Hard Drive Imaging
April 2, 2010

There is one piece of software I can not live without, it’s hard drive imaging software. Also known as mirror image, or cloning, this software takes a complete copy of your hard drive and stores it in a file that can be copied to another hard drive, or in some cases on DVD disks. If you ever have serious problems with your operating system going haywire, or your hard drive crashes, restoring an image file can save you hours of work.

Not all people are fans of imaging hard drives. When you image your hard drive, once again it takes a complete snap shot of your complete drive the way it is at the time the image was taken. If you do changes to your drive and you need to restore an image you took, you will loose all those changes.

For me this is not a problem. I have been using hard drive imaging software since 1999. Back then I used Drive Image by Power Quest. They are no longer in business, they were acquired by Symantec and their imaging technology was incorporated into Ghost.

Back in the early days of imaging my drives, I would take an image of the drive once a week, and copy critical data to an external hard drive. This would be new data that was not included in the image I took. If you restored an image you would also have to copy your new data back to the drive as well. This may seem like a lot of work but it is really not.

I was an avid gamer back then and would download copies of game demos and play them. But before I did this I would image the drive. Then play the games and see what ones I wanted to buy and what ones I wanted to keep. Once that was done, I would restore the image I took of the hard drive to restore my computer to the way it was before the demos were installed.

You could have used Windows uninstall, but that does NOT remove all traces of the software you installed. Restoring an image will bring the computer back to the way it was before the game demos were installed.

When Drive Image was no longer available I tried Ghost for a while and did not like the user interface. So I bought Acronis True Image. I was really surprised, it had the look and feel of Drive Image.

I like to install software on my computer and experiment with it till I find one that I want to keep. So before this project I would image my drive, install the software and play with it, once my experimenting was done I would restore the previous image to get my computer back to where it was before the software was installed.

Over the years I must have restored hundreds of images of my hard drives. Some from experimenting with software and others from problems with the operating system.

I currently use Acronis True Image 2010. Oh, and I never installed the imaging software on my computer, I always ran it off the boot floppies or boot CD. When you buy the boxed version of Acronis True Image, your installation CD is actually a boot CD as well and will run off the CD. No need to install it. You will be missing some features, but for me, all I needed was the create and restore function of the program. I never felt comfortable running imaging software from within Windows, I always felt safer from conflicts using the boot disk method.

Out of hundreds of restored images, I have only had two occasions when an image failed on me. I called it the Y2010 bug. In the last week of 2009 I created images on my desktop and note book computers with Acronis True Image 10.0. January 1 2010, I created images again on both machines. I found some software and was experimenting with it on my desktop, did not like it so I restored an image taken on January 1 2010 and three seconds before it finished restoring the image failed . I could not boot my computer as during a restore process the program deletes your C: partition so it can copy the new partition you created.

The error it gave me was:


number of SECTORS differs from counted

Now the work began, I had to create a new partition, format it and restore an image.  I restored an image taken in the last week of 2009 and it restored perfect. This had me baffled.

I did some research on this and found that bad sectors on the hard drive could cause this error message. So after diagnosing my computer it all came back fine, no problems.

Now I did some experimenting on my notebook, did not like the software I installed and restored an image I took the first week of January 2010. Three seconds before the image was fully restored, the image failed. I could not believe it. It gave the exact same error that I got on my desk top:


number of SECTORS differs from counted

I scanned for problems on the drive and all came back fine. So created a new partition, formatted it and restored an image I took last week of 2009, and it restored perfect just like the one on the desktop.

Why was True Image 10.0 failing images restored in 2010, yet would restore images taken a week earlier in 2009? The CD boot disk could not be damaged cause it restored 2009 images just fine.

Time for a software upgrade. I purchased Acronis True Image 2010 boxed version. I tested it on my computer and it worked fine.

Out of the hundreds of images I restored, these were the only times I had a failure and it went unsolved. I did contact Acronis tech support, but it took them almost seven weeks to respond to me, by that time I was well into using the 2010 version and really didn’t want to communicate with a tech support department that took that long to get back to me. Version 2010 was working just fine so I dropped the issue.

Imaging has served me well, and if you are thinking of imaging your hard drive for back up give drive imaging a serious look.

Also see here for methods to store your images: