PowerQuest Drive Image 7

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PowerQuest Drive Image 7

V7 of Drive Image is claimed to be faster and more convenient and flexible than previous versions, being able to back up even boot disks over a network and to FireWire and USB drives. But can it live up to the hype?

PowerQuest's Drive Image hard disk back-up and restore program is one of CV readers' favourite Windows utilities. It's a simple-to-use safety net against disk failure and is also employed by reviewers (and system builders) as a fast and dependable way of restoring known good configurations onto boot drives on test PCs - to make the next hardware or software installation as hassle-free as possible.
Drive Image 2002 (review, Dec 2002, p74) was a significant improvement over V5, adding the ability to work with drives bigger than 80GByte, and to carry out a range of back-up tasks from within Windows that, in V5 and before, had required a reboot into DOS.
Where DI 2002 fell short, though, was in its inability to back up in a Windows environment any drive on which files are open. This means that backing up a boot drive still required a reboot into DOS - and the same was true for restoring. This was more than an irritation - drives don't work as speedily under DOS as they do under Windows, so even ignoring the delay for a reboot, the creation and restoration of drive images takes considerably longer under DOS. Backing up to network drives was also unnecessarily complicated and there was no support for backing up to DVD burners.
With Drive Image 7, PowerQuest appears, on paper, to have addressed all the biggest issues in V2002, and to be introducing a program that's far more convenient and flexible. Version 7 can back up any hard disk under Windows, even if it has open files - and even if it's a boot disk. Better still, the program can back up to (and restore from) external FireWire and USB drives - something that was beyond earlier versions because there are no DOS drivers for FireWire and USB. And, with V7, the program can back up to DVD.
But there's bad news, too. V7 only works under Win XP and 2K. That's because a lot of the clever stuff relies on Microsoft's .NET Framework being installed - and this won't run on Win 95, 98/SE, ME or NT. Oh, and at least 256MByte of RAM is needed to restore backups. Version 7 has lost one feature introduced in V2002 - the ability to non-destructively create a partition on the boot hard disk onto which a backup can be saved. But, in truth, a partition on the boot disk is about the worst possible place for it.

Plain daft
We also discovered that Drive Image 7 won't work reliably on PCs that boot into more than one operating system. That's plain daft, given that one of the key selling points of Drive Image's sister program, Partition Magic, is its ability to easily implement dual-booting. Information about this shortcoming is found only at the end of a read-me file that's buried within a sub-folder on the program CD and will be first seen by most users only at the point where the program finishes installing.
If a fix isn't made available, this limitation needs to be explained on the packaging, on the company's website and in its other publicity material - users with dual-boot systems may otherwise assume, because they've got good back ups, that they'll be able to restore from them - only discovering when an emergency arises that they can't.

Drive Image 7 comes with an inadequate printed manual and has some maddening foibles, notably the inability to work reliably on dual-boot systems or to allow browsing of multiple image files on removable media. These are things that PowerQuest ought to address, and quickly, but knowing the company's past reluctance to introduce intermediary fixes and point-revisions, we're not holding our breath.
Even so, in most ways, Drive Image 7 is a massive improvement over its justifiably popular predecessor. The ability to easily back up to (and restore from) virtually any drive, irrespective of how its connected, is a huge step forward. So, too, is the speed at which backups and restores take place, and the fact that the user can keep on working during the creation of backups - though we'd not recommend anyone edit video when this is happening.
There's long ceased to be any valid reason for not backing up important drives and data. But almost all excuses for users of Win 2K and XP are now blown away by the arrival of Drive Image 7, with its ability to take advantage of a wide range of affordable everyday technologies - giant-capacity hard disks, writable DVD, networking, FireWire, USB, SCSI and PCMCIA.

Bob Crabtree

Read the full review in September 2003's Computer Video magazine.


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PowerQuest Drive Image 7

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