advanced Server
    • 999 Technician
    Available on:
    windows

    Key features

    • Automated scheduling
    • Backup to cloud
    • Mac edition

    About

    EaseUS Todo Backup is a product that handles the tasks reliably and quickly. The program copes with its main function - the creation of backup copies and disk images. When creating a disk image, you can use two different disk partitioning modes: (MBR) and GPT.This software program is perfect for those who seek Disk imaging soft for macOS, given the fact that while its basic functionality remains consistently high.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • macOS version available
    • Cloud storages available (even if it's a free version)
    • Availability of a free version of the program

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • Rather low speed during images creation
    • Lack of the detailed onformation on system failures
    • Price
  • Iperius Drive Image Backup image
    Free
    Available on:
    windows

    Key features

    • Backup to cloud
    • Individual files restore option.
    • Logs and scheduling

    About

    Iperius Backup is a program that allows you to forget about the problems associated with data loss of the system. It provides you with the option to create a disk image of the system that will automatically restore it with a few clicks, with minimal data loss. The program can also create automatic backups of the system, or individual files, and save it both on the device and on the cloud resources, with the help of 256-bit encryption.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • Convenient interface
    • Many languages supported
    • Different versions for professional use

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • Compression quality is quite low
    • Rather unreliable restoration process
    • Only for Windows
  • Acronis True Image image
    • 59.99 Standard
    • 49.99 Advanced
    • 99.99 Premium
    Available on:
    windows macos

    Key features

    • Incremental and differential backups
    • Cloud storage option
    • Detection of crypto mining malware.

    About

    Acronis True Image is a popular program for creating disk images, disk cloning, with a broad functionality and user-friendly interface. The program is constantly updated and adapted to market realities, expanding its potential and complementing it with new features. This program is well-designed; it works quickly and does not overload the computer when creating copies or disk images.In general, this is a qualitative product that has everything you need for applications of this type.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • Ransomware and cryptomining blocker
    • Numerous features included
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS support

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • Rather complex interface that might be difficult for the beginners
    • There is no cloud backup option in the free version
    • Program speed
  • AOMEI Backupper image
    • 49.95 Professional
    • 199 Server
    • 499 Technician
    • 899 Technician Plus
    Available on:
    windows

    Key features

    • Event triggering for automatic backup
    • Recovery and disk cloning to HDD/SSD
    • Data defrag

    About

    Backup, sync, restore and clone Windows system with a straightforwad backup tool by AOMEI. It is all-in-one data data recovery solution for computers, performing all types of backups (automatic, full, incremental, differential). It also provides real-time file/folder synchronization from source to target path. Whether you need HDD to SSD, HDD to HDD, SSD to SSD or any data migration task - AOMEI Backupper gives a helping hand. It works on Windows 10, Windows 8.1/8, Windows 7, Vista, and XP.

  • Paragon Hard Disk Manager image
    • 49.95 1 PC
    • 79.95 3 PC
    Available on:
    windows

    Key features

    • Backup files
    • Image Backup Space control
    • compact/defragment MFT

    About

    Hard Disk Manager is an excellent choice if you need to control your disk space and change it. This program also does a good job of creating disk images and system backups. It allows you to manage the size of your disks, change them, adjust the amount of memory and create new additional partitions - a very convenient feature if you have problems with free disk space. In addition, the program has nice functionality and satisfactory speed.

    Disk imaging software Pros

    • Simple
    • understandable interface
    • Nice set of functions
    • Continuous backup

    Disk imaging software Cons

    • No advanced version
    • One-person use only
    • No FTP и SMB/AFP transferring

About software

  • 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.

  • 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 disk 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.

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 EaseUS AOMEI Active Paragon Handy Iperius Macrium SmartDeploy R-Drive
File backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️
Image backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️
Boot disk ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Scheduler ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Disk cloning ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
FTP, SMB/AFP ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️ - ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️
System backup ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - ✔️
Encryption ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ - Limited ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ -
Trial (days) 30 30 - 30 10 30 30 30 30
Home version $50 $28 Free $40 $40 $40 $38 $69 $23 $30
Pro/Premium $60 $37 $50 $69 $99 $99-300 - $30 $35
Platforms Windows,  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 EaseUS AOMEI Active Paragon Handy Iperius Macrium SmartDeploy R-Drive
Backup files 01:20 01:25 01:05 N/A 01:20 00:35 01:15 00:30 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
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

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/).