I'm going to be formatting my machine in the next couple of days. I finally got Windows 7 set up how I like it and decided on a suite of software that I will be installing after each format. Since I tested a bunch of programs and the Windows installation is full of Junk, a clean install is needed. After I reinstall Win7 along with all the other software, I want to make a Drive Image so I can at any time go back to that exact setup. In the past I used Clonezilla. I would have it backup the entire drive, compress it, and then transfer it to a network store. This process is a pain in the butt though. It also ends up taking up too much space since Clonezilla uses dd and dd does not care what filesystem you are using. It makes a copy of the drive sector by sector. It doesn't know where a file ends or free space begins. This is what I am looking for this time around... (I don't care if its Open Source or Commercial, although free alternatives are always nice).

  • Does not include Unused Space in the drive image
  • Backs up the MBR and any other absolutely necessary information so the system goes back to exactly the way it was when it was backed up. I don't want to be worried that I have to repair the MBR or deal with other booting issues.
  • Can write the image to multiple DVDs AND to a network share. This means that it has to be able to split the backup.
  • Does not need Windows to work. It has a bootable disc version of the program in case I can't get into Windows and need to restore the backup.
  • Preferably makes the initial backup DVD (Disc 1) also the boot disc. So I can insert disc 1 into the computer, restart, and it will allow me to begin restoring the image to the drive. It would only ask for Disc 2 after it restored everything from the disc it booted from.
  • Loads itself into RAM, does not need to have the disc in the drive to function.
  • Supports NTFS (This should be pretty obvious).
  • Allows me to view the image file in a file editor and make changes in case I want to add/remove anything. (I don't care if this is only possible on the single file Network Backup and I have to recreate the DVDs. The bootable version does not need this).
  • I am going to be using this software only to image the drive. It will not be my daily/weekly/monthly backup solution. Therefore I don't want the imaging to force me into some backup schedule. If I have to force it to not make automatic backups after the initial image, I don't want it.
  • Is reliable, you would use it, makes consistently good images.

I guess that's it. Hopefully someone here knows of a program that does all this. I have been looking at various backup solutions and have not found something that I have really been happy with.

  • Windows 7 built-in backup creates an image of your drive. Look into that.
    – user3463
    Jan 18, 2010 at 8:37

2 Answers 2


I have read through your list.

Other than "Does not need Windows to work. It has a bootable disc version of the program in case I can't get into Windows and need to restore the backup." I think I have an answer.

Why don't you try Windows built in backup utility?

It can do pretty much everything you want. As for a live CD, you can copy the Windows 7 installation disk to USB or just use it as is and choose restore pc as an option.

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(Third one down)

  • The System Image that Windows 7 creates cannot be modified at a later time to make changes to what is included. I also can't browse the image and look at it's contents.
    – Marcin
    Jan 18, 2010 at 9:09
  • 1
    Yes it can, it stores the files as VHD, (Virtual Hard Drive). There are many tools you can use to view inside of them. Jan 18, 2010 at 9:13
  • Oh, I thought it was stored in some proprietary format, I'm surprised at Microsoft to be honest. Even still I'm going to see what other suggestions people have. I guess this will be my fallback if I don't find anything else.
    – Marcin
    Jan 18, 2010 at 9:57

windows 7 has a backup tool that makes bootable cds, or will work with a readily available recovery boot disk iirc. Otherwise pretty much any decent imaging software, like macrium reflect free will do most of what you need, other than running in ram.

  • Look at the comment I left on Wil's answer. Windows 7 backup, even though it looks nice, is not gonna work.
    – Marcin
    Jan 18, 2010 at 9:12

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