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I'm a reformat freak and I reformat almost every month for one reason or another. I have a small (32 GB) C:\ partition for Windows and some programs and keep everything else on different partitions and/or hard disks that I never format.

Next time I'm doing this I would like to take an image of C:\ after I installed and configured Windows and my programs so that I can restore it at will, and it must be EXACTLY the same as it was when I took the image.

Obviously it cannot be done while Windows is running (or at least I think so) since the contents of the hard drive would change. So maybe I should boot Linux from a Live CD or something and use that?

How would I take and/or restore this image?

OS is Windows 7

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you know that storing a disc image stores the filesystem format, right? if your intention is to get a fresh filesystem, this won't do it. (it will restore the filesystem at the time the image was taken, so maybe that's "good enough" for your purposes.) – quack quixote Nov 8 '09 at 4:46
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You didn't tell us what operating system you're running. In Windows 7 there is a built in imaging tool. If you're not running 7 there's plenty of third party tools for this, booth free and payed. A good free one is Macrium Reflect. You don't have to reboot when doing the image, only when restoring it, in that case you use a restore CD which you can use the imaging software to create.

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I use windows 7.. Googled and found intowindows.com/using-windows-7-image-backup-tool, thanks – Andreas Bonini Nov 7 '09 at 23:40

I would personally recommend using Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.5...it does cost a few bucks but it is well worth it.

If you are technically inclined then I would say use dd (*nix command). Just BE SURE that your if and of are right :). This would be an example:

dd if=/dev/sdc1 of=/home/user/image.img

dd would make a sector by sector copy of the hard drive (or partition in the example).

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+1 ... can't beat it :) – Molly7244 Nov 8 '09 at 2:35
    
if you're gonna try dd gnu ddrescue has a less arcane syntax – Journeyman Geek Nov 8 '09 at 10:25

Clonezilla and FSArchiver are free. Drive Image is paid-for but lets you backup whilst using the PC and also preserves the disk alignment of a partition if you are restoring to a SSD.

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