The tool I use is called Clonezilla. It can be used to make an image of your whole drive or just
It has compression options to help keep the image size fairly small and only creates images from the used portitions
of a drive or partition.
I presently have 6 OS's on my notebooks drive and I maintain current images of all of them on a 16 GB flash
In the event of disaster I can restore in a few minutes.
See link below.
Hi Frank. Thank you for the detailed post.
I presume that creating an image of my current C: partition of windows 7 with all my currently installed programs and user folders, this image would require much more space. I believe about 50GB which I want to save on my external HD.
In a case where I don't have a boot CD for the image, can I just install windows, run the image software you recommended and restore the image to overwrite the current C: partition?
Say your C: partition is 50 GB with only 20 GB used.
Clonezilla will make an image using only the 20 GB of used space and by default use a compression scheme
to greatly reduce the file size to about 50% of the original used space.
So your resulting image in this case would be about 10 GB.
If your using an external hard drive to store your image you can save the image file directly to that during the creation
of the image. You can also restore from that drive as well.
You have to run Clonezilla from a bootable media source like a CD. You can't install it to Windows and run it from there.
What I would suggest is making a separate backup of your personal data as well as using Clonezilla to image your C: drive.
Even though Clonezilla is linux based it will easily handle making images of NTFS partitions like your Win 7 install.
If you save the image to a fat 32 storage device Clonezilla will automatically split the image into less than 4 GB pieces since fat 32 only supports maximum of 4 GB files.
Restore will recombine those partitions seamlessly.
I'm not sure if you can restore an image stored on a NTFS partition, if not Clonezilla will tell you so.
I will try it to find out.
The reason I mention this is because another linux based imaging tool I used to use would not restore an image stored on a NTFS
Now here is a slightly risky part and the main reason I mention that you back up your data.
Whenever I make an image I perform a restore right after creating it, while still in Clonezilla to verify the integrity of the image.
This way I know that the image will work when needed.
By the way you cannot create and store an image on the same partition you are trying to image.
Creating an image can take some time depending on the size of the used portion of your partition and the media you save to.
Example: my 10 GB Win 7 install (on a 22 GB partition) takes about 10 minutes to create and store directly to a 16 GB thumb drive.
It restores from that thumb drive in about 4-5 minutes.
UPDATE: just sucessfully restored an image from a NTFS storage partition.
Get familiar with the directions at the Clonezilla web site and if you need more info just ask me.
When you download the Clonezilla .iso you burn the .iso to a CD or Flash drive.
This creates a bootable Live CD of the Clonezilla program.
You then boot to the CD instead of you OS. and perform all imaging/restoring from that.
A live CD of any sort doesn't change your hard drive unless you want it to.
A live CD is loaded onto system memory and goes away when you shut down the live CD.
Once you fully boot the Clonezilla CD you use the GUI to create your image and store it.
You then use the same CD to later restore your Win 7 partition in the event of disaster.