How to Create an Image of Your USB Drive

Chris Hoffman 07-05-2014

Create an image of your USB drive and you can copy that image to another USB drive — or the same one — later. This is useful for duplicating USB drives or backing up a drive’s contents before overwriting it. For example, you could copy a live Linux USB drive The Best Linux Operating Distros The best Linux distros are hard to find. Unless you read our list of the best Linux operating systems for gaming, Raspberry Pi, and more. Read More or a Windows To Go USB drive and you’d get a full copy of the contents of the drive, including any personal data you saved to the live operating system.


This should also work with SD cards — even bootable ones. Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Whether you're a current Pi owner who wants to learn more or a potential owner of this credit-card size device, this isn't a guide you want to miss. Read More owners and anyone else who uses bootable SD cards 23 Operating Systems That Run on Your Raspberry Pi Whatever your Raspberry Pi project, there's an operating system for it. Here are the best Raspberry Pi operating systems! Read More  can get a lot of use out of this tool.

Why You Can’t Just Copy the Files

If you just have personal files and documents on the drive, you don’t need this tool. You can copy the files from your USB drive to a folder on your computer and copy them back whenever you want to restore them to your USB drive.

If your drive is bootable or has multiple partitions, just copying the files won’t cut it. The tool we’ll cover here will perform an exact copy of the contents of the drive, including its master boot record (MBR), slack space, and any unused space. This allows you to perform exact copies of a USB drive, even if it has multiple partitions and a master boot record. The resulting image can be copied to another USB flash drive, so you can easily duplicate a drive or create an exact image of a bootable drive for use later.


What You’ll Need

We recommend ImageUSB for this. It’s a free, lightweight utility that runs on Windows.


You should also ensure that you’re restoring the image of your USB drive to a drive with a similar size. The byte-for-byte copying process will make an exact copy, which means some of the space may be inaccessible if you move an image from a smaller drive to a larger drive. For example, let’s say you have a 4 GB USB flash drive and you create an image of it. You then write that image to a 12 GB flash drive — only 4 GB of that 12 GB flash drive will be accessible. The reverse is also problematic — create an image of a 12 GB drive and you won’t be able to copy it to a 4 GB drive later, even if there was less than 4 GB of data on the 12 GB drive.

You can always recover the space by reformatting and partitioning the drive External Drive Not Showing Up or Recognized? 5 Potential Fixes to Try Is your external hard drive not showing up or being recognized in Windows? Here's how to fix a hard disk that's not detected. Read More later, of course.

Create an Image of a USB Drive

Insert your USB drive (or SD card) into your computer, open ImageUSB, and select the drive you want to create an image of. Select the Create from UFD option to create an image from a USB flash drive. Select a location for the resulting file — the file will have the .bin file extension as it’s a binary file representing the contents of the drive. Click Create Image and ImageUSB will create an image from the USB drive.

If you leave the Post Image Verification check box enabled — that’s the default — ImageUSB will scan your image or flash drive after the process completes to ensure the image copied correctly.


You can back up this image file or do whatever else you like with it. You’ll need ImageUSB to write the image to a USB flash drive in the future.


Write an Image to One or More Flash Drives

ImageUSB can copy a USB flash drive image from a .bin file to one or more USB drives at once, which allows you to quickly duplicate a drive — you’re only limited by the number of USB ports in your computer.

Insert the drive into the computer, open ImageUSB, and select the drives you want to write to. Select the Write to UDF option to write an image to a USD flash drive. Browse to a .bin file created with ImageUSB and click Write to UFD to write the contents of the image to the USB flash drives you selected. Note that ImageUSB can only use .bin files created with ImageUSB.


Warning: This process will erase the contents of the USB drives entirely, overwriting them with the data from the image file.


This tool is fairly simple — the key is knowing you need to use it instead of just copying the files from the drive! If you want to back up or copy an entire flash drive, especially a bootable one, you’ll need a specialized tool like ImageUSB.

For a similar process, see how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive How to Use Clonezilla to Clone Your Windows Hard Drive Here's all you need to know about how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive in the easiest way. Read More .


Image Credit: Flash Drive by Valter Wei via Flickr

Related topics: Clone Hard Drive, Data Backup, Disk Image, USB Drive.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. tazmo8448
    April 1, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    What I'm trying to do is clone or create the exact image of a bootable usb to another blank usb and find that the tutorial seems to use a hard drive (in this case C:\ drive which does not pertain to my case. The blank does not contain a .bin file nor does my bootable usb contain a .bin file.
    There are paid versions out there that say they can do this but I am finding it a whole lot easier just to create another bootable usb from scratch rather than get frustrated with these utilities that for me don't work. Glad and happy others can make it work.

    • Chris Robertson
      April 18, 2019 at 2:50 pm

      Yes, you are wanting to directly copy from USB to USB. This program, you will need to create an image (the bin) first, then copy the image to the new USB. There maybe a program that can do this on the fly but this is so the program can format the new drive as needed.

  2. GM
    October 6, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks for this info. Software worked fine for me. Took all of about 15 mins to clone a 2Gb drive to a native 4Gb drive (as I didn't have anything smaller). Not worried about loss of capacity and now I have an image I can use again later if needed.
    Instructions were easy to follow and were appreciated because some of us don't use or know Linux.
    I don't know why some people feel the need to leave vitriolic comments when the problem more likely is the operator than the software.

  3. Joffroy
    September 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    It works just great.

    I travel with a small, light netbook that runs Windows 10 and has only a miniscule 32GB eMMC. Its "hard drive" is not large enough to install many programs on it, much less double boot with linux, which is what I do with my other laptops. I've installed my currently favorite flavor of linux on a standard 8GB USB flash drive, which boot up nicely on my netbook, but sticks out too far for comfort from the USB port on the back of my netbook.

    Too deal with this problem, I've used imageUSB (and your instructions) to copy the entire standard-size 8GB flash drive to a compact 8GB Cruzer Fit flash drive, which will not be bent or broken (so easily) by any accidental random impact when in use in my netbook.
    The entire process of duplicating the flash drive took 35 minutes and 58 seconds, including the post imaging verification via MD5/SHA1 matching at the end of the process.

    I've booted up my netbook with the new compact drive, and it works.

    I had been looking for a "direct USB clone" solution, and was at first taken aback by needing to make a .bin file first, and then in a second operation copy it to a new USB drive. But the process worked flawlessly, and now I have a copy of the contents of my live-usb-drive-with-persistence on my hard drive. Next time I clone a USB drive I'll try it from the command line in gnu linux.

  4. Janice JJ
    December 28, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Is their a direct "USB thumbdrive clone" choice?

    I do NOT need to do:
    USB-1 > ImageFile
    ImageFiLe > USB-2

    How can I just clone a Bootable Debian USB stick entirely:
    USB-1 > USB-2

  5. J Willis
    July 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Instructions use too much technical jargon. Can not make heads or tails as to how to accomplish copying. So ... agree with previous post. This program is a waste of time.

  6. AndyB
    June 21, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Had no problems copying 4 GB USB image on Win 10! Just watch the 'size' talk used by both h/w and s/w manufactures and also the actual size declared as 'new' USBs often contain pre-installed s/w!

  7. anonym
    March 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    @Debian-Devil, few comments:

    I disagree with the "crap" assessment...

    an 8GB drive is not necessarily 8GB, even out of the box. So make your original partition smaller than the full size of the drive - gparted can do that on an existing partition without data loss

    the usb (perceived) size is a function of the operating system viewing it, and the cluster size you formatted it to, so blame yourself or windows if anything.

    finally, I second that nothing is simpler and better than to use the dd command in linux to clone. Especially if you are cloning a live usb with persistence on a separate ext3 partition, e.g., which windows cant see in the first place. just be patient, no progress bar there (although you could add one by piping one in). I just look at cpu/mem usage for the process to see it run

  8. Ed
    November 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm


  9. Anonymous
    July 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I downloaded the program imageUSB and had no issues copying my Windows10 flash drive. The software may be buggy or crappy or maybe they fixed some of the issues. Either way, I wanted to say that it does work, at least for some people.

  10. Anonymous
    July 23, 2015 at 9:23 am

    This article was a complete waste of my time, and ImageUSB is a waste of space...

  11. Debian-Devil
    February 25, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Yes image USB is complete crap. I was copying an 8GB USB Flash Drive to another 8GB USB Flash Drive and it failed. It was complaining that the image size was larger than the drive.


    Fired up my Debian Linux box and used DD as RedHat suggested. Worked like a champ.
    I haven't tried Clonezilla but that might be another option as well.

  12. Manus
    February 19, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Thank you very much, very usefull.

  13. RedHat
    May 19, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Personally I just use an Ubuntu live cd with dd. It's fast, easy, and also supports saving to a .img file.

    1. "sudo fdisk -l" to see your devices
    2. "sudo -i" to switch to root
    3. "dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb" to clone device sda to sdb.

  14. Nay
    May 8, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Wow - what a completely disappointing app. Not at all what I thought from the article.