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Page 3 » Drive imaging & Disk Cloning Terminology

Basic Terminology for Disk Imaging & Hard Drive Cloning

Drive CLONING » is the process of duplicating .. either an individual partition, or the contents of an entire hard drive onto a (physically) different hard disk drive. After cloning, the destination drive/partition looks identical to the source.

Whereas drive IMAGING » is the process of creating a special file (referred to as an image, or an image-flle, or a Recovery Point) that contains the contents of (either) an individual partition, or an entire hard drive.

Note that .. if you create an image (file) of your hard drive or partition, and restore it to a new hard drive (one, for example, that you might purchase from Newegg, which is where I buy all my drives), that would (effectively) be the same thing as cloning your drive.

It would have the same effect, yet take two steps (step.1 » create image file, step.2 » restore image file) instead of one.

For this reason, some people use the term cloning when they're really talking about imaging. But this confuses the issue. And confusion is a dangerous thing when using a cloning program.

Home users typically use drive imaging to backup their hard drives .. far more than drive cloning. Cloning is sometimes used when folks want to upgrade their old-small-slow hard drive to a new-big-fast one. But even then, I prefer to use images.

Images can be 'restored' at a later date, should something go terribly wrong with your system (such as contracting a destructive virus, or finding your hard drive dead). This is why the term "image" is sometimes used (as a verb) to mean "backup" .. as in, "I imaged my drive after installing Windows, and again after I installed all my programs."

Unlike the cloning process, images are normally restored to the same drive/partition from whence they were created (provided the source hard drive didn't fail mechanically, in which case you would need to restore the image to a new hard drive).

90% of the time, regular home-users use the imaging capabilities of a cloning program to create a backup image (file) that is stored on a drive other than (physically different from) the source drive.

An external USB drive is a popular storage destination .. tho imaging to another internal hard drive (in the case of a desk-top computer) would go faster. Since most laptops have only one hard drive, they almost always image to an external USB drive. Tho some n00bies image to the same hard drive.

Storing a backup image on the same drive as its source is unwise because, if the drive fails (dies), then the back-up image will die with it. (.. since you can't access a file on a dead drive.) This is the #1 rule of drive imaging » always backup to a (physically) different hard drive (such as an external USB drive).

DRIVE » This morphic term can refer to either an entire physical hard drive or an individual partition (such as your C drive) depending upon the context in which the term is used. So its use can be confusing.

On the next page we'll discuss the differences between hot-imaging and cold-imagining, including their pro's and con's.

Hot-imaging (Ease-of-use) vs Cold-imaging (Reliability)

Okay, here is far as I got in this guide. But you can still get a good idea of the issues arising from great debate over hot-imaging (more user-frendly) vs cold-imaging (more reliable) from this page, titled » Norton Ghost 9.0 & Hot-imaging.

Hot-imaging has become a bad word, so companies changed their terminology. Yet it's the same thing, no matter what they call it. A rose by any other name.

It's when you create your images from your normal operating system config .. which is a different environment than the one you might be required to restore from (.. something bootable .. otherwise you wouldnt need to restore your image). See the potential for problems?

When it comes to imaging, and especially your ablity to restore an image (without problems) .. reliability easily trumps ease-of-use.

The best way to do this is with a bootable CD, either provided by the manufacturer .. or roll-your-own with NightOwl's guide (.. which everybody loves). There's even a board in the Rad forums specially dedicated to his guide.

NEXT » Return to Table of Contents .. 'til I finish the page on hot vs cold imaging

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » backup disk imaging hard drive cloning

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