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Within the area of Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR), buying a forensic copy of a suspect’s storage gadget is a crucial first step. This course of includes both disk imaging or disk cloning, every with its personal distinct functions and methodologies. On this weblog, we’ll delve into the variations between disk imaging and disk cloning, when to make use of every technique, and supply step-by-step steering on tips on how to create a forensic disk picture utilizing FTK Imager.

Disk imaging vs. disk cloning

Disk imaging

Disk imaging is the method of making a bit-for-bit copy or snapshot of a whole storage gadget or a selected partition. In forensic imaging, the purpose is to create an actual, bit-for-bit copy of the supply disk with out making any adjustments to the unique knowledge. The important thing traits of disk imaging embrace:

Non-destructive: Disk imaging is a non-destructive course of that does not alter the unique knowledge on the supply gadget. It preserves the integrity of the proof.

File-level entry: After imaging, forensic examiners can entry and analyze the recordsdata and folders inside the picture utilizing specialised forensic software program. This enables for focused evaluation and knowledge restoration.

Metadata preservation: Disk imaging retains crucial metadata resembling file timestamps, permissions, and attributes, which could be essential in investigations.

Versatile storage: Disk pictures could be saved in numerous codecs (e.g., E01, DD, AFF) and on completely different media, resembling exterior exhausting drives or community storage.

Disk cloning

Disk cloning, however, includes creating an actual duplicate of the supply storage gadget, together with all partitions and unallocated house.  In contrast to file copying, disk cloning additionally duplicates the filesystems, partitions, drive meta knowledge and slack house on the drive. The traits of disk cloning embrace:

Actual copy: Disk cloning produces an equivalent copy of the supply gadget. It replicates every thing, together with empty house and hidden partitions.

Fast duplication: Cloning is usually sooner than imaging as a result of it does not contain the creation of a separate picture file. It is basically a sector-by-sector copy.

Cloning is like making an actual photocopy of a e-book, smudges and all. It copies every thing, even the empty pages. So, if we’re coping with a complete pc, it copies the working system, software program, and each file, whether or not it is helpful or not.

Making a forensic disk picture with FTK Imager

FTK Imager is a broadly used and trusted software for creating forensic disk pictures. Listed here are the steps to create a disk picture utilizing FTK Imager:

Obtain and Set up FTK Imager, be certain that to make use of newest secure model out there as properly point out the model and vendor particulars in case notes. This can be a good observe in digital forensics and incident response (DFIR) because it ensures that you’re utilizing probably the most up-to-date and safe model of the software program, and it offers essential documentation concerning the instruments and their configurations utilized in your investigations. Maintaining software program up to date is important for sustaining the integrity and reliability of your forensic processes.

Obtain and Set up FTK Imager in your forensic workstation. It may be downloaded from here. You’ll want to supply some data like identify, enterprise e-mail and many others., and after you fill within the kind the obtain will begin robotically. You should utilize privateness centric companies whereas filling out the data. Start the set up.

install FTK imager

As soon as, FTK Imager is put in, launch FTK Imager by clicking on the appliance icon.

  • Within the “File” menu, select “Create Disk Picture.”

FTK imager drive

Choose the supply gadget (the drive you need to picture) from the record.

select source

Specify picture vacation spot:

Select a location and supply a reputation for the output picture file.

Choose the specified picture format (e.g., E01 or DD).

Configure choices:

Configure imaging choices resembling compression, verification, and hash algorithm as wanted.

Begin imaging:

Click on the “Begin” button to start the imaging course of.

FTK Imager will create a forensic disk picture of the supply gadget.

Verification and validation:

After imaging is full, use FTK Imager to confirm the integrity of the picture utilizing hash values.


Open the forensic picture in FTK Imager or different forensic evaluation instruments to look at the information and conduct investigations.

Keep in mind to observe correct chain of custody procedures, doc your actions, and cling to authorized and moral requirements when conducting digital forensics investigations.


In conclusion, the method of buying digital proof within the area of digital forensics is a meticulous and demanding endeavor. Whether or not you select to clone or picture a storage gadget, every technique serves its goal in preserving the integrity of the proof.

Cloning, with its capability to create an actual duplicate of a system or drive, is invaluable for situations the place replication is important, resembling establishing backup programs or rescuing knowledge from failing {hardware}. Its velocity and precision make it an indispensable software within the digital investigator’s toolkit.

Alternatively, imaging, akin to taking snapshots of the related knowledge, excels when it’s essential to protect proof in a forensically sound method. It permits investigators to concentrate on particular items of knowledge with out the burden of redundant or irrelevant knowledge.
Whichever technique you select, it is paramount to stick to greatest practices, doc your actions meticulously, and be sure that the integrity of the unique proof is maintained all through the method. With an intensive understanding of when and tips on how to make use of these strategies, digital forensic specialists can uncover the reality whereas safeguarding the integrity of digital proof.

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