If you are not a computer tech there is a very good chance you do not know what a disk image is. The best description I could find was at Wikipedia: “A disk image is a single file containing the complete contents and structure representing a data storage medium or device, such as a hard drive, CD, or DVD. A disk image file is usually created by creating a sector-by-sector copy of the source media, ignoring its file system, and thereby perfectly replicating the structure and contents of a storage device. An ordinary backup program only backs up the files it can access; boot information and files locked by the operating system (such as those in use at the time of the backup) may not be saved. A full disk image contains all these, faithfully replicating all data. For this reason, it is commonly used for backing up disks with operating systems, or bootable CDs and DVDs.”
None of the above may have not made any sense to you and you’re probably wondering, why is this important. I mentioned in a previous post about new computers and performing a disk image after you have removed all of the pre-installed software. It is an opportune time to get a good clean image of your system, in the event you have to use the image to do a complete rebuild of your system. I actually prefer imaging over using the factory install methods which are available when you buy a new computer. You can perform a disk image anytime, but you want to be absolutely sure your system is clean. There are quite a few commercial and freeware options available to perform disk images. I try to normally stick with freeware and open source applications on the blog, but I’m going to make an exception this time. What’s on my PC? I currently favor the disk imaging software that is developed by a company named Acronis. I have used Acronis many times and it never has let me down. Acronis recently released their next generation imaging software for home users called “Acronis True Image Home 2009“. As with any software of this type, there is a learning curve; but, Acronis has tried to make it understandable for everyone.
How do I use Acronis? I currently have an image of my system in a state when I first purchased the computer and a 2nd image of my system in its current state. In the 2nd image the Acronis software has the ability to incrementally build upon the previous image so that I have an image of the computer in its current state. I try to perform the incremental image at least monthly. I store my images on external USB drives, which the Acronis software will recognize. I still perform my regular backups of my documents, photos, and multimedia files using my regular backup software. Once you learn to use imaging software, you will never go back to those factory install CDs/DVDs.