Paragon Drive Backup Express (32-bit version)
During my entire hands-on with DBE, I was waiting for something to pop and bite me so I could continue to indulge my Sherlockian fantasy with the words "Aha! Just as I suspected, Dr. Watson," but nothing ever so much as nibbled. I created and restored partitions without incident and the recovery media the program created backed up and restored flawlessly as well. The interface was easy on the eye and the brain, with the possible exception of selecting the drive or partition to back up (the information provided in collapsible tree form was a bit confusing). Other than that, it was elementary.
There are quite a few things that DBE won't do that the $40 Personal Edition of Drive Backup and other top imaging programs (Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost, etc.) will do. There's no scheduling, no backup to optical media, no adaptive restoring to different hardware, no differential backup or restoring of individual files, as well as no encryption or partitioning. If you need or want these, pop for the pay version.
For everyone else...right here, we have free imaging without DriveImage XML's need to create a Bart's PE boot disc. The only possible downside might be that you have to go online and acquire a serial number by providing your e-mail address. That said, the "receive offers" checkbox is unmarked by default and Paragon as a company has been around awhile and never bothered me. I say nab it forthwith.
Note: This software comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This is the 32-bit version. If your 64-bit PC is running 64-bit XP or 64-bit Vista, please download the 64-bit version instead.
--Jon L. Jacobi