- Super-reliable and fast disk and partition imaging
- Backup of files and folders
- partition manager
- Linux and WinPE lightweight and medium boot media
- Supports Microsoft’s almost ubiquitous VHD format
- I would like to see multiple destinations for work
Fast, easy, reliable… R-Drive Image version 7.1 adds WinPE boot disk support and VHD support to an impressive array of features. Our recommended backup and disaster recovery solution.
Best Prices Today: R-Drive Image 7
R Tool Technology
With a variety of free backup programs available, including those that ship with your operating system, R-Drive Image is one program you’d pay for. That’s the best compliment I can offer a piece of software.
The reason is simple. In all the years I’ve been using the resource-efficient program (almost 20), it never failed at its main task of creating partition or disk images. Almost every other backup program I’ve used has failed in one way or another. In fact, I use R-Drive Image to back up my backups and failing hard drives, where I may not get more of a chance.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best backup software. Go there to learn about competitive products and how we test them.
Version 7 introduced a friendlier interface; file and folder backup; and a partition manager that made the program significantly more versatile. If the company ever rolls out their excellent R-Studio recovery software, the number of bootable disks in my repair kit will drop to exactly… one. Now there’s a new version that further expands those capabilities.
R-Drive Image: What’s New
Version 7.1 addresses one of my main complaints about R-Drive Image in the past: its complete reliance on its own proprietary images. While the program has never crashed for me, my preference with any backup program is to keep a couple of backups in VHD (virtual hard disk) format, which you can mount using nothing more than Windows operating system (or macOS with the help of VirtualBox or other software).
Note that version 7 supported the high-end Hyper-V VMDK format at the corporate level.
The other major good news for Windows users is the addition of a WindowsPE boot disk. The Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows 10) may offer some Windows-only drives that are not available on Linux and allow booting on some systems with Secure Boot enabled in the BIOS.
There is now also the option to convert partition layouts from MBR (Master Boot Record) to GPT (GUID Partition Table) and vice versa. I’ve never had the need, but some systems boot better using one or the other. AES-XTS image encryption is now supported and you can also resize the C: (OS) partition without having to reboot afterwards. Lastly, there is a new option to check multiple images for errors with a single command.
Image of R-Drive: Interface
R-Drive Image maintains the new interface that was introduced with version 7.0. The previous version was efficient, but dated in appearance. The current GUI not only looks more modern, but the workflow should be a bit more intuitive for the average user. Below you can see the old version (top left) as well as the new one (below), plus my personal favorite: the character-based interface I use to intimidate peeking customers.
Both the new GUI and DOS-like interfaces are available from the Linux boot disk, however the WinPE version features only the new GUI. Unfortunately, the new partitioning features are only available from the modern GUI. I honestly can’t be too upset about the omission, as porting it over to the older DOS-like GUI would probably be a lot of work. But hey, R-Tools, if you ever get bored…
Image of R-Drive: Features
R-Drive Image will create full (all data), incremental (all data changed since the last image) or differential (all data changed since the original full image) images. It will also verify them, copy disk to disk (cloning), and mount images as virtual disks where you can browse and recover individual files and folders. Understands Microsoft’s FAT (16/32), NTFS, and exFAT formats; Apple’s HFS/HFS+ and APFS; as well as Little and Big Endian variants of UFS1/UFS2 and Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 FS (Linux) and ReFS.
Other file systems are supported byte-for-byte (all sectors are backed up, whether they contain data or not) without preview or file-level access from within the program. R-Drive Image also supports hardware RAID (as individual volumes) and software RAID: Windows, Apple and Linux mdadm. You can save your images almost anywhere and on almost any medium. The program even burns CDs and DVDs on its own. Don’t laugh: optical media is still widely used for corporate archiving.
Jon L. Jacobi
Related features include email notifications on job completion; run programs based on the success or failure of the process; the ability to skip file or disk errors and continue the job (great for data recovery); use Windows or its own proprietary shadow service (downloading and data blocking); as well as task throttling (reduced CPU usage).
Scheduling is supported and I like that it takes advantage of the existing Windows task scheduler. Too many providers add their own for no particularly good reason. It’s also a good guarantee that there’s no continuous telemetry (communications between the program and the company) at play. Not to be paranoid, but that’s something you might want to consider when providing low-level access to your data.
Prior to version 7.0, R-Drive Image only backed up entire drives or partitions. You can now create the same type of image files from groups of files or folders you select. You cannot use them for disaster recovery, only to restore such files or folders. This allows for quick backup of your essential data and can drastically reduce storage requirements.
Jon L. Jacobi
R-Drive Image also features a partition manager, which allows you to delete, secure erase, create and resize partitions without leaving the R-Drive Image interface. As mentioned, it is only available from the graphical interfaces (Windows native and Linux/WinPE boot disks). Sigh.
Image of R-Drive: Performance
Like I’ve said, R-Drive Image has been 100 percent reliable for me over the years. You can even skip bad sectors and copy what’s left, although this can be an extremely lengthy procedure if you have a lot of read failures. Other than that, R-Drive Image is pretty fast. Version 7.x averaged around 90MB/s reading, compressing, and writing 650GB of data to a SATA SSD in my tests, as well as to a network location.
Just FYI, R-Drive Image consistently overestimates the time a job will initially take. Sometimes for a very large amount. You’re certainly assuming the worst case scenario, like backing up incompressible data to an old, slow hard drive. If you see an exorbitant time, click start and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the speed of the backup.
Jon L. Jacobi
When I say that R-Drive Image consumes few resources, I am not kidding. The minimum system requirement is only that the CPU be based on Intel. If you’re using older hardware, R-Drive Image is by far your best option. I wrote most of this article with a very large backup running on my 2015 iMac (running Windows via Boot Camp) and forgot it was in progress. Note that the company’s R-Studio supports Apple Silicon, so perhaps there will be ARM support in the future of R-Drive Image.
Oddly enough, I got my first R-Drive Image error code with version 7.0 (build 7000) when selecting the partition manager modify function on an exFAT-formatted external USB drive. It wasn’t fatal, indicating superior bug checking, and R-Tools sent me a fix (build 7001) almost immediately. Yes, the company is that dedicated and responsive.
While R-Drive Image offers just about every option and feature you can think of for local and network use, it would still lobby for multiple destinations for work and support for online storage services. Add those and I think you get another half star.
Note that I tested a preview version of 7.1.
Should you buy R-Drive Image?
Like I said, I came close to giving R-Drive Image 7.1 a 5-star rating. It matches the competition in ease of use and features, and falls short in terms of reliability and hardware/OS compatibility. Put bluntly, it’s the one you want.
Now friendlier and more compatible with VHD and WinPE support, it’s as close as you can get to a comprehensive backup and partitioning solution. While not perfect, the program’s features and reliability, as well as the company’s dedication to perfection, came close to earning my first 5-star rating. I’d still like to have multiple destinations per job, but R-Drive Image is the one you want.
editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative and gain new features and performance improvements over time, this hotfix is subject to change to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to the text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.