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Backup & restore system partition to another (smaller) HDD

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I am trying to sort out my Uncle's eight year old incredibly slow desktop PC.  Aside from the fact that it is full of dust, etc. it is loaded down with unwanted programs, obsolete files, etc.  His daughters visit him from time to time and "play about" on his system.  As a result, it is littered with software that he never uses.  It uses 64 bit XP Pro and he no longer has the installation disk.

My plan was to make a copy on another hard disk of his system partition, remove all the unwanted software, data and other rubbish, update Windows 64 bit XP Pro, re-install drivers and required up-to-date software (e.g. Firefox,anti-Virus, etc.) and use that as his new, shiny, blindingly fast system disk (C:).

His system contains a single 950GB drive partitioned into "System" (100GB), "Work" (100GB) and "Data" (750GB).

I tried the following:

  • Load Windows XP Home on a spare 80GB HDD that I have lying about
  • Use Acronis 11 to produce an image copy of his 100GB system partition - this resulted in a 40GB .TIB file on a 2TB "backup" drive
  • Use Acronis to "restore" his 40GB .TIB file from the 2TB "backup" drive onto the 80GB HDD
  • Clean up the resulting system partition ready for use.

Unfortunately this hasn't worked in that Acronis 11 "greys out" the "target" 80GB HDD and will not allow me to restore to it.

I suspect that this is because I am trying to restore from a (potentially) (100GB) partition to a smaller 80GB partition - despite the fact that the .TIB file is only 40GB and the "used" space on the original partition was only about 45GB.

I have spent hours trying to make this work, Is there any way around this problem?

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Posts: 79
Comments: 16776

Terry, welcome to these User Forums.

I would recommend a different approach than the one you have outlined.

First, make a full disk & partitions backup of the original 1TB HDD and store this backup on your external 2TB drive.

Next, start cleaning up the computer, uninstall all unwanted programs and any associated data.

Check that all is still running OK regularly, then make a new full backup of the cleaned drive.

Do a full defragmentation of the whole drive, including the separate partitions - there are various free tools available to help do this, i.e. Defraggler from Piriform.  Use other tools such as CCleaner and DiskMax to help clean all unwanted 'rubbish' from the accumulated use over years.

Check that all is still running OK regularly, then make a new full backup of the cleaned drive.

Install any new / updated applications (assuming you can still find those that will work with XP).

Doing the above will avoid any licensing issues with XP, save having to try to fit everything on a much smaller drive, plus you have the safeguard of having the full backups should anything 'break' during the cleanup process.

Posts: 1
Comments: 9

To be honest, I am trying to do this "on the cheap" using stuff I happen to have lying around (e.g. an unused 80 GB HDD and space on my "Backup" drive) - probably a huge mistake.

Sadly, there are a couple of  "challenges" connected with your strategy:

  • My 2TB "backup" drive is "cluttered" with backups that I am reluctant to delete
  • Whatever I do, I don't want to "mess" with the original HDD, I would rather work on a copy.

As it happens, I have just had a look at another (FREE) Linux based backup and restore solution and noticed that it says that "The destination partition must be equal to or larger than the source one." which I suspect is also true of Acronis 11?

I am a frequent (impressed) user of Defraggler and CCleaner and will have a look at DiskMax. Thanks for a speedy reply :)

Posts: 79
Comments: 16776

Terry, I am not aware of any particular limitation for ATI 11.0 that requires the destination to be of equal or larger size than the source when doing a backup, or even when cloning, but it may simply be that the 40GB backup file size you are seeing is actually highly compressed and would expand to be larger than your target 80GB drive.

Try looking at the actual free space as shown in Windows Explorer or Disk Management for each of the partitions on the source drive, as this will give you the size of used drive space that you would need to match or exceed with the capacity of the target drive.

Also, if you have any bad sectors on the source drive, this could result in ATI using sector-by-sector mode for the backup image, which would use more space than if not used.

Drive fragmentation can also be a factor here too.

I would assume that the source drive is SATA given the total size of the partitions given, thus it might be worth looking for a cheap spare SATA drive to use of say 250 or 320GB if you want to avoid doing anything with the original drive.