How to Create an Image with Norton Ghost
Here is where we create our Ghost
image. This step is crucial because you can't restore an image you haven't created. And you can't restore a corrupted image. So we want to create an image we can rely on.
Most users usually create an image of their system drive/partition:
where Windows resides [usually labeled C: drive]. But
you can create an image of *any* partition/disk/drive. The only limitation
is that your destination must be different from your source.
Note: the following steps are designed for Ghost 2002, which is configured from DOS. If you're using Ghost 2003, or Ghost v9.0, which can be configured from Windows, look these steps over.
Once you understand them, and it won't take an MBA program to do so, it will become obvious how to apply them to the Windows-based interface, which is easier to use. The concepts remain the same. Only the interface is different.
Note also, that the following steps are designed to use Ghost from DOS using a Ghost boot floppy. While it is now *possible* to configure Ghost from Windows, it is still *recommended* that you use the DOS-based method from a Ghost boot floppy, since it is more reliable and sometime necessary (if Windows won't boot).
If you bought the retail version of Ghost v9.0, it includes v2003 on a separate CD in the box. Let's get busy.
- Ensure your destination partition [where you'll put/write/store
the image] has enough space to receive the entire file(s).
Calculate the size of the image by estimating ~60% [using High
compression setting] to 70% [using Fast
compression] of the amount of *data* contained on the partition [not
the size of the partition itself. I use "Fast" myself.]
See here for detailed info about Ghost compression settings. Some
types of files compress better than other, so "it depends"
.. on a number of factors, such as on what kind of data is stored
on your source partition. Operating system files [Windows] usually
compress well. MP3s barely compress at all. Always give yourself plenty
of room to work with.
If your image file exceeds 2GB, you'll be prompted to
provide another file name for the part that exceeds 2GB.
If you use the -auto switch, Ghost will automatically name the parts
of your image that exceed 2GB. Ghost v2003 also does this for you
automatically. Files that exceed the first 2GB are given a *.ghs extension.
The 2GB file size limitation is based
on DOS, not Ghost. It doesn't matter if you're using FAT32 or
NTFS for either your source or destination; Ghost will automatically
break your images up into 2GB sections. If you're
using a version prior to Ghost 2003, without the -auto switch, Ghost
will display a message that says Insert New Media.
If you hit the Enter key at this point, Ghost will automatically
assign a new file name for you on the same partition .. or
you can name it yourself. I recommend simply hitting the Enter
key and allowing Ghost to name the file for you. This is easier, and
Ghost will remember the name of the file, whereas you'll probably
If you run out of room on the destination partition [because
it fills up], you'll be prompted to provide a path to a different
partition/drive [not just merely name a new file]. Try to avoid this
by ensuring your destination partition/drive has plenty of available
space. If you find you have less space than you thought you had, try
emptying your trash and any "protected" files if you use
- For versions prior to Ghost 2003, Insert the boot floppy
in your A: drive and Restart your computer. If you made
the floppy with the Ghost Boot Disk Wizard, Ghost will automatically
launch in true DOS, displaying its gray
screen and your license
number [if you use v2002. To create an image in v2003, you never
have to touch a floppy.]
For v2002, write down the serial number and tape it to the side of
your monitor, or store in in a safe place where you won't lose it.
If you use a standard DOS
boot floppy, you'll need to execute Ghost by typing either "ghost"
or "ghostpe" (without the quotes) at the DOS prompt and
hit the <enter> key. If you're DOS-illiterate, read the instructions
posted near the bottom of
If you type "ghostpe /?" you'll see a list of all
available switches. Pay particular attention to -auto,
-autoname, -span & -split.
If you want your images to be small enough to later burn onto a CD,
type "ghostpe.exe -split=640 -auto" to activate spanning
at 640MB and auto-naming. These switches are used less,
since Ghost now supports burning images directly to CDs and DVDs.
If you get an
error, you'll need to deal with that.
- You can select both spanning and auto-naming in the Options,
but I never use any of the options here. [In Ghost 2003, you select
compression settings in the "Advanced settings".
- Here we go: Select: Local -> Partition -> To Image
shot]. Note that Ghost refers to physical hard drives as Disks
and to logical DOS drives as Partitions. [Ghost 2003 first
asks you to select your source and destination type on the same screen.
Once you select either "file" or "CD/DVD", it
will, on the next screen, ask you to select the burner or destination
- Click on the hard drive you wish to select as the source
for your image [screen
shot]. If you only have one drive, this will be easy, because
you'll only see one. In my screen shot, you see six physical hard
drives [piggy wiggy]. If you have multiple drives, you'll have to
figure out which is which by looking at their sizes and order of listing.
Ghost should display your drives in the same way that FDISK
does. It shouldn't be difficult to determine which is which, especially
if they are all different-sized drives, and if you gave your volumes
identifying names after formatting them [such as C_drive, [example
screen shot] .. which brings us to our next screen.
- Ghost will then display the individual partitions on the
physical disk you selected [screen
shot]. Click on the partition you wish to select as the
source for your image. If you have no mouse control, you can
navigate around using your arrow and tab keys. Select options using
the 'Enter' key.
- Next, the window will change so you can select the destination
for your image [screen
shot]. As mentioned earlier, make sure your destination has enough
room to store/receive the entire image that will be created there.
At the top of the window, select the partition [logical DOS drive]
where you want to put/create/store the image file. After doing so,
Ghost will list both your source and destination partitions. Double
check both of these, to make sure they're correct .. as you expect
them to look. You will see this data displayed in the lower half of
- Click in the the rectangular-shaped box near the bottom, and enter
the name you want to give the image file [screen
shot]. Ghost will automatically give this file a .gho
extension. If I were going to create an image of my C drive on May
21st, Id enter the file name C_0521.
This would identify the source partition and when the
image was created .. two things you want to know should you ever need
to restore the image. This naming system will also cause your images
to be listed chronologically. Ghost would name this file C_0521.gho.
You could also name it C_21may if you like. Use whatever naming scheme
works best for you.
Try to limit the file name to no more than 8 characters .. to
observe the 8.3 DOS file limit scheme. My naming system uses 6
characters. If you dual-boot, or multi-boot, pay extra attention during
naming. It's not difficult to mislabel or misname images, such as
C or D, etc. I have made this mistake myself. Bad, bad. You don't
find out until it's too late. Pay extra attention if it's late at
night and you're tired.
Certain types of naming schemes can cause problems.
If the first 5 characters of your original file names
are the same for different images, and you images span larger than
2-GB, and you store all your images in the same directory, Ghost will
automatically generate identical *.ghs files for the parts of your
image(s) that exceed 2-GB. Nealtoo says:
"I have found the enemy and he is me. The naming convention I
was using was identical for the first 8 characters
of the *.gho file name. e.g. "Drive C 09-23-03". When Ghost
named the spanned *.ghs files in DOS format (8.3), they all became
DriveOO1.ghs, Drive002.ghs, etc. Ghost apparently truncates the original
file names (*.gho) at 5 characters, and adds 001.ghs,
002.ghs to the spanned file sections. So, when I would make a
new image, with the first part of the filename being identical to
the previous image, Ghost was overwriting previously written
- After naming the file, click on the Save button or press
the Enter key [either will work fine].
- A box will pop up asking about compression [screen
shot]. I typically use Fast, sometimes High. There
are other, more aggressive settings available by using switches. I've
never had a problem with either High or Fast.
High applies more aggressive compression. It makes a smaller
image, but take longer to create them. The images created with
High compression typically are only a little smaller, but take *much*
longer to create. This is why I prefer Fast compression.
Some people view higher compression as a bad thing.
I've never heard of any problems with either High or Fast.
- Ghost will ask if you want to Proceed with partition dump?
shot] This is it, hoss. Double check both source
and destination selections. Ghost will display all the selections
you've made. Dont continue if you have any questions, or if
something doesn't look right.
You should not see the word 'Overwrite' listed anywhere
during image dumping. If you do, you did something wrong. You
only get the Overwrite dialogue when Restoring an image.
If you see the word Overwrite, quit out.
With v2002, you will see the words: Your License Number will be
required to restore the image. If everything looks the way you
expect it to, click Yes & youre an imaging dude:
- It takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to create
an image file, depending on a number of factors:
1. amount of data contained on your source partition
[more data = longer]
2. type of compression selected [more compression =
3. whether you're imaging to the same or a separate
physical hard drive [imaging to a separate physical drive goes twice
So, the fastest imaging will be from a source partition
with little data, minimal compression & a separate
physical hard drive. Conversely, the longest/slowest imaging
will be from a source partition with lots of data, high
compression, & imaging to (a separate partition on) the same
- After the image is created, Ghost will display the message: Dump
Completed Successfully [screen
shot] (yeah!) .. [or some error]. Ghost 2003 automatically reboots
your system back to Windows.
- Now Check the image. This will verify that the image is valid,
and that it has everything necessary to restore your system. Select:
Local -> Check -> Image file [screen
shot]. Navigate to where your image is stored and select it. It
will have a .gho extension [screen
shot]. Usually you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the
list of files.
After you've successfully created a few images, and you know
that they're valid, you dont have to Check every one.
If you get a new hard drive, or significantly change your system configuration,
it would be a good idea to Check an image or two. I check mine randomly.
Only on rare occasions do I find corrupted images.
- At the end of this operation, Ghost will tell you whether the image
is valid. The message you want to see is Image File Passed Integrity
shot]. If so, you're done creating your first image. Time
to break out the bubbly or a brewski.
Quit out of Ghost [screen
shot] & reboot to Windows. You now have the ability to restore
your system in minutes .. should anything go wrong. Image no less frequently
than what youre comfortable with .. should your drive die unexpectedly
.. or Windows becomes unable to boot.
will see to it that you'll encounter your worst problems when your least
prepared. So always be prepared. Monthly is a good for most people.
Don't forget to periodically back-up your individual documents and other
work files between imaging sessions.
I have since moved this section to its
own page posted here. The theory is that you want to develop a system
to keep track of the programs
& drivers that you install & update *between* images. This way,
should you ever need to restore you image, it will be a simple job to
reinstall the drivers and programs that you loaded since the last time
you created an image.
This strategy might also help you identify the cause of your problem.
I once had to restore a particular image 7 or 8 times before I found
the culprit that was causing my problems.
It only takes a minute to set up this system. The only thing you need
to ensure is that you name your downloaded files with descriptive names,
so that you know what they are. The people who make the files don't
always do this.
Transfer Images Off-Site
One last thing to consider: About every 6 months or so, burn an image to CD or DVD and give the discs to a trusted friend to store for you .. -or- .. use an online back-up service, such as those mentioned in this thread:> New Online Back-up Services Coming.
This is known
as *redundant* back-up. Hopefully, you'll never need to use these (redundant) files.
But if you do, you'll be prepared for just