Image / ghost a hard disk

I’m installing a new PC from scratch, following system disk crash on my old one. Luckily, just about everything is on backup, so little or no data was lost. It helps that I keep my system and data on separate disks as well.

However, the re-install will take a few hours at least, and more likely a few days. I have quite a few programs and utilities installed, and setting them all up does take time.

Preparing for the future, I purchased two identical hard drives (Western Digital, 320GB). My plan is to have one installed as the system disk. The other one will be installed with the essential minimum (for me – still over a dozen or so proggies)., and will be placed as a backup out of the PC. In case of future system disk crash, all I will have to do is plug the backup instead of the main system disk, and continue working until the crash is fixed. In addition, I may backup data to this disk on a monthly basis (plug in, backup, plug out).

Anyway, here’s my question: I would prefer to install all the programs to one of the disks, and then image / ghost / mirror (not sure about the proper term) to the other one, so that after a (relative) short time, I’ll have two exact copies of the same disk. What is the best way to achieve it? Free programs get bonus points.

For reference: it’s a PC running XP SP2. Both disks are SATA2. I have a few more HDs (both SATA and IDE), but these are basically out of the picture until installation is finished.

Can you have both hooked up to the computer at the same time? If so, one free, relatively easy solution is a program called G4L (Ghost for Linux, but it does work on Windows as well). It’s a little complicated, but free and easy once you figure it out. After writing most of this, I realize that from your OP, you seem to know your way around computer, and apologize if any of this sounds like I think you don’t know what your doing.

First, you need to download and burn the CD from . Look for the “.iso” file.
Next burn that to a CD using whatever software you have to burn CDs. You have to look for the option to burn an image/ISO, not just burning the file to the CD. I don’t know your software, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find. After you burn it, look at whats on it, and if it’s just the .iso file, you did it wrong.

After that, restart the computer and it should boot from the CD. It will bring up a menu of things in a list, with a 60 second timer. Just hit enter, or you can wait for it to time out. It will load stuff for a while, then come up with a few screens of information. Hit enter until it brings you to a command line where you can type things, that looks like “-bash-3.2#”.
Type “g4l” and hit enter. It will pop up with some more information, and just hit enter again.
It brings up a menu with 4 options, “Raw Mode”, “File Mode”, “Utilities” and “Show Help”. Select “Raw”, and you get the option of “network use” or “local use”, “Click’n’Clone”, and “Show Help”. You can hit “Click’n’Clone”.
From there, hit “Select Source” and, assuming the drive to copy is master, in the first spot of your computer, and the drive to be copied to is disk 2, select “Sda”. For target, select “Sdb”. Use whichever labels are appropriate, Sda being the first drive, Sdb being second, Sdc would be third, etc…
Then, hit “Click’n’Clone” to start, and wait a while.

If you need clarification, I can probably help… I’m not so good at teaching people, so I might have left out something important.

My recommendation is Acronis True Image. Simple and easy to use. Not free, but sometimes you have to pay for good. :wink:

Are these both internal hard drives? If so why are you unplugging one and removing it after a backup?

Also, with two identical hard drives I would just setup RAID-1 (mirroring) and all your troubles are solved. The chances of BOTH hard drives having catastrophic failure simultaneously is very low. If one dies the other is still there and good to go. Break the mirror, use good hard drive and buy another one to replace the dead one and re-establish the mirror. Depending on what is running the RAID this can even improve system performance a bit (read access can occur on both disks giving a boost to load times).

If all you want to do is backup data then an external hard drive might suit you better or a pile of CD-ROMs you burn to.

The problem with images is that on paper they seem great but only really work when you re-image onto an identical computer. If down the road you buy a new PC and it has a different motherboard and video card and so on you may find your “old” disk drive won’t run things (wrong drivers).

Acronis TrueImage works well, but is not free.

A very good free alternative is the basic version of XXCLONE:

Both of these work while you’re in Windows, so you don’t have to reboot to get a bootable full backup.

Thanks for the info, guys!
Aserrann, I do know my way around the computer, but have never had any experience with Linux (I did work on workstations running Unix, though).
For me, what you describe whispers: “Boot CD, powerful, packed with options”. And that means: “I want!”.
I am a little wary, though, about the drive names. I wouldn’t want to mirror the empty drive to the installed one… Are the sdX names correlated to the window names somehow? Or should I simply ls both drives first?

danceswithcats, I do pay for better stuff. However, in this case I don’t expect to run in again (save for catastrophes) until the next sys upgrade in 2 or 3 years. And I prefer not to pay the 50$ or so for a one-time thing.

Whack-a-Mole, it’s probably not a rational thought, but I will never feel safe with a Raid array of less that 3 disks. Also, keeping the backup disk at a different physical location has added security, as it will keep it safe in cases that the Raid won’t (kid dropping an anvil on the PC, fire, lighting, etc.). And finally, I have 4 HDs + 2 DVD burners installed. It won’t be easy finding the place for an extra disk permanently.

control-z, that sounds like a nice simple solution, and I think I’ll give it a try.
Does their warning (we will mirror your Windows and all, but won’t guarantee it will work if the progs will check the HD sig) global?

I believe each hard drive has a unique (unchangeable?) ID, and if particular software is written that way, it will insist on needing re-activated if you try to run it on a different drive. I don’t think that’s very common though.

‘ls’ would probably be safest… for windows names, it would usually be, sda is C, sdb is D, or whatever, but it’s not tied to it. The surest would actually be to look at your hardware, and see which drive is plugged into port 1, port 2, etc…

What I’d suggest is to to create disk images and just save them on the second harddrive rather than simply cloning or setting up raid.

Let me explain. I do this with Norton ghost, however I believe Acronis True Image has pretty much the same functionality - and I’d recommend that (I hate Norton, just happen to have it). You set it up to backup your harddrive maybe once a month, and this will just be saved as one big file on the second harddrive, and also have it do an incremental backup every day - or even every couple of hours if it suits your fancy. The incremental backups will likely only be something like 10mb each - only the data that has changed since the last incremental backup. This way you’ll be able to restore your system exactly as it was at any point in time. Its like windows ‘system restore’ but much more foolproof, it actually works. This is helpful because hardware failure is not the only issue, if you ever get a virus or something, you can just put your computer back to a few days ago - raid can’t help in this situation. Once the second HDD gets full of backups it’ll start overwriting old ones from the start.

These programs come with a CD that you can boot the computer off to restore the disk, so if the original hdd fails you just replace it and restore the backup with the boot CD. (theres no requirement to have the same size HDD or anything either)

Of course if you’re planning on filling that HDD up there’ll be no room for multiple backups - and straight cloning, or raid, is probably better/easier.

Acronis has a 15 day trial you can use to burn a quick drive clone and set it aside.

Since this is a new machine, does the board have SATA RAID support?

If so you can probably set up a software RAID mirror and use it to keep a backup.

If you want to update your backup, just, shut down, plug the drive in, reboot, and let the RAID synch the drives.