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best image backup method with multiple partitions on a disk

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Steven Avery:
My goal in image backup is simply to have a clean reinstall. Preferably using the simple Linux method rather than Windows PE. (Why not, for simple clean reinstall?)

Thus, my images will be made either when the OS is super-clean, or a few weeks later when all the basic programs are loaded, and lots of little tweaks are made (e.g. settings, Firefox and Chrome extensions, etc.). Not when the system is getting sluggish.  At that time, I am simply backing up data files.

We start with a couple of partitions that are:

Recovery or Dell or stuff like that, small. 
*: -           39 Mb FAT "Hidden"  (maybe the file allocation table? for the OS?)
*Recovery: 10 GB "Active and Boot"
c: OS
d: data file for programs - Linkman Notezilla, and dozen more.
e: email for 70 GB of Eudora mail, and maybe mirrored on a search program or Bat later.
l:  a place for future linux dual boot

(I would generally stick c: and d: on an SSD when I have one, I want to see if Linkman works quicker)

That is all one disk.   On data backup, I make up my own schedules with d: and e:  (recently I decided to separate them, so a backup of d: was not cumbersome).

What about image backup?  (I am willing to have a pro program from Aomei or Macrium or Paragon or Easeus or somebody.  I am bypassing Macrium for dropping the Linux disk in ver 6.)

Do I simply choose the c:  With the idea that the recovery and fat will still be there.
Or do I do the selected partitions on the disk (all except e:,why backup that huge system file that is backing up another way?)
Or is it better to bite the bullet and simply backup every partition.

What programs do you like.  Am I right that I should not put the huge unnecessary e: into the partition (after a reinstall I would take a recent email backup).

Does any of this make sense?

What programs do you like? Do you get a pro? Do you wait for them to be onsale? I did pickup a free Paragon Backup & Recovery™ 16, version  And do like Aomei. 

Feel free to give free-form thoughts about your own image backup.


If you haven't visited this page it may be worth a look as it has a variety of freeware solutions:

I suspect Macrium went solely with WinPE due to the GPT partition scheme.  If your drives are GPT based it limits your options for image backup.  Although that is changing it can still be dicey as some systems that claim they support both MBR and GPT don't always work as expected.  Just making a bootable USB stick that will boot with UEFI enabled on my machine is touch and go.  Most of them don't work.

Of course it is tough to say what is the problem, the bootable image or my Laptop.  It has always had booting, update and system restore issues.  My experience with MBR was much greater as even trying to boot a VHD seems like an impossible task on this Laptop.

Now is a good time if you have a guinea pig PC with a similar layout in drives and partitions to verify things actually restore as advertised.

Edit: what you describe though, sounds like a good candidate for a physical drive cloner utility.  Get the OS and baseline applications installed and configured as you want, then clone the drive to one of exactly the same size.  Store the drive in an anti-static bag in some safe place.  If the HD fails or gets really scrambled, just insert the backup and power up.  I mentioned this a bunch of times but a guy I know on another forum has quick release drive rails and images his system to an identical HD in a docking station.  Unlike your scheme he makes a new image perhaps twice a week so that he doesn't lose more than a couple of days if disaster strikes.  But you could still use a similar strategy only making one optimal image of a tuned system.  His method has the advantage that you don't have to run a restore program.  Insert the backup HD then determine later if the hosed drive has a physical problem or if the contents is merely corrupted etc..

For many years my program of choice has been Paragon Hard Disk Manager Pro. Not cheap ($100 and usually $50 upgrades every 2-3 years when new versions come out), but it does everything in one tool: Imaging, cloning, OS migration, partition management, wiping, backup media creation, virtualization, mounting  images as drives, etc.

I keep my OS and critical data (financial, working data files, etc.) on C and most other program data on D. On my desktop system, I also have E for long term archiving of data files, backups, etc. On my desktop system, C and D are on a single SSD and E on an HDD.

I image C at least once a month. Other partitions are never imaged but everything on them is duplicated on two or more external drives.  Images of C are created on E and copied as needed, which is much faster than imaging to external media.  I keep USB sticks formatted as Paragon recovery media for emergencies. If I travel, I copy the latest backup image to one of those USB sticks to take with me.

My sequence in setting up a new system is to image the entire drive as received from the manufacturer before the first initialization, then image again after the system is initialized and before any of my own software is installed, then again after I have the essential backups installed.  That gives me three critical restore points in case I ever decide to go back to the beginnings.  I don’t usually bother keeping a restore partition or Windows restore points after that.

Actually, since manufacturers typically gouge for larger drives, I buy systems with the smallest drive offered and get a larger one elsewhere. That lets me clone what I want from the original drive on to the bigger one and stash the original away so that I can put it back system if I need to return the computer for service or replace it.

Steven Avery:
Thanks, guys!


xtabber, your situation is very similar

when you image the c: do you bother with things like the small FAT and Recovery partitions with the C: OS?


Macrium apparently simply did not want to keep up with the Linux and liked extra functionality in using Windows PE (perhaps stuff like working with the saved files or restore alternatives?).  However there are various flavors of PE for different Windows OS, so it does not make sense for the quick and simple restoring of an image.  There seems to be more possibilities for glitching out in making the CD as well. They even inquired of their customer base, with mixed returns. They sort of said .. well use the older version 5.x but that is a kludge method AND every time I found what was supposed to be a 5.x version it started to install .. as 6.x.  I really liked them otherwise.


The cloning idea is good.  My fav local store in Hyde Park showed me how he does that for anything he sells (also he mentioned the Apricorn cable).  However, a clone tends to require the same system, or one identical or close to identical, to be sure of working, so it does not seem to have much advantage for me over the simpler placing of an image on a Terabyte drive, or two. Wouldn't the burner test puter have to be pretty similar, more than just disk save? 

Ideally, I will use redundancy, e.g two image programs, and two externals.   Since the actual image can be done from Windows, the 15-30 minutes mean little, although I try to keep the system steady.  They claim to be able to image while you work, (some sort of snapshot technology?) .. I am not sure if that is a fine idea.  So far, I have not seen a need to shell out for actually making the image. Your thoughts?

What you are saying now sounds like a custom unattended install setup.  For example when I was at IBM we had a Dos boot disk with networking software and a menu program.  You booted the PC which automatically logged onto the network to access OS and other software images.  A simple console menu was shown.  You picked the one with the combination of OS, networking and other software you wanted installed and hit Enter.  Go get a coffee.  :)

On a smaller scale something similar may be possible with NLite or a similar tool.


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