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Windows 7: Creating duplicate installations of Windows 7 on one PC


17 Nov 2013   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
 
 
Creating duplicate installations of Windows 7 on one PC

I posted about this in another thread, but it was in the middle of other stuff, a bit off the thread topic, and didn't really get addressed, so I am starting a new thread to ask for advice. (The only other threads I have found on this subject are more about creating duplicate installations across multiple PCs)..

My O/S is on a 128GB SSD. Having just had a total failure of the other SSD (Corsair 128GB) in my setup, I want to create an exact duplicate of my current SSD Windows installation on my SSHD drive. It's a long time since I tried any form of multi-boot (in the early days of XP), so just want to run this past folks here..

Actually, I don't exactly want a multi-boot of course. I want the second installation just to be there as an emergency copy, so that I can still boot up if my remaining SSD fails, taking my current boot drive with it. I already have an up-to-date image of the Reserved Partition/C Drive. Can I just install that to a suitably sized primary partition on my SSHD drive (new, empty so far) via Recovery Options? If the Hard Drive boot order still has my SSD as first boot priority, there shouldn't be a problem I am guessing? Windows isn't going to get confused about which active boot partition to use??

On the other hand, maybe having two active boot partitions is risky? Should I get Partition Manager to hide the emergency installation rather than just leave it? And if I run the 'Recovery' operation via the Windows DVD, should I unplug my SSD first, to avoid any problems?? Or is there a better way of achieving this?

If doing this is going to produce unforeseen problems, I could I suppose just create the SSHD partition and install into it from the current boot drive image only if/when the SSD gives up the ghost one day.

What do any gurus here recommend as the best/most user-friendly option?

Thanks,

Martin

My System SpecsSystem Spec
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17 Nov 2013   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult. x64 Windows 8.1 x64
 
 

Hi Martin.

It sounds like a clone of the existing SSD is the way to go. However, I would leave the drive disconnected to avoid potential issues with boot managers.

An alternative is to store the image of this SSD on an external USB drive, which can then easily be restored to a new SSD when required.

Not sure what your preference is, but I would recommend Macrium Reflect for both options, since it's ease of use and reliability is well regarded here.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
 
 

Hi. Thanks.. I can't leave the drive disconnected (I assume you mean the one with the backup installation on it, once I've created it, rather than what I meant - disconnect the SSD boot drive while installing the backup instance of Windows and use the Windows disc to put the boot image onto the SSHD), as the spare Windows install would be on a small (say 80GB) partition at the start of this SSHD. The rest of the drive (1TB) would be divided into two logical partitions and used for other stuff.

The idea is, should the SSD fail, I can simply switch HDD boot order in the BIOS from the SSD to the SSHD at boot.

I do have Macrium Reflect but don't think I have ever used it.. would have to have a look at it. Is the native Windows restore option not sufficient for this?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


17 Nov 2013   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult. x64 Windows 8.1 x64
 
 

Ok. I understand. I've never kept a fully functional 2nd bootable OS on a 2nd drive (apart from a Linux distribution) so I can't with confidence say whether there would be conflicts or not, but I expect not since the boot order will be controlled by your selection in the BIOS.

As far as Macrium is concerned, many find that easier to work with, and some people report issues when using the native Windows imaging functionality, although there are a few people here who do use it exclusively. I only use Macrium hence that tends to be my preference.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #5

Windows 7 Professional x64 Linux Mint 16
 
 

I would install each OS 1 at a time while you have each hd/ssd unplugged, that way you can connect them both and control the boot from the bios.

Sounds like you`ve worked it out fine.

I don`t know if I`d use a backup program to do it, I`d just get 1 install done then work on the 2nd til you have them both where you want them, what are you gonna do about activation ? You`ll need keys for both installs.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Nov 2013   #6
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

The big disadvantage of cloning the system today to the SSHD is that if your SSD goes belly up in 6 months from now (which is sort of rare for a SSD), your cloned system is completely out of sync with the system on the SSD at that time.

I would suggest that you make weekly images to an external disk. Also hold an empty primary, active partition ready on the SSHD to where you can dump the latest image any time. That dumping takes only 20 minutes on average. Make sure the SSHD empty partition is large enough to accomodate C from the SSD.

For the imaging and recovery you use, of course, free Macrium. There is no better imaging program.

Imaging with free Macrium
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Nov 2013   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit sp1
 
 

I would certainly agree with whs. Having a duplicate or cloned copy will very soon get out of date, unless you keep on regularly making a cloned copy. A duplicate copy will suffer from the same problem. Things like Windows Updates will soon get along way behind. Also as mentioned is the problem with licenses.

Doing a weekly image using Macrium Reflect as suggested is definitely the best way to go. I use Macrium & run a weekly image to an USB 3.0 external HD. In my case, the imaging of my Samsung 250gb SSD takes less than 5 minutes & about another 5 to verify it.

The other advantage with imaging is you can keep more than 1 weeks image at any time. So you could have say 2 or 3 images stored in case the latest one failed. Also you can make more than 1 image if you are worried about how safe the storage of them is. For example you can have one on one of your internal HD's & perhaps a second one on an external HD.

Just some food for thought.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Nov 2013   #8

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
 
 

The fact that the backup O/S partition would become out of date did occur to me of course, but as I make a new C drive image every few weeks (this is a PC used almost solely for Microsoft Flight Simulator and I don't think, Windows updates apart, the content of the C drive changes all that much over time: FS9/FSX and associated programmes are installed on their own dedicated partitions) it could easily be updated with my latest image if I needed to use the backup as my main boot drive.

I think the best option really, as I said at the end of my post (and as whs said), is the simplest: just leave a suitable empty partition at the start of the SHDD into which I can copy my latest RP/C drive image if necessary.

The only problem I have had in the past with the native Windows 7 restore function is that if the image I want to restore is not the one that was last created, Windows won't find it. (I too create the images on an external HDD). Is that a known issue?

SSD failure may be rare, but having just had one go (with all my FS9 installation on it), I want to be prepared in case the other one (with O/S) follows suit. Luckily I back up my FS9/FSX folders via 'one-click' batch scripts almost every day, so when I get my new drive installed I should be good to go pretty quickly. That's the theory, anyway!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Nov 2013   #9
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Quote:
just leave a suitable empty partition at the start of the SHDD into which I can copy my latest RP/C drive image if necessary
That's the way to go. And don't use Windows imaging (that really sucks). Use free Macrium. that will never let you down.

And copy the bootmgr from the 100MB system partition to C. Then you have to only deal with image/restore of C.

Bootmgr - Move to C:\ with EasyBCD
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Nov 2013   #10

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
 
 

And copy the bootmgr from the 100MB system partition to C. Then you have to only deal with image/restore of C.

I did that once, on advice from these forums, using exactly the link you posted, and it made such a mess of my PC I could have wept - it went immediately from taking just 45 seconds to reboot completely to taking some five minutes: the boot process used to wait for ever at the 'Starting Windows' screen. Spent days trying to get things back to how they were - even an image restore from before the change did nothing to help. As far as I can recall, I had to completely reinstall to get things back to normal. I dare say the thread, full of my tears, is still here!

Would never try that again and although many may do this with no problem, I would very strongly advise others to beware of doing any such thing. The process went exactly as in the thread you reference, but it was a disaster for me.

Why do you say the Windows 7 native imaging restore sucks? I've never had any problem with it at all. I'll look at Macrium though, I do have it on a DVD somewhere.

As for the backup installation - that's what I will do; it's risk free...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Creating duplicate installations of Windows 7 on one PC




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