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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 02 February 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Windows 7 System Image Disc Recovery
Windows 7 Backup and Restore
Windows 7 System Image
Windows 7 System Repair Disc
Windows 7 System Image Restore

Windows 7 System Image

Microsoft Windows 7 offers the ability to create a system image from within Windows Backup. A system image is an exact image of a drive, complete with every file hidden and visible. A system image includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard drive or computer ever stops working. When you restore your computer from a system image, it is a complete restoration; you can't choose individual items to restore, and all of your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced. Although this type of backup includes your personal files, we recommend that you back up your files regularly using Windows Backup so that you can restore individual files and folders as needed. When you set up scheduled file backup, you can choose whether you want to include a system image. This system image only includes the drives required for Windows to run. You can manually create a system image if you want to include additional data drives.

There are several reason why a system image might be useful. The first is that a system image can be used to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or entire PC ever stops working. Another is to upgrade or transfer Windows 7 Operating System files and data from one drive to another. In particular, Benchmark Reviews has used the Windows 7 System Image Restore to clone the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) of a recently purchased laptop and restore the image onto a Solid State Drive (SSD). For assembled desktop PCs, the system builder might consider the original Windows 7 installation DVD to be the best alternative, but for many new systems this isn't possible because a restore partition is supplied in place of disc media. Manufacturers such as Lenovo (IBM), Acer, HP, Sony, and Dell, all include a system restore partition on the primary drive, making it impossible to reload Windows onto another drive without the original DVD media.

Upgrading HDD to SSD

In our specific example, the HP Pavilion notebook we recently purchased from the Microsoft Store included a large system restore partition on the primary hard disk drive, but did not include any optical CD/DVD media containing Windows 7. Our goal was to replace the slow HDD with a much faster SSD, and install Windows 7 without any of the extra and unnecessary software (aka bloatware) that came pre-loaded on the drive. For these tasks we would need the Windows 7 Home Premium installation DVD, specific to HP's OEM edition. After several frustrating calls to HP, we were finally able to communicate our needs and was directed to an area where restore media could be separately purchased for our HP Pavilion laptop. Unfortunately, the DVDs contained even more unwanted third-party software than we originally received. The final solution involved uninstalling the unwanted software, and creating a system image for the purpose or restoring to the SSD.

Creating the System Image

Creating a Windows 7 with System Image Restore Disk is very straight forward in principal, but more complicated in practice. To begin with, you must have a second drive with enough capacity to store at least the initial system image. Additionally, the location must be formatted with NTFS, FAT, or UDF file systems. It is highly advisable to use the Shrink Volume features available in the Windows 7 Disk Management tool (inside Computer Management) and reduce the size of all primary drive partitions down to their smallest working size. Keep in mind that each partition you shrink must maintain up to 1GB of free remaing space, so the do not shrink up to the full allowed amount.

If you don't shrink each partition on the source disk, you may receive an error such as "The system image restore failed. 0x80042403". The restore-to drive must equal or exceed capacity of the original source drive used to create a Windows 7 system image, even if the partitions are small. Fortunately, each partition can be expanded using the Extend Volume feature.

SPECIAL NOTE: Some protected system files may currently be in-use or unmovable, causing the Shrink Volume process to stop short of its maximum reduced size. These files can be identified by running Disk Defragmenter and inspecting the system's Event Log for reports. It can be beneficial to stop unnecessary services, allowing system access to protected files to properly reduce the partition size.

Windows-7_Create_System_Image.png

On desktop computers a second drive is easy to install and use for the purpose of storing recovery system images, but notebook and netbook systems don't offer the same functionality. For some laptop computers, a PCMCIA (PC-Card or Express-Card) expansion bays may accommodate a secondary drive for this purpose, but the easiest methods will involve a USB-attached storage device. An external hard drive is the best alternative, since most products will offer large storage capacities capable of recording multiple system image files (created at various intervals). USB flash drive storage devices are acceptable, but system images files can be very large and 16GB models may not be large enough; 32GB and larger capacities are recommended. The system image can also be saved to a DVD using a DVD-Burner, however a CD-ROM will not be large enough and recordable Blu-Ray disc media and BD-Burners are very uncommon. Alternatively, Windows 7 can save the image to a network location.

Windows-7_Create_System_Image_Location.png

Although this type of backup includes your personal files, we recommend that you back up your files regularly using Windows Backup so that you can restore individual files and folders as needed. When you set up Windows Backup, you can let Windows choose what to back up, which will include a system image, or you can select the items that you want to back up and whether you want to include a system image. If your computer contains several drives or partitions, you can create a system image that includes all of them by following the steps in Back up your programs, system settings, and files.

Windows-7_Set-Backup-Location.png

By default, Windows 7 saves all user data from the primary drive (usually named Disk 0 in the Windows Disk Management console). The primary drive houses a 100MB 'System Reserved' partition, followed by the usable remaining capacity of the 'C' drive. If your drive contains more partitions, they will also be added into the Windows 7 backup system image.

Once you've created your Windows 7 System Image, there are several factors to consider to ensure that data can be restored without problem. The first step is creating a Windows 7 system repair disc.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryLars Andersson 2010-02-24 00:12
This is a very accurate description of a common need, the obstacles encountered and the resolutions. It saved my day. Thank you!
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# Thanks for the info, it helped me outMark Lund 2010-10-24 12:03
I was experimenting with backup & restore and ran across the error -
"The system image restore failed. No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found."

I was trying to restore an image made from a 500GB disk (with 128GB used) to a 250GB disk. Swapping in a 500GB allowed the restore to happen.

Thanks for discussing and sharing this partition size issue.

Note to Microsoft: please make better error messages and tell us these issues up front.
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# RE: Thanks for the info, it helped me outOlin Coles 2010-10-24 12:20
Hello Mark:

This was exactly the problem that caused me to write this article. It would have been so simple for Microsoft to offer some basic suggestions that remedy this issue, but instead they used almost meaningless error messages.

I'm glad this guide helped you, and I hope it helps others too!
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# retireddewane nickell 2011-08-28 08:13
IOn trying to use System Image I always get (windows backup found errors om the media while saving a backup on it and cannot use it for additional backups). Is there any way I can find out what the errore are?
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# Error 0x80042412Bryan 2010-12-19 14:02
Hi,

This is a great tutorial, and everything as explained is clear and makes sense. However I'm getting stuck on trying to restore the image to the drive--getting the 0x80042412 error.

Moving from 300GB HDD to a 120GB SSD (OCZ Agility 2) in a Thinkpad x201 running Win7 Pro 64.

I shrunk the 300GB drive to ~30GB using the Windows Disk Manager tool, but still getting this error. Any ideas?

Thanks!
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# RE: Error 0x80042412Olin Coles 2010-12-19 14:08
Hello Bryan:
I'm not sure if you're describing a Windows STOP error during boot-up, or an error you receive during the image restore.

You'll want to make sure that you shrink the source volume to it's smallest size, and then add back at least 1000MB.
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# RE: RE: Error 0x80042412Bryan 2010-12-19 14:25
Hi Olin,

Thanks for quick reply. I can boot from the system repair disc and walk through all the steps that are described on the last page of this article (e.g. select a disk image to restore from, etc.) It's not until the final step that it gives that error.

Re: the shrinking, I shrunk to smallest size plus 1GB and change.

Another guide I found (#sonic-media.dk/?p=103#comment-196) suggests that the built-in Windows partition manager is not sufficient because it doesn't move the pagefile (or something to that effect), and recommends using 3rd party apps. Any ideas whether this could be an issue for me?
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# RE: RE: RE: Error 0x80042412Olin Coles 2010-12-19 14:48
I've used the Windows 7 image backup/restore with great success for many different systems, however whenever I run into a problem it is usually a result of using a used destination drive. You won't need to worry about the page file in most cases, although if you're really concerned you could shrink the source down to 100GB instead of 30GB, which would completely rule out a space issue. I would also use DISKPART on the destination drive. After selecting the correct drive, type CLEAN.
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# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBryan 2010-12-19 15:01
Well the destination drive is brand-new, so shouldn't be any issues there. I will try re-sizing to slightly less than 100 GB instead of 30 GB.

Regarding DISKPART, I'm not familiar with this, I'm assuming that the steps would be:

1. Install new destination SSD
2. Boot from system repair DVD
3. ?? Somehow get to command line to type "DISKPART"?
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# RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryOlin Coles 2010-12-19 15:06
I suggest starting with the larger resize, and leave DISKPART as a last resort. If this is a brand new SSD, you shouldn't need to clean it.
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# RE: RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBryan 2010-12-20 22:21
Well, tried re-sizing to only ~1GB smaller than the SSD destination drive, but still no luck. Same 0x80042412 error.

I've read elsewhere that I should confirm that the destination drive is activated in the BIOS, and that I should use DISKPART to determine that. But I don't see any way to get the command line prompt when booting from my system repair DVD...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryOlin Coles 2010-12-20 22:26
I presumed that all of this time you were seeing the destination drive in the list at the start of the restore process. If you don't see the new drive listed during POST, or later in the Restore process, then you've got other issue.

You'd use DISKPART with the SSD attached to a working system. That way you could determine which disk it is (0, 1, 2, etc) and properly select it. Say it's disk 1 (second drive), the process would be to open the command prompt and type:
DISKPART
SELECT DISK 1
CLEAN -ALL

Just make sure you select the correct drive.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBryan 2010-12-21 00:03
When I do the restore process, it gives me the option to "exclude" drives from being formatted. If I enter this menu I see the SSD destination drive as an option to exclude (but I leave the box unchecked because I want to format the drive). Is this "POST"? I'm not sure if this counts as the drive being recognized.

Regarding DISKPART, I'm still unclear how to access it from the restore process. I'm creating a system image from existing HDD, and then want to restore it to a brand-new SSD. So when I put in the bare SSD into the laptop, all I can do is boot to the bios utility or boot from the system repair DVD I made with windows. I don't see any way to get to the command line from either scenario.

btw, thanks a ton for the help.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryOlin Coles 2010-12-21 08:13
POST is Power-On Self Test. It's the text-only screen at the start of the power-up cycle. If you're able to see any reference to the SSD in the restore process, then it's being recognized.
DISKPART can only be reached from the (DOS-like) command prompt. Usually it is performed on a working (desktop) computer, with the second drive attached as a spare. You shouldn't need it if the SSD is new and unused.
At this point it seems that Windows 7 Image Restore is not for you. I suggest looking into programs like Acronis True Image. Good luck.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBryan 2010-12-21 11:37
Okay, I was hoping to stay with the built-in windows functionality, but I'll look at 3rd party software. Thanks for the help, really appreciated.
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# 0x80042403Aboori 2011-01-13 04:02
Hi
Your article was really excellent and addressing the issue much better than Microsoft!
Just one question here about error 0x80042403: I have already created my image from a 180GB (?) drive on a 320GB HDD but the whole image is less than 40GB because the imaged drive (windows drive) was mostly empty. The image is on a 500GB external 500GB and to be restored on a new 160GB HDD on my computer which replaces the old dead! 320GB HDD.
So, I can not create a new image that drive what should I do to avoid 0x80042403 error. According to your article I guess the problem is that the drive I imaged is larger than the drive (and the whole HDD actually) I am restoring to. Is there any solution at this moment? Shrinking the drive on the External (image bearer) HDD? etc.

Thank you very much
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# RE: 0x80042403Olin Coles 2011-01-13 10:32
If I understand you correctly, this problem could be resolved by shrinking the partition to its smallest size +1GB before creating the image. You should always save the image out to a different physical drive, and can rename the directory to allow for additional images.
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# RE: RE: 0x80042403Aboori 2011-01-13 14:01
Thanks for your reply
I meant now that I have created the image and it is NOT possible to do it again (because the source drive is formatted and dead), and on the other hand since the imaged partition was bigger than the destination HDD (180 vs 160GB) to which I am going to restore, What should be done?
- The image can not be changed but I can do any changes on the drives of my image carrier external hard drive (500GB). Is there anything to be done with it to solve the problem?

Thank you again
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# RE: RE: RE: 0x80042403Olin Coles 2011-01-13 18:31
You cannot restore an image if the original partition (regardless of free space) was larger than the new destination drive. As a best practice, you should always create backup images to a different drive such as external storage.
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# system image failedcourtney 2011-02-24 06:19
hi,am new to useing system image on windows7,i went true all the steps and when it had almost complete it failed.it says canot conect,error restart computer,and upon restart it only displays intel screen and nothing else hapend,i had my system image back up on a external seagate 500 hard drive.it only has the light blinking.i cannot get to do any thing evnn if i press f8.my laptop is a advent 7108.please can someone help me pleeas.
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# 0x80042403 errorBrandon 2011-03-25 05:30
Great article. i work for dell and had a customer that saved an image. i recommended it to him just in case. now i would rather load that then a 24 hour recovery from norton! i did and it failed. he made the image from a 1TB drive and saved it to a 2TB so from what im reading here. unless im incorrect, the 2TB needs to be repartitioned below 1TB, and then it should work?
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# RE: 0x80042403 errorOlin Coles 2011-03-25 10:05
You need to resize the source drive to be the same or less than the destination drive. With Terabyte-sized hard drives it should be no problem, since they're probably not using much of the available capacity.
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# 0x80042412EmC 2011-08-06 09:11
Been reading these but I am not getting anywhere. My 160GB Barracuda with two partitions, 60GB for the system and the remaining I used for data, failed a fewdays ago but had my system imaged on an external drive. I bought a 500GB Caviar and tried restoring the image but I keep getting this "No disk can be used..." Please help me what to do. Been resizing the new drive from full to 60Gb to 10Gb but to no avail.
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# RE: 0x80042412Olin Coles 2011-08-06 09:44
We will need more information. What kind of system: desktop/notebook/netbook/etc? How are you connecting the drives: SATA/USB/etc?
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# RE: RE: 0x80042412EmC 2011-08-06 16:13
It's adesktop PC running Win7. The new 500Gb Caviar is a SATA internal HD. The image is save on a WD 250Gb HD in a second 100Gb partition.
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# RE: RE: RE: 0x80042412Olin Coles 2011-08-06 16:16
You need to resize the SOURCE (old) drive, not the (new) destination drive.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: 0x80042412EmC 2011-08-06 16:33
But how can I resize the old drive? It's dead already,it fried itself. It's not even detected in the BIOS anymore. The image created on that old drive is around 25Gb. Is my case hopeless then? Should I now just install Windows on this new drive and bypass restoring the system image?
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 0x80042412Olin Coles 2011-08-06 16:36
Don't you think that would have been important information to offer us from the beginning? Your hard drive is hopeless.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 0x80042412EmC 2011-08-06 16:41
I see. I can now stop wasting my time restoring the system image and just make a new install. Thank you for your time. It is much appreciated. I learned another valuable technical lesson here. :)
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 0x80042412Olin Coles 2011-08-06 16:46
If you were able to create a Windows 7 restore image using the steps outlined in this article with a working hard drive, then you should be able to restore that image to a hard drive of equal or more capacity... regardless of the bad hard drive. If the restore image was made with some other program, you should use it.
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# shrinking?Ben 2011-10-12 09:28
Hi, i just got a 5400rpm 750gb laptop but want to change over to a 500gb momentus xt hdd. ive got a system image but it comes up with "No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found"
I am not sure how to shrink the drive, can you please explain?

Thanks and your article is veryvery useful btw :)
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# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBen 2011-10-12 09:30
sorry i might mention that i am using a 1.5tb external hd to store and restore the image, not sure if that has anything to do with it.

thanks a lot!
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# RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryOlin Coles 2011-10-12 09:33
Hello: I explain the process of shrinking the partition in the 'Creating the System Image' section on page 3 of this article, so perhaps you should give it another read. Good luck!
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# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryBen 2011-10-12 20:26
helps if i read doesnt it haha, thanks a lot. But Olin, i right click shrink volume, its a 750gb hdd and it becomes 356, its a brand new hd so there shouldnt be any files on there at all. is 356gb small enough as the new hdd is 500gb? does the hp recovery drive need to be shrinked aswell?

I right clicked the "c:" then shrink volume, was i suppose to shrink it at the bottom aswell where the "line graph" looking thing was?

Thanks for your help, i really need it!
please help Olin
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# RE: RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryOlin Coles 2011-10-13 16:08
You seem to be missing the message. I suggest that you read through my instruction again, because I'm certain it contains my best guide through the process. Essentially you want to shrink the data on your existing primary drive and then complete the image backup. Once you restore the data onto the new drive, you extend the partition size.
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# Shrink options/size limitedMatthew 2011-12-26 00:56
I've been able to successfully create an image of my old 500gb HDD and am looking to transfer the image to a 240gb SSD. I was unaware of the requirement to have a drive the same size or larger during the image process. Well, I've gone into the shrink options, but the smallest I can shrink the drive is by 60gb, making the partition with the OS 400gb, still too big for the 240gb SSD. When I re-enter the shrink menu for the now 400gb partition, it shows at the drive not able to be shrunk any further. I'm pretty tech savvy so this guide was fairly easy to follow, but do you have any recommendations for making additional space available for shrinking? I'm looking to shrink the drive an additional 250gb, making it a manageable 150gb. Should I look into a program like gparted? Thanks.
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# RE: Shrink options/size limitedOlin Coles 2011-12-26 09:13
Hello Matthew:

I've recently started running into this problem on some drives. What happens is that some files that cannot be moved, such as the page file, system restore files, or other system files. Usually it's only one or two files, and if you run Disk Defragmenter it will report the specific files to the event log. I've also found that shutting down services will free these files, as well.
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# Forget itJone 2011-12-28 10:59
Same issue! I've resized my 500GB partition to 100GB. Imaged it using windows backup and tried to restore into a 120GB SSD but failed. The message still saying size too small. I believe the file recorded the hard drive actual size instead of partition size. Now I try Acronis True Image and hope it will work.
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# questionDom 2012-01-01 14:45
Good article, but this paragraph in the last sentance "After several hours or troubleshooting and re-creating backup images, it was discovered that the Windows 7 system image was remembering the partition size of the source disk.". I may be being stupid here. Why would the 'remembering of source disk size be a problem if it is smaller (70GB) than the target disk (111GB) ? I am still getting the same error 'no disk that can be used...' even after doing a shrink on the partitions to be backup up. I have tried a CLEAN on the target disk.
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# RE: questionOlin Coles 2012-01-01 16:29
Even though you shrink the volume prior to backup, was the partition smaller than the destination by at least 1GB?
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# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryDom 2012-01-01 16:55
Hi there,

Yes the target drive (& partition) is 111GB and source partition wqs 70GB. The shrink didn't work in Windows 7 but with EaseUS it was fine and rebooted etc. I am now trying the free EaseUS backup / restore tool instead of the Windows 7 one in case that makes any difference, or has better error reporting.
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# SolvedDom 2012-01-01 23:26
I used the free software EaseUS to change the partition size, then used the EaseUS backup/restore software to create a boot disk and do the backup & restore, before increasing the size of partition again. Quite time consuming to do it all again but all done with no problems. It goes to show that Windows 7 inbuilt backup/restore process, whilst it should be tried first, is a bit flaky. Thanks for your help.
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# RE: Windows 7 System Image Disc RecoveryChris 2012-03-21 11:02
I don't usually comment on things but this article has been a life saver!! Brilliant!
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# Trouble moving OS to another driveJosh 2012-05-06 16:45
I am trying to move my OS located on a 60GB SSD to a 120GB SSD. I have disconnected the 60GB SSD so that the system image backup (located on a 300GB external HDD) is installed on the 120GB drive. Whenever I try to install the image I get this "The system image restore failed. No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found." Should I be using other software to move the OS rather then restore it to a different drive? I would like to use system image recovery.
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# RE: Trouble moving OS to another driveDavid Ramsey 2012-05-06 17:27
I've found Acronis' "Migrate Easy" the simplest way to move a Windows system to a new boot device. You can download a 30 day fully functional free trial at their web site.
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# Thank YouJosh 2012-05-06 21:10
I wish windows had this built-in. Thank you so much.
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# Re:Nicole Lee 2012-10-10 23:36
Good Good article! .Thank you so much
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