NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Drive Image from PowerQuest Corporation
A Review by Doug MacDonald, December 97
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"Drive Image" by PowerQuest is a utility designed to allow users to create images of partitions defined on hard drives. This capability is useful for several reasons: an image is a form of backup - it is an exact copy of an existing hard drive partition. It can be used to restore that partition in the event of inadvertent reformat, deletion, or corruption. It can be used to transfer information to another (possibly re-sized) partition on the same hard drive; or it can be used to move information to a new hard drive if one is added. The "Drive Image" CD contains everything necessary to perform each of these functions, plus two other utilities called "Drive Mapper" and "Magic Mover" that help your system to keep track of drive designations and routing paths when you move partitions. Although "Drive Image" is a stand-alone program, it is a useful companion to PowerQuest's "Partition Magic," which was reviewed by David Hinds in the September and November NWA-PCUG Newsletters. Based on my limited experience with the product, it does everything it claims to do and works well for the purposes for which it is intended.

This is a utility that works with the fundamental structure and organization of a hard drive system. It is, therefore, not something that someone should play with without understanding what he or she is doing. Fortunately, the "Drive Image" manual contains an excellent series of appendices that provide an experienced PC user with enough information to feel comfortable with using the product. As a matter of fact, the manual makes good reading for anyone who wishes to understand more about how a hard drive works and how modern hard drive systems can be organized for maximum efficiency. Since "Drive Image" works across the full spectrum of drive systems and formats used in PCs today -- FAT, FAT32, HPFS, NTFS, and (to a limited extent) NetWare, Linux, and Unix - it is not limited to a particular type of PC or system. "Drive Image" can be used with the DOS, Windows 3.1x, Windows95, Windows NT, OS/2, and (with some restrictions) NetWare, Linux, and Unix operating systems. It can also (with some important caveats) be used on systems that are configured for "multiple boot" - that is, a system that will run both Windows95 and OS/2, for example. The reference material makes no mention of compatibility with MacIntosh operating systems.

Can "Drive Image" be used as a replacement for your normal backup system? The answer to this question is "yes and no." "Drive Image" works with partitions on a hard drive and will make a complete image of everything that is contained within the selected partition. Without getting into a detailed discussion of partitions here, for most of us we can equate a "partition" with a logical drive designation. A large hard drive, for example, might be divided into two or more logical partitions, each of which is designated with a letter. The primary partition is usually called drive "C," and the second logical partition might be called drive "D" (although other alternatives are possible depending upon how your operating system was set up!). "Drive Image" will allow you to take a complete "picture" of drive "C" or "D," for example. You may then take this image and reinstall it elsewhere into a new partition, or you may keep this image as a backup of drive "D" in case there is an emergency. You may put this image on free space on your hard drive (the image is a file, not itself a partition), or onto some form of removable media such as ZIP or JAZ cartridges. Although you could even put the image onto floppy disks, the size of the image file is such that usually it would require many, many floppies to store! The size of the image will depend upon the amount of used space on the partition for which you are making an image. If the size of the partition you are imaging is 2 GB with 1 GB used for data and programs, the "raw" image file will be 1 GB in size.

"Drive Image" allows you to compress the image that is created so that it requires less space to store. Compression comes with a substantial time penalty, however. For comparison purposes, I produced an image of my 2 GB drive "E" (which has 1031.1 KB of space used). Here is a table showing the resulting file size and time requirements:

Data Rate
Resulting File Size
34 MB/Min
35 Minutes
520,602,708 bytes
16 MB/Min
90.5 Minutes
493,585,699 bytes
200 MB/Min
5 Min. 23 Sec.
1,080,673,617 bytes

If you choose to make the image on some form of removable media such as a ZIP drive, "Drive Image" will break the file up so that it can be stored on multiple cartridges. You must number the cartridges, however, and use them in order when you restore the image. As you can see, the amount of space "saved" by using high compression may not be worth the time penalty you pay. Using no compression makes the image creation fast, but it requires substantial media space to store the product. Given that ZIP cartridges even in quantity are $10-13 each, this makes for a significant back up media cost.

Most back-up programs available today permit you to select the drives, directories, and even files that you wish to back up. You can elect, for example, to back up only your data on a regular basis, figuring that you can always reinstall your applications in the event of a catastrophic system crash. My IOMEGA ZIP drive backup software takes about forty minutes to fully back up the roughly 2GB of material I keep on my main system, and it requires about six cartridges to do this (with compression enabled). Other backup systems may be even more efficient. I mention this to point out that "Drive Image" will function as a backup system, but it's probably not the most efficient or effective system to use if creating a backup is your primary objective. "Drive Image" is really designed to perform more sophisticated functions than simply backing up a drive. It is an essential utility if you are a person who does extensive system reconfiguration involving creating new partitions and reorganizing the structure of your hard drives. It is an ideal companion for the PowerQuest "Partition Magic" utility and is useful in making more efficient use of hard drive space. Most of us, however, do not do this kind of reconfiguration. [As a result, our systems are not always configured optimally and do not make the most efficient use of the hardware resources we have!]

In summary, "Drive Image" is a useful and effective utility that makes a welcome addition to the toolbox of an experienced PC user who needs the special capabilities it offers. If you use "Partition Magic" and like it, "Drive Image" is an excellent partner. "Drive Image," to me, is a specialized utility that works well but is probably not useful for everyone. If I were a system builder or was involved in providing services to PC users, however, "Drive Image" would be a good investment.

[The evaluation copy of "Drive Image" is available for checkout in the NWA- PCUG commercial software library. The recommended list price, from PowerQuest web site, is $69.95. As for "street" price, it is a new product and not yet seen in many catalogs; however, it was seen in one catalog for $44.98, which included a $15.00 Mfr. mail-in rebate].

PowerQuest Corporation 1-800-379-2566
P.O. Box 1911, Orem, UT 84059-9948

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