Cloning boot drive for backup purposes

I have 12-15 PC's in use in our office, and users (all non-admin) manage to screw up their machines every once in a while.  Data is backed up, but it's time consuming to replace or format a drive, especially reinstalling all the applications.  I know I  can clone each drive (I use Acronis) and keep them as backups, but I'd like to clone multiple drives to partitions on one large HD.  If I need to restore any machine, I could clone the appropriate partition back to the old machine then restore the data.  

I have several extra 500G & 1TB drives, can anyone explain how to clone multiple boot disks to a single large HD?

Thanks in advance!

jdj
jdjintxAsked:
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notmyfaultCommented:
Have you ever tried using Symantec Ghost ?
Basically the way I've used it, is creating images of desktops and laptops, and a perfect working condition, with updates and all software installed, and after I made sure that everything was up and running exactly according to our plan, I would create the image, and save it to a network share.

In case of a machine failure, I would use a BartPE boot disk, with embedded network drivers on it, map the network share via command prompt, start running the Ghost application, and then just restore the image file I needed.

For ease of reference check this :

http://www.symantec.com/themes/theme.jsp?themeid=ghost

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTsGk6uP2k8
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noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
Cloning of the HDD means creating exactly same structure on target drive as it was on clone source drive including MBR. Your approach is wrong. One HDD even big one can have only one MBR. And multiple HDDs cannot be cloned to single HDD.
You can clone only partitions from multiple HDDs to one HDD in case you have enough free space on that drive. And this operation can be done once. Then you need to delete the partitions manually and again run the partition level cloning in order you want this process to be done daily or weekly.
The best solution here is backup which you are using at the moment. You can store as many backup images as you want or your HDD allows. And the time consumed for clone back or restore from backup would be the same.
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shahzoorCommented:
If you are using Acronis then its not a big deal
You can clone 3 at a time
All you have to do is to use a desktop computer
Connect one harddrive to computer, the primary master with original image
then boot computer using acronis recovery cd
and select clone option
make sure all three harddisk to be cloned are connected
then follow the instructions
Select primary and target harddisks and press proceed
it wont take much time to close 3 harddrives in one shot

All the best
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noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
shahzoor, sorry, but your suggestion will not work. As I wrote above it is impossible to clone three HDDs to one HDD in one apply. Only partitions from these HDDs can be clone one by one. Test it yourself and you will see where the error is.
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shahzoorCommented:
Acronis does not support that
You need Acronis Backup & Recovery® 11 Advanced Server
Clients could be installed to the machines with scheduled tasks
Initially compete backup file will be created and later you can schedule incremental backups.
Thus only changed files will be backuked up at remote NAS
This will consume less space and would be faster
secondly it would be an automated process so no individual attention will be required
you can even set alerts, in case of data backup failure it will send you an email notifying the problem
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jdjintxAuthor Commented:
Thank you for the interest & responses.  

A few clarifications:

1.  I am not trying to back up data, so NAS & incremental backups are not relevant.  What I want is a clone of my drive (esp OS & applications) before users save their data to the drive.  The data is backed up regularly, so in a catastrophe I could restore the PC to it's original configuration with the clones drive, then restore their data from our NAS as a second operation.

2.  I can easily make this happen on a 1:1 HD basis, but I am trying to clone multiple source drives to a single backup drive using Acronis (which to date has been perfect for cloning individual drives).

Notmyfault & noxcho have recommended saving an image of each drive, which if I'm understanding this correctly will accomplish the same thing as cloning.  I am not familiar with this, but will research soon (especially whether Acronis will do this).

Please confirm that I would be able to accomplish the following before I proceed any further:

1.  Connect source drive and target drive in a PC running its own OS and Acronis.
2.  Save image of source drive on target drive.
3.  Repeat above with other source drives and same target drive.
4.  If a drive becomes corrupt or fails, use similar process to restore image from backup drive to brand new HD.

Thanks in advance!

jdj
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jdjintxAuthor Commented:
Researched imaging in advance of a reply to my last post.  I agree that it's the best way to go, but I'm still unclear about the situation I attempted to describe above:

PC1 running OS & Imaging software on HD1 (Drive C:)
HD2 is pulled from a laptop, mounted in PC1 (Drive E:)
HD3 also resides in PC1 (Drive F:)

Is the imaging software only capable of creating an image file of Drive C: (where it is installed), or can it create an image of Drive E:?  

This is significant, because if I can't do this as described above I will need to purchase imaging software for each PC rather than just PC1.

Thanks again.
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noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
Imaging software can do backup of the drive you tell it to do. Not necessarily C: drive where it is installed on. Any HDD or partition seen by your system can be imaged to the destination you point.
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jdjintxAuthor Commented:
Thanks!  NOXCHO wrapped it all up nicely.


jdj
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