Cloning Windows 7 on Advanced Drives

Had an interesting problem the other day. A customer wanted a dozen or so laptops, all with the exact same setups. They had a legal copy of Windows 7 Enterprise, and we were going to erase the old laptop software at the drive level and replace it with a the first laptops Windows 7 Enterprise loaded with the proper drivers. This can save you a lot time instead of erasing each laptop and reloading.


But here’s the catch, the drives are all Western Digital WD Advance drives. These newer Advance drives need to end on 4k boundaries. Here’s what we did to fix this.


1) Load up the first laptop. Make sure that all partitions are correct [you can test with Western Digital’s AD test disk] and land on 4k boundary.

2) Using a USB disk drive as a backup, boot up a copy of Fedora Core 15 DVD and tell the system to boot into the rescue mode. Do NOT tell Fedora Core to mount any drives or even look at them for recovery. Your goal is to just boot up Fedora, and get to the shell prompt.

3) Your internal hard drive should show up as /dev/sda and the USB drive should show up as /dev/sdb. Test this by running fdisk to “show” the paritions.

4) “cd /mnt” to get the mnt directory. “mkdir usb_backup” to create a backup directory. Mount the usb drive [assumes: /dev/sdb and one parition on it called /dev/sdb1] using “mount /dev/sdb1 usb_backup”. Now “cd usb_backup” to be on the usb drive.

5) Now, backup the entire drive:

dd if=/dev/sda of=name-of-laptop-sda.dd

This will do a block for block copy of the drive

6) After a few beers [example: 250Gb takes about 2 hours to do usually], you should get the # prompt back and your back of the original laptop is complete.


Time to restore [and here’s the trick I promised]

1) Repeat steps 1-4 above to bring up the “about to be cloned” new laptop. This will a laptop you will be coping all data from the original laptop to.

2) You should be in the usb_backup directory if you followed 1-4 above. Time to restore:

dd if=name-of-laptop-sda.dd of=/dev/sda bs=4k

That “bs=4k” is critical. When you don’t included it, Advance drives will try to write block by block, with 4k, your writing the way the drive wants it, 4k at a time. This makes ECC correction fast and easy on the drive. In my test, without the “bs=4k”, the drive wrote around 18M/sec. With the “bs=4k”, I got 33Mb/sec.

When your done, boot up the cloned laptop.