CloneDisk is a compact portable tool with a lengthy list of drive-related functions. It's an image backup and disk cloning tool, for instance. The program can format and partition a drive, extend or shrink a volume. And you get options to securely wipe a drive, edit the partition table, save and restore the master boot record/ boot sector, run drive speed tests, and carry out various operations with VHD, RAW, VMDK and ISO images.

Sounds appealing, right? But beware. This isn't some mainstream backup tool for regular PC users. There's no colorful drive map here, no helpful wizards. Not even a Help file. CloneDisk is aimed squarely as PC experts who already know what options like "Close handles", "Set Volume Offline" and "Delete Disk Layout" are going to do, and everyone else should leave the program very much alone.

Even if you know what you're doing, CloneDisk isn't always straightforward. If you forget to launch it as an administrator, for example, the program doesn't clearly point that out: instead we saw misleading "handle is invalid" error messages. And the "Change boot code" option just crashed the program, every time we tried it.

Despite this, there's a lot to like about CloneDisk. It's packed with powerful features everywhere you look, and most of them work just as you'd expect. To back up a USB drive, for example, we selected the relevant partition, clicked "Backup to image", and chose an image name: the program handled everything else itself.

Version 2.2 changes:
 •added : check disk, next to format using fmifs.dll
 •added : change partition type
 •added : change partition boot indicator
 •added : support for wimboot (windows 8.1 update 1 option)
 •added : change diskid in partition editor
 •changed : write win8.1u1 mbr and bs
 •added : md5 hash for file
 •added : can take screenshot of the clonedisk window
 •added : can remove an outlookbar button or page via the config.ini (outlookbar section)
 •added : can inject any MBR boot code
 •added : double click on the main listview will also display the disk/part properties window
 •added : user confirmation on disk online/offline/rw/ro
 •added : display disk serial number
 •added : display disk cache information
 •added : display disk attributes

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CloneDisk provides a host of hard drive manipulation functions in a tiny portable package. It's not always easy to use, and has a bug or two, but regular updates are helping it to improve, and on balance the program deserves a place in every geek's technical toolkit.