Back-up to External Drive

Posted on 2006-04-29
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I have a laptop computer in which I would like to backup the hard drive to an external usb drive.  In my desktop, I use Partition Magic to unallocate the backup hard drive and then Drive Image to clone the hard drive.  If I crash, I can clone it back to a new hard drive and be back where I started.

Can I unallocate a usb external drive and do the same thing?  Is there a better way to make a full backup and then restore?
Question by:fayb

    Expert Comment

    Hi fayb, I don't think it is a question of whether you could do the same on an external USB drive rather than finding a more efficient way of doing a full backup.

    First of all, it depends on how many applications you are running on your machine and how often you uninstall them and install new ones. The reason I ask was because, through my own habit of regularly updating and looking to install/trial newer software, I am more likely to cause a lot of residual clutter within "gaps and cracks" in the Windows Registry and the usual directories. For that matter, I am more likely to clean-install a lot of stuff quite often and even the OS, once in a while. I do not personally practise cloning the whole drive as I prefer to stay on top of good housekeeping to minimise downtime bar a HDD crash.

    If you are in a similar situation as I am, then I suggest that you may like to consider looking at what I do, for backing up data.

    1.  I regularly backup/update onto rewritable_DVDs (formatted and used like 1.44MB floppy disks, except that a 4.3GB DVD has over 3,000 times more storage capacity) my personal and work data.

    2.  I reserve a complete partition on the main HDD for installing all other software into (instead of the Windows default Program Files directory. I categorise applications into separate directories (since I have a couple of hundred programs installed at any one time) for easy administration. I leave the OS on its own partition so that when I do need to clean-install the OS, many of the files/backup files/logs and etc would not be affected should I require to reformat the partition where the OS is installed. I may have to reinstall most of the applications anyway but I have an installation footprint in their undisturbed directories for that matter.

    3.  For my backups and archives, my setup is a 300GB SATA2 (3Gb/s) 16MB-cache HDD connected externally through the PCMCIA SATA card on my laptop. This is a lot quicker than the USB 2.0 interface and more "hot-pluggible" as well because of the SATA connection. This SATA2 HDD setup transfers data up to 3 times faster (bottle-necked only at the 1.5Mb/s PCMCIA SATA card) than my resident 60GB HDD inside my (AMD64 mobile-Athlon 3200+ processor) laptop itself. I could almost run everything from this external HDD when I'm not out and about with my laptop.

    In order for you to utilise your backup cloned drive, just make sure you have at least a dual-OS setup to access the backup device as well as the corrupted drive or partition in question.

    Hope this helps.


    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    Fayb, external usb2 drives are very popular for storing backups.  But, you should distinguish between two different types of backups:  clones (exact copy of original, like what you did), and sector backup images (an image of your partition stored on another physical drive in a compresed file format.)

    Drive Image (which I used to use myself) was bought out by Symantec.  It was Ghost 9, and now Ghost 10.  You can find Ghost 9 on eBay for a very reasonable price (less than $20).

    The advantage of Ghost 9 or 10 backup images is that you can create several backups (one per week or month) and save a few months.  To restore from a failed hard drive, you put a new drive in, boot from the Ghost cd, and restore from your backup usb2 drive.  You can also create the backup while Windows xp or 2000 is running.

    Another nice feature of the usb2 drive is that you can move it to a laptop for laptop backup as well.  Since the backup images are in effect files, you can create folders for LAPTOP and another folder for DESKTOP and keep both!

    Author Comment


    When I clone to an external drive, can I first make it unallocated with partition magic and then use drive image to clone the internal drive?

    Does Ghost 9 eliminate the need to unallocate the external drive?

    LVL 13

    Accepted Solution


    You don't "clone" to an external drive.  Do a normal format of your external drive with Windows XP Disk Management (My computer/properties/disk management) as NTFS.  Your external will have a drive letter, like e: or f:.

    Then create a normal folder, such as e:\MyBackups

    With Ghost 9, create backup images of your c: drive and have them stored as normal files in e:\MyBackups.  Ghost 9 will compress the backup so it's actually smaller than your c: partition.

    You can use the Ghost 9 "Explorer" program to browse the contents of your backup file, and/or restore a file or folder.

    You can also boot from the Ghost 9 CD, and tell it to restore a file/folder/partition from your usb drive to a new hard drive if needed.  (You should test restoring a small file with the Ghost 9 CD to verify everything).

    A lot of this is covered in the Ghost 9 manual.


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