How to image a hard drive?

This post introduces a step-by-step method to image a hard drive using disk image software. Creating hard drive image is an effective solution to protect data, migrate system or recover data form damaged disk. If you want to image a hard drive or any USB disks, continue reading.

What is a disk image?

A disk image is a file that contains the exact copy of a hard drive, including partitions, all data of operating system, boot information, partition table, installed applications, individual data, etc. The disk image file can be restored on various devices such as the original disk, HDD, SSD and removable disks.

Image hard drive VS clone hard drive, what’s the difference?

Both imaging hard drive and cloning hard drive create an exact copy of hard drive or partition. Have you wondered that’s the difference between them and when do we need to image a hard drive instead of cloning hard disk? Let’s have a look at their differences together.

Cloning a hard drive copies everything from the original disk to another HDD, so that you can get two disks holding identical content. Usually, users would like to clone an internal disk to an USB drive in order to create a backup. While imaging a disk creates a single file which is large but saves everything of source disk. The disk image can be saved on any disk.

What are the merits of each approach? Say you want to replace current hard drive with a new one; you can clone data to the new disk and then plug it onto your computer. Similar issue, if the computer is corrupted and you’ve backup it up to an image, you’ve have to connect a new HDD, and boot computer from a bootable disk so that you can restore contents to the new hard disk from image.

The advantage of imaging disk lies in versatility. Since the disk image is a single file, you can save multiple images on a disk as long as it has enough capacity. Thus it is easier and economical to save several versions of same disk. If you clone a disk, files on target drive will lose and get overwritten by cloned data. The disk image does not disturb existing data.

When to image a hard drive?

As has mentioned, imaging a hard drive copies the complete content (files, partitions, partition table, master boot records) of entire hard drive to a single and large file. Then you can restore all of that onto any disks. There are several situations you may need to create a hard drive image:

Protect data: Imaging disk makes more sense for backup, as it is able to create multiple backups onto any disk that is large enough. In this case, you can keep several backup copies on different devices, safely and sufficiently protecting data from virus, system crash as disk failure.

Recover data from damaged hard drive: In many cases, hard drive is damaged so badly that data recovery cannot perform scanning or recovery. We can image the hard drive and then recover data from disk image. Some disk cloning / Image software can skip bad sectors while creating disk image so that data recovery software won’t be affected by bad sectors any more.

System utilities: Disk image is also often used in system migration. SSDs are popular these days and users prefer to install operating system on SSD and store individual files on HDD. Thus many users choose to migrate operating system instead of reinstalling Windows. Disk image is one of the solutions to migrate OS.

How to image a hard drive?

Disk image software

Choosing a proper disk image program is the initial step of imaging a hard disk. Here I recommend Eassos PartitionGuru Pro to complete the task. Eassos PartitionGuru Pro is all-inclusive partition manager & data recovery software which also provides full data backup functions, for example, clone partition/disk, image partition/disk, copy sectors, back up partition table, etc. The disk image created by Eassos Partition is a sector-by-sector level backup and it is an exact duplication. You can restore the image to original disk or any other devices with enough space.

Main features of disk image software:

  • Easy to use: A simple wizard in provided to image hard disk, and no complicated steps are required.
  • Removable media are supported: Image files can be stored on removable disks, like external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card, etc. Both USB 2.0 and 3.0 are supported.
  • Compatibility: Support GPT/UEFI, dynamic disk and support Windows 10 /8/7/Vista/XP and server 2016/2012/2008/2013
  • Supported file system: FAT12/ FAT16/ FAT32/ exFAT/ NTFS/ EXT2/ EXT3/ EXT4

Steps to image a hard drive

Step 1: Download, install and launch Eassos PartitionGuru Pro. Click Tools and select Copy Sectors.

Step 2: Click Select source disk to select disk or partition for which you want to create an image backup.

Choose source hard drive and click OK button. In this example, HD1 is selected and the follow steps will create an image for this disk.

Step 3: Set a location to save disk image.

Click Select target file and a window called “Select target file” will pop up.

Choose a location, set a name for the disk image and click “Save” button. In this case, the disk image is saved on the root directory of Local Disk (G:) and named as “HD1 disk image”.

Step 4: Click “Copy” button and Eassos PartitionGuru Pro starts imaging selected hard disk.

  • The imaging process may take long time if the disk being imaged has very large capacity.
  • If the disk contains bad sectors, you can select options like “Skipping sector when meeting bad sectors” and “Fill Bad Sector With”.
  • If you just want to image a segment of sectors of the hard drive, you can select “Set Parameters” and set exact sector range.

Step 5: Click “Complete” when the imaging process finishes. Then you can open target disk to view the disk image.

Restore disk image to hard disk

If you want to restore the disk image to hard drive, you can refer to these steps. Please note that the target disk which the disk image will be restored to should be big enough to hold everything in the image; besides, files on target disk should be backed up in advance, as the process deletes files on target files while restoring disk image.

Step 1: Launch Eassos PartitionGuru Pro and select “Copy Sectors” under Tools menu.

Step 2: Select disk image. Click “Select Source File” next to “Source disk (or Image File)”. Then locate the disk image and click Open.

Step 3: Select target disk. Click “Select Target Disk” next to “Target Disk (or Image File)”. Then select a disk and click OK. Make sure you choose correct disk.

Step 4: Click “Copy” button and the disk image software starts restoring disk image to target disk.

Step 5: Click “Complete” when the process finishes.

Once the disk image is restored, you can access files in it or perform hard disk recovery with free data recovery software.