The Master Boot Record (MBR) is a small, dedicated section at the beginning of the hard disk which holds the boot information and partition layout for the whole disk. The MBR itself is only a single physical sector in length (512 bytes), but it is required in order to create or maintain partitions on the disk, or even boot the computer. The following describes the different sections of a valid MBR, which helps to explain the importance of the MBR. When any part of the MBR is missing or corrupt, the machine will not be able to boot. For example, if the partition table isn’t populated with correct partition information, not only will the boot loader be unable to locate the partition for booting, but the partition and all the contents (files) will effectively be lost. If the boot loader code becomes corrupt, the boot process cannot be properly handed off and the machine will not be able to boot. Boot sector viruses can also infect the MBR. The first PC virus in the wild was Brain, a boot sector virus that exhibited stealth techniques to avoid detection. Brain also changed the volume label of the disk drive.It is important to have a backup of your MBR just in case something goes wrong that messes up the MBR. So here are 5 free tools that can help you to easily backup and restore your system’s Master Boot Record (MBR).

1. MBRWizard!



MBRwizard is a powerful, yet flexible utility designed to assist with all types of Master Boot Record difficulties. Intially developed to overcome MBR problems introduced by disk imaging products such as Symantec Ghost and Acronis True Image, MBRwizard has become a popular utility for repairing all types of MBR problems, especially those caused by disk-2-disk (d2d) and system backup and recovery applications. Whether you are looking to solve issues caused by experimenting with Linux, repair partition entry issues after recovering a disk image, or simply safeguarding your system by capturing a backup of the MBR before disaster strikes, you MBRWizard is the answer! MBRwizard is designed as a command line only application for flexibility and automation of tasks, therefore, there is no graphical interface for this application.


[ Download MBRWizard! v2.0b ]

2. MBRtool



MBRtool is a DOS program designed to backup, restore and manipulate your hard disk MBR. The MBR could easily be seen as one of the most important sectors on the disk. If anything happens to the contents of this sector, the data on your disk could be unreachable. Or the computer might simply not start anymore. MBRtool is not an automatic recovery program but will allow users to prevent data loss (due to MBR corruption) by backing up the MBR, and offers power users all the power they’ll ever need to ‘mess’ with their MBR. The latest MBRtool now includes an easy to use boot diskette builder that will assist you in creating a diskette or bootable CD/DVD.


[ Download MBRtool v2.3.100 ]

3. MbrFix



Perform several Master Boot Record (MBR) tasks, like backing up, restoring, fixing the boot code in the MBR, etc. The utility should not be used for GUID Partition Table (GPT) disks. The utility now, by popular demand, also come in a x64-version running under x64-editions of Windows and PE.


[ Download MbrFix ]

4. MBRUtil



 

MBRUtil utility will save the Master Boot Record (the first sector on the first hard drive to a file. It will also restore the contents of a file to the MBR. It can be used to save the first head (sectors 1 through 62 on most drives) to a file. It will also restore the contens of a file to the first head.


[ Download MBRUtil ]

5. HDHacker



- HDHacker is a stand-alone micro-utility that saves, visualizes, and restores the MBR (from a physical drive), the BootSector (from a logical drive) or any specified sector from any disk (even removable disks). HDHacker can be used, for example, to save and restore a particular boot manager (such as LILO, for example) before a new Windows setup (which, obviously, overwrites it). An MBR and BootSector backup can also be useful for simple precautionary purposes too, since sometimes viruses or other OS setup (like Linux) could overwrite and/or alter the MBR/Boot Sectors, making it impossible to start up previous OS and/or access datas stored on the disk. HDHacker can provide “insurance” against all these types of loss.
 

[ Download HDHacker v1.4 ]

I never thought that backing up Master Boot Record was important, until I got my new Acer laptop with a hidden PQSERVICE partition. I will post an article about the hidden partition very soon. Backing up MBR is fast and painless, no harm making a backup of your system’s MBR and save it to a USB flash drive.