Rosher Consulting

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Creating drive image backups with DriveImage XML on Windows 7

I’ve been installing the release candidate of Windows 7 on most of my machines of late and since I didn’t want to dual boot the systems or lose the existing install of Windows XP I decided I’d try out some drive imaging software to backup the existing data on the drives.

I came across DriveImage XMLl which is a great little app for backing up your drives and would you believe it’s also free for personal use, can’t argue with that. Over the past few weeks this app has really saved me countless hours of re-installs as I troubleshooted problems with Win7 and then fresh installs of WinXP on the new server I was building. However I initially had some problems creating a successful backup on Win7 so I thought it would be useful if I document it for others and just generally gave an overview of DriveImage XML.

DriveImage XML uses either volume locking or volume shadow services to create a hot image of your drive while Windows is running, by default it tries to use volume locking first and if that doesn’t work it will try volume shadow services. In WinXP this all works fine, but in Windows 7 it firstly fails to lock the drive and the volume shadow service isn’t running so it can’t use that either. It will warn you and you can attempt to carry on, which is what I initially did and I managed to create a successful backup, but there’s a better way!

First we need to make sure that the ‘Volume Shadow Copy’ service is running, so open up the services control panel applet (start –> services) and scroll down to find the ‘Volume Shadow Copy’ service. As you can see from the screenshot it’s set to manual, so let’s start it up.

CropperCapture[1]I’m assuming that you’ve already downloaded and installed DriveImage XML, so either find it in the start menu or find the executable in explorer, either way we need to click on the app and choose ‘Run as administrator’ from the popup menu, this makes sure that it will be able to access all of our files.

CropperCapture[3]When DriveImage XMLl starts you’ll be presented with the following screen:

CropperCapture[2]Since we want to perform a backup, click the backup option.

DriveImage XML will then show you the hard drives installed in your system, select the OS drive and click next.

CropperCapture[4]Now choose where you want to create the backup image, ideally this should be on another drive and also you’ll need to make sure that there’s enough free space, then give the image a name, as you can see from the following screenshot I’ve named the backup Win7.

For the ‘Hot Imaging Strategy’ make sure you choose ‘Try Volume Shadow Services first’, I also uncheck the ‘Split large files’ option so that I end up with one large backup file rather than lots of small ones. Click next to continue.

CropperCapture[5]DriveImage XML will now start doing it’s thing, depending on how much data you have on your drive it shouldn’t take that long to create the backup, mine only took 5 minutes for an 8gig backup.

CropperCapture[6]CropperCapture[8] 

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When it’s finished you should find you have a large ‘dat’ file and an ‘xml’ file:

CropperCapture[11]And that’s all there is to it, of course at some point you’re going to need to check that your backups actually work, for this I’d suggest using a spare drive if you have one and restoring the image there rather than testing it on your main system drive.

One thing I came across when doing the restore’s is that DriveImage XML expects you to restore to an equivalent or larger size disk to the one you created the backup from, which when the backup is only 8gig seems a bit strange. Anyway, I found a way around the problem by editing the XML file to say that the logical drive was actually smaller than it was, just edit the total space value to be equivalent to or smaller than the drive you are restoring to and also remember to adjust the free space value, after that all should be ok and I was able to restore an image from a 160gig drive to an 80gig drive without any problems at all.

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Having now used a drive image backup application I can’t believe I’ve lasted so long without it and especially just how much time it’s saved me. It means you’re free to install drivers, apps and anything else without having to worry about whether it will screw up your system because if it does you just revert to the last image you took. Some people may be thinking isn’t that what System Restore does, but anyone who’s ever used system restore will tell you that it never seems to fully clean everything out and your system isn’t quite as it was before.

On a final note, if you want to run DriveImage XML from a BartPE bootdisc, there’s a Portable Edition download on the website and this is how I’ve been using it over the last couple of weeks.