PowerQuest Drive Image 5.0 and Norton Ghost 2002

Hard drive imaging software

Cloning a hard drive means making an exact copy of it, including the operating system, hidden files and every last bit and byte of data. The result is called an image file. Cloning goes beyond the scope of an everyday data backup, the point being that should a virus wreak havoc or Windows itself refuses to boot, you can make a full system recovery by restoring the image. You can also use an image file to set up another computer exactly like the first, applications and all.

How do these two contenders stack up?

Drive Image 5.0

This version of Drive Image builds on earlier success by including XP support and a new Windows interface. You fire up the QuickImage utility, tell it which drive or partition you wish to clone, specify a location for the image file - most likely a separate partition or a Zip or CD-R drive - and let the program reboot into DOS. To restore an image, just reverse the procedure. The 'virtual floppy' approach eliminates the need for boot disks (although we'd recommend you make emergency floppies, just in case).

To speed matters up, Drive Image uses SmartSector technology to ensure that only the areas of a drive containing 'live' data are copied. Optional file compression shrinks the size of an image file by up to 50 per cent, and it's possible to schedule imaging to run automatically at set times. We also liked ImageExplorer, a utility that lets you browse images and restore files and folders from within Windows.

Drive Image includes basic but useful partitioning tools and also supports many, but not all, CD-R/RW drives. For the first time, you can now burn images directly to CD-R media at the drive's top speed. Unfortunately, there's no support for external USB or FireWire drives.

Ghost 2002

The first thing you must do after installing Ghost is run the Boot Wizard utility to make a bootable floppy disk. It's a minor hassle but one that reinforces the attraction of Drive Image's floppy-less approach. Upon rebooting, Ghost launches in DOS - and at this point you reach for the manual. Ghost sports about as Spartan an interface as you could imagine. When we finally figured out how to make it work, we found that cloning took longer than with Drive Image but the compression rate was higher.

Back in Windows, Ghost Explorer mimics Drive Image by letting you browse, edit and add to image files. For a full restore, it's back to DOS. However, before you can restore from an image, you must enter Ghost's serial number. This is only displayed when the program launches, so be sure to write it down.

Ghost ships with Gdisk, a partitioning utility billed as a replacement for Fdisk. Bizarrely, it works at the command-line level, devoid of graphics and guidance.

As with Drive Image, there's no support for USB or FireWire CD-R/RW drives, but Ghost does support peer-to-peer cloning over a direct connection.

Without doubt, Drive Image 5.0 is the superior product, much easier to use than Ghost 2002 and let down only by its lack of support for home networking (neither product is suitable for cloning across a server-based network). A little more recognition of external CD drives from both would be welcome next time.

PowerQuest Drive Image 5.0 ****

Ease of use and no need for a floppy disk make this"a winner.

Distributor: Marketing Results.

Price: $149.95; upgrade $109.95.

URL: www.powerquest.com.

Norton Ghost 2002 ***1/2

Not very intuitive, but it makes a complete copy of "your hard disk.

Symantec.

Price: $147.54.

Phone: 1800 810 101.

URL: www.symantec.com.au .

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