What's the best way to make a perfect mirror of my computer's hard drive?
July 30, 2004 6:41 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to make a perfect mirror of my computer's hard drive? (more inside)

I have no backup routine for my computer at work, which runs NT 4.0. (Our IT group is only willing to back up documents to the network. You're on your own with the rest of your hard drive.) So I'm thinking about bringing in a cheap USB HD enclosure and a spare drive from home. This will also be useful for taking work home. But what's the easiest way to backup the entire drive, OS and all, so that the USB HD is a perfect mirror of my work desktop HD -- and will I be able to get my home computer's BIOS to boot the USB drive first? I know how to do that with IDE drives, but does it being a USB drive make a difference?
posted by luser to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
You can make an exact image of your hard drive with such programs as Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image, or Drive Snapshot.

As for getting your home computer to boot from your USB drive, first it depends on whether your home computer can boot from USB at all. Check in your BIOS settings. If not, you can always take the hard drive out of the enclosure and put it in your computer.

But another problem is that your home computer's hardware is probably different from your work computer's hardware, so Windows might not boot properly. I seem to recall a workaround for this by using generic drivers. Do a google search on "windows different motherboard" or variants thereof.

Do you really need to back up the whole harddrive? Why not just your files?
posted by TheIrreverend at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2004

No, I don't think that you can boot from a USB drive. If you don't mind cracking the case open and connecting an internal IDE drive (I'm assuming it's IDE), then you can use Ghost.
posted by adampsyche at 7:48 AM on July 30, 2004

I don't think that you can boot from a USB drive.
Depends on the machine - I'm pretty sure that my laptop has the option to boot from USB (although I've never tried it), but I agree with TheIrreverend that it probably wouldn't boot up properly due to the difference in hardware.
posted by etc at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2004

you can boot from a usb machine, but it is bios dependent. i had to install the os for numerous machines that did not have any floppy or cdrom drives, and i used a combination of usb cdrom and networking (pxe) booting to accomplish this.
posted by lescour at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2004

Oh, that's right. I do have usb boot on my mobo, i never bothered to notice it.

The problem is, though, if the program will recognize it. SATA wasn't supported in Ghost until the latest version, and even then it works spottily. I'm skeptical, but would be impressed if those programs would recognize a USB drive.
posted by adampsyche at 8:51 AM on July 30, 2004

Of those programs TheIrreverend recommended, I highly suggest Acronis TrueImage. It allows you to create that mirrored disk image while the computer is running its regular routines. No need to reboot into another environment to make your image.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2004

dd will do it, and it's free. Heh. Sorry, you'll probably need to get ahold of a linux bootdisk to use it.


dd if=/dev/hda of=blah.img

and, when restoring (warning, will delete hda!)

dd if=blah.img of=/dev/hd

BTW: If you do use ghost to do the work, ensure you set it to copy every bit. Normally ghost will image the files, directory and partition structure and nothing else. That's all dandy (I prefer it that way) but if you want an *exact* duplicate of the drive, you need it all in there. Otherwise files will be in different places on the hard drive (no, not different places in the directory, just that *STUPID* anti-piracy stuff like intuit used would break, nothing serious).

I've used norton ghost on my SATA drives without trouble, but only for making an image of them, not restoring to them. USB support works only for saving images, nothing else.

If you use ghost, you'll need to adjust the GUID if you are using Win2k or higher if you want things to work perfectly. :-) Win NT 4 I don't know about. I'm going to hedge my bets on no for that one.

NOTE: Ghost will only work properly if you use it from DOS. Don't bother trying to ghost from inside windows.

HTH! (If you have questions, I had to image 200 computers every day using ghost for 2 years [the joys of working for a college].)
posted by shepd at 1:47 PM on July 30, 2004

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