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best image backup method with multiple partitions on a disk

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Recovery partition? If you have your Windows installation DVD or image of it separate, you have all the required drivers for your machine and installers (or portable versions of your favorite/needed tools? (on any other partition than C:\) Then don't bother with your recovery partition...because you have everything you need to re-install your 'puter from scratch.

But that little partition in front of all other partitions, that is used by your Windows installation during booting of your system (it contains information essential for Windows to operate). If you don't have it, you have a nasty time getting Windows to start at all. While there are tools and instructions for handling that problem, it is not a given that any of these methods will work. What it will be: a huge time-sink and no 100% guarantee your system will be online.

So if you have such a small partition, do not forget to include it in your imaging procedures.

All versions of Windows (after XP) create by default such a small partition (when you install Windows from scratch on an empty or emptied hard disk). Only when you use a tool such as GParted to create the partitions beforehand (leaving no space for that little partition) you could install Windows without this little partition. In that case it is possible that during the installation procedure you will get a window asking you for permission to create this little partition. When you deny this, the installation procedure will continue and you won't have to worry about that little partition again.

What also helps is to know that you are not allowed to create more than four 'Primary' partitions (with the MBR system) on a hard disk. That little partition is actually a 'Primary' partition. But if you already divide up those 4 'Primary' partitions with a tool such as GParted, Windows Won't make this little partition either (because it isn't allowed to). That will help you getting rid of that little partition too.

You can have more than 4 partitions on any hard disk if you so desire. Occupy all 'Primary partitions, on the remainder of storage space you need to create a big 'Extended' partition in which you create 'Logical' partitions. Old school, but it works just fine and all partition software are able to work with such a setup without any problem. Most people have enough options with those 4 'Primary' partitions...but there are more possibilities for freaks like me.  ;)

Dual boot would not be the option I would go for. Easier to create a Virtual Machine and either "link" inside the VM to your separate partitions for programs, data and TEMP. That way you can use your tools and/or data directly in the host PC and the VM if you so desire. Oracle's VirtualBox software allows you create hard coded links to the partitions on the host. I make heavily use of that functionality, because it allows me to have multiple partitions inside any of my VMs. My host runs Windows Server 2012 R2 and I often have a Windows 7 VM, a Windows XP VM and/or a Windows Server 2008 R2 VM active. And I can use practically all portable applications in any of these VMs (simultaneously!) even though there is only one instance of these portable applications available on the D:\ partition of the host. Saves me a boatload of storage space and all my tweaks/configurations I only have to do once.

At least now you have a (hopefully) clear(er) idea of my freakishness.  :D


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