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Don't get me wrong, I understand how to install Mint alongside Win7.

However, I am wondering how to backup my Windows installation due to the fact that Win7 was preinstalled on my computer and, as such, I don't have an installation disk.

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I'm not willing to put it as an answer since I don't know how well it would actually work, but you could make a byte-by-byte duplicate of your windows drive by using the dd command. Something of the form dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb where sda is the drive with your windows stuff on it, and sdb is the empty drive that you want windows on. –  Evan Jul 6 at 2:53
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The backup program already present in windows? It allows you to create a boot DVD too. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 6 at 6:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Okay, I actually feel confident after doing some reading that using dd will do what you want.

According to this website you can use dd to create an image of your drive, which is what you want to do.

Backing up your system:

So begin by booting from your live disk.
Switch to root mode if you are not root already. su root, or sudo su root
Check that no partitions from your windows drive are mounted.
To do this, you can use lsblk, which will give you a list of all the drives and their device label. If you see an sdaX mounted to a location such as /mt/*, you will want to use umount /dev/sdaX to unmount it.

The mount your external drive that you want to create the image on.
We will call this drive hda for this example.

First, create a folder to mount into in /mnt/. I'm going to call it backup.
To do this: mkdir /mnt/backup
You use mount -t vfat /dev/hda1 /mnt/backup to mount the drive to that location. (-t vfat says that partition one on your backup drive is a FAT filesystem, which it probably will be if you are running windows, though it may also be ntfs or something of that form.)

Now we actually do the backing up of the drive using the dd comand.
If we follow the webpage's lead, they use the gzip to zip your image. It is at your discression, I'll follow what they are giving. Also, I'm not so sure about creating a backup with noerror enabled. I'd personally like to know if there is an error.
dd if=/dev/sda conv=sync,noerror bs=64K | gzip -c > /mnt/backup/sda.img.gz

Then to restore your system: First unzip the image and convert it back:
gunzip -c /mnt/backup/sda.img.gz | dd of=/dev/sda conv=sync,noerror bs=64K

You may need to store some information in order to interpret the partition table stored inside of the image. fdisk -l /dev/sda > /mnt/backup/sda_fdisk.info

One thing to note: dd isn't exactly designed for this job specifically, it just makes a blind bit-by-bit copy of your drive. Then when we zip, gzip will try to remove zeros and unnecessary data to make it smaller. So the best thing we can do to help it out is clear out data blocks which are filled. You have probably heard about people saying that your data is never completely gone. Well, we can get pretty dang close with the dd command. What we can do, is mount the drive and create some empty file anywhere you like. Lets call is "zero". We are going to load a bunch of zeros onto the drive and since this file will get massive, any data you thought was deleted before will actually be gone.
dd if=/dev/zero of=zero bs=8M; rm zero is the command to do this with.
Now, when you go back to zip your drive, any extra deleted bits will be zero, and so the compression algorithm can work better. Hopefully this helps.

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Parted Magic is very useful, also can do this with a bootable USB or DVD using PartImage on the System Rescue CD (it even comes with the USB boot setup - instructions on the site there).

Personally though, can't go wrong with the good ol' Ghost 8 (found on older versions of Hiren's Boot CD but looks like they use a new G4L - Ghost 4 Linux now but try it out anyway)

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