I have a hard drive in my laptop that is about to fail and I want to clone it to an external hard drive which is a lot larger than the laptop. I hope this to be a onetime thing, but just in case I want to keep that memory open. I would like the use the external hard to store photos, files and other media as a norm. I was thinking it would be best to partition the drive to keep the two things separate. Please advise!
First, I don't think you need to do any partitioning on the drive, unless you have a specific reason to do so. Most drive cloning software can clone a drive to an image, which is an exact replica of the drive at the point it was cloned. I don't think there would be any value to cloning a drive to another partition, instead of an image.
Is the hard drive you intend to clone the same one that runs the laptop's operating system? (I would assume yes, since most laptops have only one hard drive). If so, how are you intending to mount the drive for imaging? Will you be running the imaging software on the laptop itself, or will you be taking the drive out of the laptop and then imaging it?
If you're running the imaging software off the laptop, it is likely to be trickier than taking the drive out of the laptop and then imaging it. With that said, however, in either case, you might be able to do the clone using something like DriveImage XML, which is a personal favorite of mine. DriveImage XML can "hot image" the drive while it is running, and it writes out two files: one XML file with the drive contents, and one .DAT file that is the actual image.
If you use a product like Symantec System Recovery you can create an image of the failing drive that you can restore to a new one easily. It will even restore to different hardware in gerneral. and you can browse the contents using a Windows Explorer type interface. The image becomes one or two files so no need to partition. You would treat it as any file
You can also convert it to a Virtual Machine for Hyper-V or VMware.
It is also a great general backup tool for secheduled or on demand backups. There is a trial version available.