I was talking to tech support about cloning all 4 partitions in my Toshiba Satellite A660 laptop to a smaller auxiliary HDD (not creating an image, but a clone -- recoverable image may be in the plans in the future). If the laptop HDD suffers a hardware failure, I can drop the clone into the laptop, be up and running (and source down a new HDD). Alternatively, the newer (faster) HDD can displace the current HDD.
From asking in forums, partition 1 is for booting, partition 2 is the C-drive, and partitions 3 & 4 are for various recovery operations and content. According to experienced posters, Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost will both adjust partition 2 in the cloning process so that all partititions fit in the target HDD, without requiring the partitions to be resized in the source HDD. I find it reassuring that I don't have to mess with the partitions on the source HDD until I've confirmed the integrity & full functionality of all partitions in the target HDD.
However, one Toshiba forum poster said that shrinking partition 2 causes partitions 3 & 4 to start at lower locations, and he found that the recovery functionality was lost. I didn't ask for further details but there are two functions he could be referring to: (1) the creationg of recovery discs using a dedicated Toshiba app and (2) restoring to factory state (Toshiba's are designed to do this by pressing 0 during power up). I want to retain both functions (1) and (2) in the clone.
As an alternative to on-the-fly resizing, Tech support suggested shrinking partition 2 on the source HDD before cloning, reassuring me that it is safe and common practice. In fact, Windows 7 includes functionality for adjusting partitions.
I am new to disk management and don't have a detailed picture of how partition shrinkage works. I imagine my C-drive partition to have content scattered throughout the partition, even though I use a miniscule portion of the capacity. Even after a defrag, you can't assume that all the content is compressed to the bottom of the partition, and when you boot up, who knows at where in the partition the OS is utilizing disk space from.
My main question is: How is it that you can shrink a C-drive partition without fear of amputating content in the space that becomes unused space?
P.S. In a related note (related to the context of the above question, that is), is there a way to test the 2 recovery functions of the cloned partitions 3 & 4? For (1), I can burn recovery discs again, but it seems a waste (and I'd have to figure out how to compare them with my existing recovery discs). For (2), I'd have to perform a disc-less recovery, which I don't really want to do. I like having my current system state (though I suppose if it's just the clone HDD that reverts to factory state, no big deal). I'm wondering if there is a simpler, faster indicator of correct functionality.