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I am preparing to reinstall my system. I am thinking about creating a multi boot with a linux distro+Windows 7 to choose from when starting up.

I would love to be able to skip all the hassle of reinstalling Windows and all programs when it starts becoming too slow in the future, thus I would like to mirror my fresh Windows system partition with some programs preinstalled.

I am thinking about installing Ubuntu, making a partition for windows, installing windows with the basic environment (Visual Studio, Office, etc.) then booting into Linux and making an image of the windows partition with dd.

I am not familiar with linux at all so I am a little afraid something may go wrong along the way. Is it possible to do it this way?

  1. Will I be able to partition my existing disk for multi boot easily after I install Ubuntu?
  2. Will I be able to recover the Windows partition easily using dd when I will need to re-create a fresh windows partition in the future?

What other (better) approach can you recommend to achieve the goal of easy disk mirroring (for free)?

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I recently had a similar question and dd didn't work for me. I didn't bother troubleshooting, just did a fresh install.

This answer on my question mentions alternatives, but I can't confirm whether they would be able to restore only your Window partition as I haven't used them.

As for the partitioning for multi-boot, you should install Windows 7 first, then install Ubuntu afterwards. The installer will default to leaving your Windows install intact and installing Ubuntu alongside it, so that's not a major hassle. I'd recommend you size your Windows partition appropriately before installing Windows, so you don't have to resize later to make space for Ubuntu. Partition resizing is generally safe with modern software, but you might as well avoid it if you can.

Another option may be to use the WUBI installer to install Ubuntu. This installs Ubuntu on a virtual filesystem, which lives on your Windows C: (or other) volume. It does not require partitioning. Its a particularly good option if you are just wanting to play around with Ubuntu without major changes to your system. If you later decide you don't want Ubuntu anymore you can simply boot into Windows and uninstall Ubuntu/WUBI just like you would a normal Windows application.

Edit: Windows Vista/7 include can make a full image of the system which can be restore easily later, this may be another option rather than dd or other 3rd party disk cloning utilities. This is only available in the Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate editions, so it might not help you.

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Thanks for your advice, very helpful! Will the Ubuntu installed on the C: partition using WUBI be able to make a dd snapshot of the C: partition? :) –  Marek May 22 '10 at 11:15
    
I very much doubt it, dd should never be used on a mounted filesystem. If you have Windows 7 Pro/Enterprise/Ultimate, you could install Windows + WUBI and then take a full system image backup in Windows which would include WUBI. –  ThatGraemeGuy May 22 '10 at 11:18
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