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I have windows XP and windows 7. I want to create a recovery partition with a custom back up image on my hard disk. I know that Acronis can be used to create one but I want to do it using freeware. Any idea?

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I suggest using Clonezilla. It should be possible to use GRUB to boot to a partition dedicated to Clonezilla, but I suggest backing up to an external hard drive from the live disc. Then you can go back into the advanced backup menu and turn the backed up image into a bootable DVD (or span multiple discs if needed). That way you can have a DVD or two tucked away in a safe place to reintall either XP, 7 or both quickly.

I've used Clonezilla and know it's very reliable. When I was upgrading my second hard drive, I imaged it to my external and swapped the new disk in and restored the image. I also have a bootable Clonezilla disk that I made of a clean Windows 7 installation with all my laptop's drivers installed so I don't have to spend time through the installer and then getting the drivers set up. Cuts a two-day task down to a couple hours.

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The awesome thing about Clonezilla is that you can back up to a nearby network shared drive, such as on a NAS device, or another computer in your house. Then, you can restore your system by referring to that network location. Its awesome. – djangofan Jul 22 '11 at 16:29

You could install a lightweight Linux onto a small partition, and use dd to copy the Windows 7 partition into an image. Though, you need as much diskspace for the image as the original partition has.

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You can try a utility recommended on Lifehacker called selfimage.

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I use a tool called drive XML (free for personal use):


  • it backs up live partitions;
  • it can be run from the command line; and
  • although it's an image, you can look into the archive and get specific files out.

I run a cron job that does a complete backup of my C: drive once a week, and that gets copied to an external hard disk. The best part is, it requires no intervention on my part, so I can't forget to do the backup.

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a recovery partition is really just a bootable (often linux based) partition with a second one for the backups.

I'd want at least two to three partitions - one for my system and one for backups - this would help with system issues, but not hardware failure.

I'd rather use a windows native backup software - for example, my personal favourite, macrium reflect free - tho almost anything with a linux based restore method would work. The advantage with a windows native software is, well, you don't need to backup, and there's some degree of partitioning. Since a restore partition is a snapshot, incrementals and differentials are less important.

I'd then make a restore CD (and keep it somewhere safe), confirm it works on my hardware (some restore disks have two versions - often one will work and another won't, and they don't generally 'make' isos), and run unetbootin on an iso of it to have it as a boot option.

If the worst happened, i could point it at my backup, and restore.

There's a second possibility - If you run windows 7 (and presumably future versions) BCD can boot from vhd files - you can do a backup to VHD with Disk2vhd then set it up to boot with with easybcd

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