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Ghost (software)

Ghost is a disk cloning program product sold by Symantec. Originally developed by Murray Haszard in 1995 for Binary Research, the technology was acquired in 1998 by Symantec. The name Ghost is an acronym for General Hardware-Oriented System Transfer.[2]


Binary Research developed Ghost in Auckland, New Zealand. After the Symantec acquisition, a few functions (such as translation into other languages) were moved elsewhere, but the main development remained in Auckland until October 2009 at which time much was moved to India.[citation needed]

Technologies developed by 20/20 Software were integrated into Ghost after their acquisition by Symantec in April 2000.[3]


At the end of 2003, Symantec acquired its largest competitor, PowerQuest. On August 2, 2004, Norton Ghost 9.0 was released as a new consumer version of Ghost, which was based on PowerQuest′s Drive Image version 7, and provided Live imaging of a Windows system. Ghost 9 continued to leverage the PowerQuest file format, meaning it wasn′t backward compatible with previous versions of Ghost. However, a version of Ghost 8.0 was included on the Ghost 9 recovery disk to support existing Ghost customers.


The internal project name Phantom designated a complete rewrite of the Ghost cloning engine at Symantec in Auckland. The Phantom project ran for about three years in parallel with the ongoing development of the Ghost code. Some parts of the Phantom code, such as the ability to write to NTFS filesystems from MS-DOS, got folded into the main Ghost product. Symantec released a prototype of Phantom as Ghost for Manufacturing in 2003.

Backup software

Although disk cloning programs are not primarily backup programs, they are sometimes used as such. A key feature of a backup program is to allow the retrieval of individual files without needing to restore the entire backup. Disk cloning programs either provide a Windows Explorer-like program to browse image files and extract individual files from them, or allow an image file to be mounted as a read-only filesystem within Windows Explorer.

Ghost is marketed as a backup program. It comes with an ISO file that needs to be written to a CD. This provides a recovery environment to perform a full system recovery. There′s also provision to mount a drive & select backed-up files from that drive and recover them to the primary hard disk.

Ghost can copy the contents of one hard drive to another and can convert a hard drive′s contents to a virtual disk format such as VMware′s VMDK file.


Initially, Ghost supported only FAT filesystems directly, but it could also copy (although not resize) other filesystems by performing a sector copy. Ghost added support for the NTFS filesystem later in 1996, and also provided a program, Ghostwalker (DOS name: ghstwalk.exe), to change the Security ID (SID) that made Windows NT systems distinguishable from each other. Ghostwalker is also capable of modifying the name of the Windows NT-based computer from its own interface. Ghost added support for the ext2 filesystem in 1999 and for ext3 subsequently.


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