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Imaging new hard drive in Windows 7 laptop?

I've got a low-end machine for testing our software. It needs to be tested under various versions of Windows, so I was planning installing each one on its own partition.

Then I realized that after testing our software, I'd want to roll back to the previous, clean state. I don't want to use any virtualization software because it tends to interfere with the workings of our app. That said, what's the best way to achieve my goal? Norton Ghost?

Edit: I work for a pretty monstrously huge organization. Money is no object here (and sometimes, if the wrong people get wind of it, "open source" software is bad).

marked as duplicate by slhck Jul 26 '12 at 17:12

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • A lot of these answers would be better if they were backed up with reasons why they are good and not just a list... – James Mertz Dec 15 '10 at 21:35
  • I feel the same. I guess I'll just wait a couple of days and see which one bubbles to the top with the most votes. :/ – moswald Dec 17 '10 at 14:48

Boot up any livecd and dd you hard drive.

To optimize this solution, do a

dd if=/dev/zero of=/path/to/mounted/disk/zeros.img bs=1024; rm zeros.img This will 'wipe' all of your empty space with zeros. then when you dd, pipe the output to gzip and you'll compress it down to save a lot of space (compresses unused disk space, my 500gb harddrive with 90gb used compresses down to ~55gb using this method)

to restore, just do the opposite. a good reference that shows the whole process http://elevenislouder.blogspot.com/2010/10/manual-backups-in-linux-dd.html

Free tool and if you lose your live-cd, no biggie as its standard stuff that will probably never go away


Adding reasoning to my answer as you haven't chosen the 'correct' answer just as yet.

The main reason I would suggest this method (tho more verbose) over other mentioned, is that almost every single linux machine has the necessary tools to do this type of backup. This includes almost every single (I cannot think of even one that I've tried that doesn't) Live Disc.

There is almost nothing worse than creating your backup, losing your backup software and being 'stuck' with a backup that you cannot use(happened to me w/ Ghost a while back, b4 I really dived into linux...)


See Paragon Backup & Recovery 2010 Free Advanced.

  • nice. i do like paragon tools, but didn't realize there was a free edition. – RobotHumans Dec 15 '10 at 14:55

I really like Acronis Backup & Recovery.

  • 1
    I work for a University and we use Acronis snap deploy. It's easy to work with and works great with as many PC's as you want. Drivers are installed dynamically according the to PC you're installing, which is really nice. You can setup multiple types of deployments (i.e. A Lab PC; Admin PC; Sys Admin PC; etc,.) – James Mertz Dec 15 '10 at 21:42

The open source free alternative is Clonezilla: http://clonezilla.org/


Clonezilla is overkill IMO and not easy to use. Try Macrium Reflect Free


May be a little bit old but in out company we are still using Norton Ghost. Clonezilla is more like "Hey, I'm advanced, fast but not easy" solution most of the time.

Especially on Disk 2 Disk operations. Clonezilla is more complicated than Norton if two disks are same.

  • agreed it can be a pain for some deployments. – RobotHumans Dec 15 '10 at 15:10

If you want a good solution for imaging in general, RIS or WDS would be a good idea, but you will need Active Directory, DNS and DHCP, but if you're testing software you may already have a server with these things. You can then deploy the image you create to any machine.


You can't go past Shadow protect. There is a 30 day trial and it's not terribly expensive.


I don't want to use any virtualization software because it tends to interfere with the workings of our app.

This seems a bit backwards to me. How will your ever get better if you deliberately avoid testing in a virtualized environment? Think of this as an opportunity.

  • Don't be a jackass. You don't know anything about the requirements or runtime environment. Virtualization software is not something we will (ever) support, but even if we did, this machine has specific hardware that we need to test natively without going through a virtual PC's pretend bios and hardware. Thanks for your concern on how we can "get better", though. – moswald Dec 17 '10 at 14:51

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