Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a number of old hard drives. I've decided to throw them out. But before I do that, I'd like to keep the contents of hard drives, intact.

I tried to use the ISO file format to archive but the major problem is that it loses file attributes and can't create directories with exceeding depth of 8 levels.

I do have drives over a variety of file systems; FAT, NTFS, ext2, ext3 and HFS and I'd like to archive them without any loss of information.

share|improve this question
How big of an archive are we talking about? – qweet Jul 11 '12 at 0:16
@qweet between 4GiB to 500GiB. – Seyeong Jeong Jul 11 '12 at 0:19
up vote 4 down vote accepted

ISO is the wrong format for hard drives - you want some form of sparse disk image or a format designed for hard drives.

DD is a little oldschool but makes bit perfect copies of drives - consider using one of the rescue oriented varients off linux or this or other builds for windows.

If you wanted an easy backup and restore type solution, image the drive with clonezilla and restore as needed.

In an ideal situation, for x86 systems, you would want to convert them to virtual machines - vmware has a tool for that in windows or you can use the basic version of prodiscover to do this, i believe.

You can mount a vmdk with vmware diskmount i believe or mount a dd image with fileddisk. The aforementioned prodiscover should let you read and copy out files from either as well. VMDKs are a 'better' choice imo, but the basic dd image is far more compatible. All these options will result in identical disk images to the original which you can access. Consider storing these compressed, since they will likely be large.

share|improve this answer
+1 making these virtual machines makes them actually accessible easily. Some good suggestions – datatoo Jul 11 '12 at 9:29
I ended up using your method. I dded my hard drives, made vmdks of each image then mounted using vmware-mount. – Seyeong Jeong Jul 16 '12 at 6:33

If you have an OS capable of loopback mounting: DD the drives to an image. No information loss as all.

If the drives are partially empty then try norton ghost or similar tools. The resulting images will be a lot smaller because they will not contain the unused parts of the HDD.

share|improve this answer

To store files on an ISO9660 filesystem with long filenames, you will need to enable Rock Ridge extensions. How you do this varies depending on what tool you are using to create the CD. For instance, if you use genisoimage (Linux) then you need to specify the -r option on the command line.

All Microsoft operating systems since Windows 95 understand Rock Ridge extensions and will automatically read them when the CD is inserted into the computer. It's also well supported in Mac OS, Linux, and anything else even close to modern.

Rock Ridge extensions will create a new file named TRANS.TBL in every directory on the CD. This file contains a mapping of the short filename to the long filename, and your OS transparently reads this file to determine each file's long filename.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.