O&O DiskImage 16
Last year I reviewed O&O DiskImage 15 and was impressed at the number of local backup, disk imaging and disk cloning features that were available in such a sleek and easy to use piece of software. Now that DiskImage 16 has been released I am keen to see what new features and improvements O&O Software have been working on over the last year or so in this new version.
Two noticeable new features mentioned in version 16 include the automatic recovery partition which is built by DiskImage upon install and the “Disk Image To Go” functionality which automatically ensures recovery media is available on any external drives used by DiskImage. Since the main focus of this software is local file and image backups alongside disk imaging and cloning it is great to see that O&O have focused on making recovery as simple and straightforward as possible.
With all of this in mind I am looking forwards to see what this new version of O&O DiskImage 16 can do, so let’s go!
- (New) Recovery partition for easier restoring of un-bootable PCs
- (New) O&O Disk Image To Go – Automatically adds recovery media to external storage
- Solid, well designed and reliable software
- Supports both file-level and full image backups
- Full, incremental and differential backup schemes supported
- Potentially unlimited historic versioning (disk space permitting)
- Built in zero knowledge encryption support (up to AES-256 encryption)
- Universal restore (restore to new / different hardware)
- Ability to mount and browse image files (including VHD files)
- Disk cloning tools (including option to write to VHD)
- Email notification support (requires SMTP credentials)
- No cloud support, only local and network drive backups supported
- Windows only – no MacOS support as of time of review
DiskImage 16 Usability
What’s new in DiskImage 16
O&O have made two big new additions to DiskImage 16, these are the built-in recovery partition and the “DiskImage To Go” feature which helps make recovery media automatically available.
As can be seen in the image above, one of the big improvements in version 16 is the automatic building of a recovery partition on the main system drive when DiskImage is installed. Because this is all done automatically there is less chance that you will forget to manually create recovery media when configuring the software and once configured means there will always be a recovery partition to boot into should your PC not boot up as normal for any reason. As such, thanks to the automatic nature of this feature, recovery becomes much simpler in the event that you ever require it.
The other big new feature is the “Disk Image To Go” tool which will automatically detect which external drives are being used by DiskImage and will, in-turn, add the recovery media onto said drives. This approach, along with the above recovery partition, means users will never forget to create recovery media and if PC recovery is ever needed then such recovery media will always be available.
Whilst these two new features might seem small on the surface, I think how they operate actually makes them both very useful additions to DiskImage. The reality is many users of backup software will forget or simply put off making recovery media until it is too late, as such having it made available automatically for you is a simple but very throughout addition the this offering, so far very impressive!
Installing DiskImage 16At just over 2.6MB the DiskImage installer can easily be downloaded form the DiskImage 16 webpage, once downloaded and running, however, the installer will look for updates and in my case then went on to download another ~57MB before being ready to continue installing.
Once all downloading has finished the installation thereafter was very quick and easy, you will be asked if you want to install the complete version (with all tools and features made available) or potentially a reduced version should you know you will not need certain features. I would recommend installing the complete version to have all of the tools and features available, especially if you are new to the DiskImage range and don’t know which tools you might be able to omit yet.
Once installation had finished I was asked to restart my PC, never ideal (and thankfully becoming ever more rare) but otherwise a fairly painless installation process so far. After the PC restarts there will be no further work needed and the software will then be ready to go, upon first opening we will be greeted by a “quick start” screen which makes navigating the software nice and easy!
Making File Level Backups
One of the first and most important things to note about DiskImage 16 is that this is software used primarily for performing local backups, this means no cloud storage functionality (such as Dropbox, B2, OneDrive etc.) is integrated out of the box. Having said this, however, mapped network drives are supported and cloud storage could potentially be mapped locally as a network drive (or as a local drive via other means) and as such might prove an effective work around should this be needed.
Backups can be either image based or file based with the image based option providing additional functionality such as the option to fully restore your PC to an earlier time or recover it should it not boot up correctly. To start with I will have a look at the file based backups, these can be navigated to from the main start screen by clicking on “File backup” as is highlighted below.
Once in the file backup screen one of the first things we are prompted to do is select the necessary files which are to be backed up, this is easily achieved thanks to the file picker tool which takes focus in the main part of the application window like below.
Since we are doing a file based backup first, only the files which we select in this screen will be backed up, this in in contrast to an image backup which will, by default, backup the entire system including all user data, applications and the Windows system itself.
With the necessary files selected we can (optionally) configure our backup set further thanks to the “File Backup Options” button found on the toolbar (if this isn’t used then the default settings will be applied).
Once in this options screen we can start building a “profile” for our backup set, this means any changes we make here can be applied to any existing backup sets or any we might create in the future should we wish to save the profile. The things we can configure here include setting an encryption password (AES-256bit), compressing and splitting-up the backup files (for ease of storing on CD/DVD) and optionally, if necessary, specifying if the current set is a full backup or an incremental update of another full backup (I’ll talk about this in more depth later on but for now specify it is a complete backup I am taking).
With these backup options set (as can be seen above) we are ready to begin backing up, clicking on the “Start File Backup” button towards the bottom right of the window will take us to the next part of the process whereby the destination folder can be set.
As can be seen above, this final window allows a target to be set (where our backup file will be stored) and also provides an overview of the entire backup operation we are about to perform, clicking on start will finalise everything and start this initial backup running.
Once the job has completed we will get a notification box telling us this is the case, we will also be able to see the report / log file within the “Jobs & Reports” part of the application for more information on the backup which has just run (this is again found on the toolbar).
Now our initial backup is running we can configure an incremental backup job which will continually add to this full backup we have just run. This is a slightly unusual way of doing things as this essentially forms a separate backup set which will in-turn create new versions of the set, having said this, however, this method is also (potentially) more flexible by allowing us to create an initial complete backup and then potentially have multiple incremental jobs working on the initial backup set thereafter.
We can start creating our incremental backup by either clicking on “File backup of the changes” which is found back on the “File Operations” screen (where we created our initial complete backup) or by using the Wizard found atop the “Jobs & Reports” screen, I will be using the wizard in this example.
As can be seen above, given we are creating an incremental update of our initial backup job we must tell the wizard this before configuring any further, once this has been set we can move to the next screen where a schedule can be set.
The scheduling option available to us can be seen above, disappointingly DiskImage doesn’t seem to have any “real-time” or even hourly scheduling ability and offers “Daily” as the most frequent option. This might not be an issue for many users but I cant see any real reason why the option to perform (at least) hourly backups is missing?
Having selected “Daily” as my choice of schedule it is the next page asks that we specify the original backup of which to take an incremental backup of, this is as simple as selecting the “obk” file we created a little earlier on.
On the next page of the wizard we can specify the file naming convention to be used and the location to store these incremental files. The default naming structure provided by DiskImage will probably be sufficient here (as it will for most jobs) but this can be changed along with the file location should this be needed.
Finally, before we reach the summary screen we can configure encryption and compression alongside some other advanced options supported by DiskImage 16. Finally, after these options are set we will see a summary of the new incremental backup job and can click finish to close the wizard.
After closing the wizard and returning to the Jobs & Reports screen we will be able to see the new job listed underneath the original (complete) backup set we created earlier on, this can be seen below.
Making Image Level Backups
Having already looked at file-level backups, in this section I will take a look at the image backup functionality of DiskImage 16. Disk imaging is the process of copying an entire disk including all data, applications and the operating system itself and then storing it within an image file. This image file can then be stored and (if necessary) used in the future to recover anything from a single file through to recovery of the entire system.
The imaging approach usually takes longer to complete than file-level backups typically do and disk imaging usually requires more disk space as well. This method of backing up does however provide some amazing benefits such as the ability to restore an entire system to an earlier time or to rebuild a PC exactly as it was after replacing or upgrading a hard drive. DiskImage 16 also includes functionality to allow restoring a disk image to new (dissimilar) hardware meaning if you do upgrade your entire PC you can simply image the new PC (recover from the image file) and automatically have your old system running on the new hardware!
To create our first image backup within DiskImage 16 we can head on over to the “Drive operation” tab and start off by clicking on the “Imaging options” tab, this will allow us to configure how our image backups run before we start using them.
Once in the imaging options screen we can set all necessary options for our backup, this includes password protecting and compressing the backup, specifying the file format (we can optionally use the VHD format) and even excluding certain files or file types from all image backups should we so wish.
After these option are set, clicking on the “One-click imaging” button on the toolbar will allow us to start the imaging process. When the new windows comes up we can specify the target for where the image file will be stored and see, at a glance, all of the setting for this particular imaging operation (options we set in the previous configuration screen).
Once we are happy with everything and have specified that the file is saved in a reasonable place (remember it might be a big file) we can click on “start” and begin the backup.
Once our initial image backup has completed we can look at updating this backup incrementally on a schedule, in much the same way as we did with the file-level backup earlier on. To create this incremental backup we must again go to the “Jobs & Reports” tab and click on the Wizard to begin the process.
The wizard works in almost exactly the same way as it did for the file-level backup we performed earlier on, the major difference being we select the disk image file when choosing the base backup to incrementally build up (as is shown above). With this set, any compression options and encryption options set and the schedule defined we can complete the wizard and leave our incremental backup to run in the background from this point onwards.
Restoring Data within DiskImage
Now we have seen both a file-level and an image level backup in action, we can look at recovering data using DiskImage 16. I will be recovering from the file-level backup which means beginning the process by clicking on “File restoration” from the toolbar and then selecting the relevant backup file when prompted to do so, the software will then show the files available via this backup set.
At this point it needs to be noted that if you are looking to recover from a specific date you must use the file (or most likely the incremental file) which relates to the date / version of the file you require.
Once the correct file has been located we can at this point select as many files as we need to recover and then set the restore location to recover these files to. This work can be done using the “Select target” button on the toolbar above and the original file location can be specified as well as any other location if necessary.
With the restore location specified, all that remains is to hit the start button and the recovery process will commence. A summary screen will appear just prior to the job beginning and will summarise what exactly will be happening with the restore.
Disk Cloning and Imaging
Now we have looked at two of the main uses of DiskImage 16 (backup and recovery) we can have a look at two other useful application of this software, these are disk cloning and image based recovery.
Disk cloning is useful when upgrading your hard drive to a bigger / faster drive whilst still keeping your operating system and all installed applications (and data) which reside on the drive in-tact when moved over to the new device. Image based recovery is similar and allows a full copy of your PC (again with all applications, data etc.) to be recovered on the same or another new PC and it carry on working as it did at the point of the image backup being made.
Cloning a drive begins by navigating to the “Drive operation” tab and then clicking on the “Cloning” button to begin, the software will then show us the available drives attached to the system and allow us to select a source drive and a target drive for cloning.
As can be seen above, we can select the source drive (the one to be copied) and the target drive upon which we will write the data to, clicking on “start cloning” will then show us a summary of the operation and then start the work once this summary is confirmed.
Once the operation is complete we will have a second hard drive which is an exact copy of the first, if this new drive is a larger drive or an SSD the DiskImage software will automatically account for this during the process.
Image based recovery is an area in which it is clear O&O have put a lot of though into, this has resulted in new features which see a recovery partition being automatically created on the main system disk and recovery media being automatically placed on any drives used by DiskImage (such as external hard drives etc.). These new features might not seem like a big deal but could be very helpful in the event of a PC problem for anyone who looses their recovery media or is, perhaps, a novice user and didn’t know to manually create such media beforehand.
Creating an image of a hard drive was covered earlier on in this review, the recovery media, as stated above, will be automatically created for you in certain places although recovery devices can still be created manually if required. To create a recovery drive simply head over to the “Start” screen and click on the “Recovery Media” button, the media can be written to any attached USB flash drives or alternately an ISO file can be created.
Once booted into the DiskImage recovery software any disk images can be used to recover the PC (as well as migrate to new hardware). It is clear O&O have really made a big effort to make this recovery media as easy to use as possible and the Windows-like interface which it boots into makes finding the correct tools both quick and easy.
At this point we have seen all of the major features of DiskImage 16, there are actually quite a lot of smaller features, tools and configuration options which make this a very powerful application and unfortunately too many for me to fully cover in this review.
One of the features I do like to see is the ability not only to recover from disk image files but also work with them, this means the ability to mount them as drives within Windows (with a drive letter) as well as convert them into other formats such as VHD which is useful for those of us who regularly work with virtual machines.
Another useful feature is the ability to directly mount network drives within the application, this means storage on other connected devices, NAS drives and the like can be utilised by DiskImage. Sadly this is quite a technical feature and does not extend as far as to an easy to use way of connecting cloud storage such as Dropbox, OneDrive and similar.
DiskImage 16 Security
One of the most important tools for securing backups is the ability to enforce a user defined password on the backup set. Thankfully DiskImage 16 allows users to set their own (zero knowledge) encryption and also choose whether to use AES-128 bit, AES-192 bit or AES-256 bit encryption in doing so (optimising for either faster backups or a higher level of encryption).
O&O Software have a detailed knowledge base and support section on their website containing a useful documents, FAQs and a support forum. For more important issues O&O Software offer ticket based support via the support section on their website.
DiskImage 16 Pricing
A single licence of DiskImage 16 for a single PC costs $49.95, a 5 x PC bundle is also available for the reduced cost of just $69.95, excellent value for those of us with more than one pc!
You can download a free trial of O&O DiskImage 16 by clicking here!
DiskImage 16 Review Summary
DiskImage 16 feels like a solid and very well built product which performed very well during my testing. I think it is fair to say it is not the most intuitive interface (e.g. incremental backups are essentially add-ons to existing backups rather than part of the backup itself) although I found myself very quickly getting use to the O&O approach after a few hours of using the software for myself.
It would also be fair to say that this product is much more focused towards local backups, in particular the making of image based backups, disk cloning and image based recoveries for which it really does excel in all of these areas. As such it is also a great tool for rolling back a PC to an earlier point in time, migrating an existing system to a new PC as well as being very useful when upgrading to a larger or faster hard drive in an existing system.
With the imaging and cloning based work aside I do feel the software is being held back because of the lack of build-in cloud support, at nearly $50 per licence this is something I would like to see O&O Software address at some point in the near future and believe such support would also make the software much more appealing to many new users.
The only other major disappointment for me was the lack of options available in the scheduling tool, daily is the most frequent setting which (whilst probably fine for image backups) is too large an interval for file-level backups in which it would be reasonable to have running at least every hour. Not a big deal but this seems a strange limitation for such software to have (i.e. easily fixable).
Overall Disk Image 16 is a solid backup solution with an impressive set of disk imaging options and available at a very good price (especially considering the 5 pack of licences!). If image based backups, disk cloning and other related imaging tools are an important part of your backup strategy then O&O DiskImage 16 is a solid choice!