First and foremost: Regardless of which tool you use, I strongly recommend you test that the image files produced can indeed restore your system from bare metal.
All drive image tools that I have used can produce image files that they themselves cannot read. The tools may well work in one situation but not another. In my experience, it is a question of which tool works in more of the situations I encounter than the next tool. Partition size (especially large ones), the file system type being imaged, and the file system type where the image is being stored seem to be factors that affect whether a tool succeeds.
Using a second otherwise-unused hard drive as a target is safe way to test your tools.
I image, partition, and restore a variety of computers regularly. The tools I am currently using are as follows:
Drive Imaging: partimage
Partition Editing: fdisk
MBR Backup: dd
I use the versions exclusively on the System Rescue CD (www.sysresccd.org
). System Rescue CD seems to be more actively maintained than any of the other rescue CDs that I have encountered.
I have used these tools for Windows XP, LinuxMCE, Windows Vista, Ubuntu, and grub partitions. Many of those partitions were part of multipartition, multi-boot systems. So far, I have not found a situation that those tools cannot handle. I have seen partimage produce unusable images when used with some non-default parameters, but it is still the most reliable way to take drive images that I have found.
Here are my experiences with other tools:
*cannot perform some operations on large hard drives (~1TB and greater)
*cannot be used to create a partition table that matches another arbitrary partition table to the sector
*cannot perform some operations on large hard drives
*does not reliably create partition tables from a file (which is its only real purpose)
*Outputs image files that it cannot read without reporting errors. In my experience, clonezilla creates usable files only in about 1 in 3 situations.
Properly backing up and restoring the MBR, partition table, and partition contents is quite an involved task. If you think it will be helpful, I will write a wiki on how I do this next time I do it on my LinuxMCE system (i.e. when I take the plunge to 0810).
Hopefully this helps someone. There are few things worse than realizing that the image you have of a critical system cannot be restored.