Win32 Disk Imager vs Rufus: Which Is Better?

We’ve already talked about these two bootable USB makers software in some of the previous articles respectively. Since it’s a well-known fact that Rufus is considered a giant in this field, you might wonder what the point is of even comparing a small, two-man project such as Win32 Disk Imager with it. Well, have you heard of the story of David and Goliath? Giants don’t always win, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and see what the smaller one has to offer first.

win32diskimager process1

General Characteristics And Comparison

Both Rufus and Win32 Disk Imager are freeware open-source bootable USB maker software. They’ve both been around for around a decade, with the difference of Win32 Disk Imager (aside from it being hosted on SourceForge) having only 2 and a half, so to say, developers, while Rufus has garnered a huge community and a lot of contributors on its GitHub repository, with support in astonishing 38 languages, while its counterpart has only a few localizations created by the community. Rufus’ support and documentation are huge, very resourceful, and offer solutions to all kinds of issues, ranging from the most mundane and simple to the very specific and complicated, code-related ones, while Win32 does have some support, but it’s not nearly as much; not that it’s required to perform a simple burning or create the backup, but it surely does help a lot when developers are trying to regularly answer users’ inquiries.  

System And Hardware Requirements

Both Rufus and Win32 Disk Imager are pretty lightweight and have the bare minimum hardware requirements in order to work, such as 512MB RAM. They both require Windows 7 and above and, despite the name suggesting it’s a Windows-only program, the latest patch seems to have brought it to Ubuntu, too, so that gives Win32 Disk Imager a slight edge over Rufus in terms of flexibility. Just like in the case of Etcher, it probably means it now supports a wider range of file types that come from Linux-based file compressing tools.  

Rufus is a portable program, which means it doesn’t need to install – you simply download the .exe file from their website and run it right away. It’s fast, it’s small and it’s very convenient, so that’s a point for Rufus. The other one has to go through the standard installation process.  

Features And Functions

When it comes to features, they both share the key one: creating a bootable USB flash drive or SD card. The process is pretty similar in both programs, with minor differences such as Win32 Disk Imager requires the removable hardware to be plugged in before starting the program, while Rufus doesn’t care whether it’s before or after launch. For Win32 Disk Imager, you have to provide the ISO file in advance, while in Rufus you can download it directly by choosing the desired OS from the dropdown menu (if it’s Windows 8.1 or 10).  

One big feature that makes the generally less popular bootable USB maker software stand out is its ability to make SD card backups, which can be extremely useful for when you want to make a backup of the photos from your cellphone or camera’s SD card, for example. The process is the same as with burning an ISO file onto a USB, just instead of ‘Write’, we press ‘Read’ on the last step.  

Rufus also has a couple of other little neat quality of life features, such as detecting removable hardware automatically, so you don’t accidentally wipe your hard drive, checking for bad blocks (damage) on the USB with up to 4 passes total, as well as make custom icons and extended labels for your partition.  

Pete Batard’s C-based bootable USB maker has one more function that might not be as important or even known about in the first place, but it’s able to make a bootable drive from which you can flash (update or fix) your PC’s BIOS, in case you have some hardware issues that you know are BIOS-related. It is a very iffy process that could cause serious damage to your motherboard if anything goes wrong, so it’s not recommended for inexperienced users. Nevertheless, it’s still a useful tool, and Win32 Disk Imager (and much other software of their type as well, as a matter of fact) doesn’t have it. 

Performance 

Rufus is known to be the fastest one, with Etcher coming in pretty close to it. Win32 Disk Imager is way behind it, but is still not the slowest one of the family; it’s decently fast. However, it also does report crashes when working with a RAM disk, something that Rufus doesn’t seem to experience with any kind of hardware currently – the R in its name stands for ‘reliable’ for a reason! Also, Win32 Disk Imager can only work with Windows and Ubuntu operating systems, while Rufus can also create images of macOS.  

Both of them have a rather similar graphic user interface to one another, they both seem to be based on a basic Microsoft Windows GUI look, and while both are incredibly simple to use, Rufus’ offers a bit more advanced options for those who know what they’re doing.  

Conclusion 

Although the small, family project Win32 Disk Imager has managed to take away some points in this comparison, such as being able to create backup files and working on Ubuntu, it seems like the majority of it goes the way of Rufus. The only big thing Rufus is missing at the moment that would make it an absolute hegemon in the field of bootable USB creators is the ability to perform multi-booting – burning multiple operating systems on the same piece of removable hardware. Aside from that, it seems like it already has it all and that there’s a good reason the vast majority of PC users turn to it when it comes to creating bootable USB flash drives or SD cards. However, we do suggest you try both of them yourselves and pick your own companion as suited to your needs.