Practical computer tips, with a smattering of digital philosophy

Monthly Archives: December 2009

A how-to guide for cloning and imaging entire partitions and hard disks: move and recover data as losslessly as possible

If you have a hard drive that’s dead or dying, and need to retrieve every scrap of data you can from the deceased disk, or if you simply want to move the contents of an entire partition to a larger drive without completely destroying the OS installation on that drive, you have two options.  You could shell out about $50 for a purportedly industrial-strength imaging application such as Norton Ghost or Acronis, which probably will have all sorts of anti-piracy protections which will make the program nearly impossible to use (believe me – I’ve tried them).  Or you could simply spend the next five minutes reading this how-to guide, which will (hopefully) show you how to unlock the full data-transfering power of a Linux boot CD.  What follows is a pared-down summary of countless hours of experimentation, research, and further trial-and-error on my part, so rest assured that I’m not recommending anything that I haven’t tried and tested – successfully – on many, many machines.

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