Clone hard drive for future use
June 14, 2008 6:47 AM   Subscribe

My XP Home running laptop hard drive has started making clicking and grinding sounds. Previous questions cover cloning the hard drive. This is more desirable than reinstalling everything or just backing up My Documents and Settings. Is it possible to create a clone or an image or something that is stored on my home server indefinitely, so that once my hard drive does die I can use it to recreate the current settings on a new drive?
posted by billtron to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The clone is definitely better. It saves you the effort needed to reinstall everything by hand, piece by piece. Plus, if you don't back up everything, I guarantee you will discover that some important file was not stored in My Documents. I just lost my email address book that way.

Your drive will fail soon enough. If you wait, it's pretty much a given that you will lose the work between your last backup and the failure. You should switch right away.

Otherwise, any good cloning software will let you store an image on a server.
posted by gmarceau at 7:29 AM on June 14, 2008

Use DriveImage XML to make a clone of your hard drive on the fly from within windows.
It's free, too.
posted by PowerCat at 8:08 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not free, but Norton Ghost does exactly what you want. I haven't used the newer versions, but the older versions are tried and true.

The newer versions now claim to have the ability to maintain differential and incremental backups- you do one big backup, and then do smaller ones every day that only update the files that have changed. When the drive goes belly up, you use all those backups to restore the new drive. If it works, your system will be exactly how it was at the point of the last restore point.

Windows Home Server also seems to have this capability, but I haven't played with it.
posted by gjc at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2008

About US $30 more than the other drive imagers, and not widely known, ShadowProtect got a rave review from PCMag in March 08 for ease of use, reliability, speed, and, more interestingly, it's supposed ability to install the drive image to a different computer with different hardware (which would also likely require downloading some new drivers), described on p3 of the review. Since I'm considering going from an XP laptop to a Vista (I know....), this also might be the thing to use to set up a dual boot system.
posted by paphun123 at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2008

If you haven't already gotten those irreplaceable documents off ("My Documents", etc), do so now. You may not have time to dally around finding the best way to clone your hard drive. After you've backed up those documents, proceed with the more difficult options.
posted by knave at 1:11 PM on June 14, 2008

Just FYI, another free cloning application: Macrium Reflect FREE Edition
posted by Boobus Tuber at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2008

Note that some of your data could already be corrupt. I copied data off a dying NTFS formatted drive, with no errors reported or funny sounds from the hard drive. A few months later though, I discovered that quite a few files were corrupt. It was only once I tried to view them (pictures from my camera) that I discovered the corruption.
posted by easyasy3k at 6:43 PM on June 14, 2008

I've used Partimage on SystemRescueCD to back up drive images over SMB before, and it's worked well (apart from having troubles with the compress option when reading badly corrupted discs). If you know, or can work out, how to connect to a Windows share from Linux it's worth a look.
posted by Pinback at 8:29 PM on June 14, 2008

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