This question is a (belated) follow-up to my previous question about restoring Windows 10 to an empty disk using a Windows recovery USB. That, unfortunately, isn't possible.

Now, I'm hoping to make a complete image of the drive (an SSD on /dev/nvme0n1), delete all partitions and the partition table and clear the drive completely, do some other things (install Linux, etc.), then, if necessary, wipe the drive and partition table again and restore the image to get Windows 10 back to its current state.

Is this possible with Clonezilla, or will the structure that Microsoft uses on the disk cause problems, e.g. the separate boot and recovery partitions?

I'm asking instead of just trying this myself because if I try this and the restore doesn't work, I've completely hosed this machine as far as Windows is concerned, and since it's an OEM installation, I don't have any installation media to restore it back to its original state.

If this is possible, is there anything specific I should be aware of when I make the image? Any special command I need to use with Clonezilla? Like I said, I'm trying to get all the details ironed out before I attempt this and possibly screw up the machine.

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    You can always download Windows installation files directly from Microsoft, even from Linux. If your PC came with Windows 10, it has an embedded key that Setup will detect automatically. Furthermore, activations on the same hardware will be automatically restored even without a product key. – Daniel B Sep 2 '17 at 22:52
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    When you make the backup, make sure you backup and restore all partitions. If you only backup and restore the Windows partition you will be left rebuilding the boot partition from scratch. – Appleoddity Sep 2 '17 at 23:09

Can Clonezilla restore a Windows 10 image to a completely empty drive?

Absolutely! CloneZilla performs bit-for-bit imaging of whatever you instruct it to back up, whether that be a single partition or an entire drive.

According to CloneZilla's product description page:

Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the hard disk. This increases the clone efficiency.

So technically it only does bit-for-bit copy over occupied portions of the disk (which gets 100% of the data on the disk), but if you have a lot of extra time on your hands and are feeling a little paranoid, you can force CloneZilla to do a sector-by-sector copy in Advanced mode by enabling the -q1 switch.

To copy an installation of Windows 10 to another drive (or back to the same drive) you'll want to image the entire disk. This will capture the several partitions that make up an instance of Windows. Also, when restoring the image be sure to answer Yes to the question about restoring the boot loader.

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