| It seems to me that making a disk image (which disks, C only, or C and
| D?) with disk wizard, would be a good solution. I haven't looked for
| disk wizard yet, it might even be somewhere on my machine. So my
| question is, is this a good solution, and if so what is the best cloning
| program for the unsophisticated, and where can I get it.
There's a lot of information in the thread about that.
I use BootIt ($35). Bob_Villa posted a link to a free
program. You can research others, but you should
probably also do a bit of reading up if you're not
familiar with disk partitioning.
A disk can have primary partitions (normally up
to 4) and logical partitions. Any number of logical
partitions can be in an extended partition, which is
a kind of primary partition. Data and Linux can go on
any partition. Windows can only go on a primary
partition. (The terms really don't matter. They
could just as easily be choc, vanilla and strawberry.
You just need to know how they work.)
I usually put up to 3 primaries on a disk and then
fill the rest with logical data partitions. XP can get by
easily with 5 GB. Vista/7 will likely need at least 20 GB.
(The point being that if you do disk imaging you don't
store data on C drive where it can be lost. C drive is
the cab of your 18-wheeler. Data partitions are your
trailers. If you need to replace the engine you don't
want to lose your cargo.)
So, say for instance that you have Win7 on a 1 TB disk.
You could shrink C drive to, say, 60 GB, then install XP
on another primary partition behind C drive, then put
data partitions behind that. You can then dual boot Win7
and XP. All of that can be done with a typical disk
management program: deleting, resizing, creating partitions.
The part you need to understand is how to do that, in what
order, and why. Most programs will also let you hide one
partition from another, set the active boot partition, etc.
To keep it simple, let's just say you only want Win7
and you just want to image that.
Disk imaging is to make a compressed, single file copy
of a partition that can then be restored to any hard disk.
That's distinct from cloning, which is to copy one disk to
another. For reasons of practicality, it's best to disk image
when your OS is fresh and relatively small. If you can't
fit your image on one or two DVDs (or CDs for XP) then
it will be awkward to keep and restore your disk image.
You say you have C and D. Are they separate partitions
on one disk, or 2 separate disks? Either way, C drive is a
primary partition. Even if it fills the whole disk, it's formatted
as a partition. Disk imaging will make a copy of that *partition*.
If D drive is data you don't need to image it. Just back up
the data to CD/DVD/stick/etc.
In most cases, when you restore a disk image you'll need
at least as much empty space as the original partition took
up. That's another reason not to make your C drive
What I do is to maintain disk images with software installed.
Then I periodically back up App Data settings like email,
address book, Firefox bookmarks, etc. (That's a whole other
topic. Programs can sometimes store data very obscurely
and you need to know where to find it.) I also keep many
data partitions, one of which is basic data that I want to
have backups of. I back that up regularly to CD. Other things,
like my graphics/photos partition, I back up less often.
As a further protection, I use two hard disks. Most of my
data exists in matching partitions on each disk. (Graphics1
and Graphics2, for instance.) I'm not using a RAID array.
Just redundant disks in case one goes suddenly.