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Neither the recovery CD copied from the original hard drive nor a subsequently provided Win 7 installation CD result in a full scale installation. I had to go through a rather large number of searches, downloads and installations in order to obtain a fully workable installation that included Ethernet, WiFi, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 and a few other drivers. I want to preserve this OS on a bootable CD in order not to have to go through the whole, very tedious, procedure again and also be able to copy it to a larger HDD in my laptop in the future.

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Look at Norton ghost, Acronis, FOG or similar imaging systems. Keep the resulting backup in a safe place (e.g. NOT on the host you just backupped).

Then create a simple boot CD (or bootable DVD) with the restore programs and the image on it.

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The is not really going to be possible. Windows 7 is in the neighborhood of 20+ GB with nothing installed. That is already bigger than all DVDs and CDs. If you want to just preserve the boot partition, get a hard drive that is large enough, and just clone the partition to the HD.

When someone goes wrong, just copy the partition back.

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It is slightly less horrible. A windows 7 (ultimate, x64) install plus various programs (putty, firefox, open office, java, opera, vmware etc) is about 16GB. Programs such as ghost allow you to use compression on the image and allow you to split it in parts. So two DVDs (the regular 4.4GB kind) will probably suffice. – Hennes Jul 8 '12 at 16:19

What you want is not going to work as is. You can looking into creating a Windows Preinstallation Environment if you absolutely need it to be bootable, but you will likely run into more issues than it is worth.

Instead, for the situation you described you have two more practical options (both of which can be saved to DVD(RW)s:

  • Backup a copy of all of your driver installation files so that you have them available from now on without having to re-find/download them
  • Make a cloned backup of your current installation so that you can restore it in the future as though nothing happened. There are plenty of drive-imaging programs available, but there are a few popular free ones:
    • DriveImage XML is quite popular and Windows based
    • CloneZilla is a Linux based tool that can be run from a bootable CD/flash drive
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