I got my hands on an 80GB Solid State Disk (SSD) and decided to put it into my new Thinkpad T410 as the primary (system) disk. I was running Windows 7 x64 Enterprise on my old laptop and wanted to avoid the hassle of having to rebuild a development system on this new disk. I had read about CloneZilla and decided to give it a try – copying my old Windows 7 boot partition to the T410 seemed like a real time-saver. Well, in the end it turned out to be a time-sink and I was unsuccessful in getting Windows 7 to boot or repair itself on the different hardware, but this was not the fault of Clonezilla. Here is what I tried.
Clonezilla is a Linux-based collection of tools that allow you take snapshots of entire hard disks or individual partitions, and to restore them to the same or a different disk or system. Some restrictions apply, and I ran into several issues as well. I will explain in my step-by-step instructions below what they were and how to avoid them.
I downloaded the latest Clonezilla-Live image from Sourceforge and burned it onto a DVD (the image is only a little over 100MB, so it will fit on a CD as well). After running into a problem with the restore, I was told on the forum to use the latest (testing) version as opposed the stable release, but I was able to complete the restore with the “stable” version regardless.
Shrink source partition if necessary
The first Gotcha I ran into was Clonezilla’s requirement for the destination partition to be equal to or larger in size than the source. This was not the case for me, since the SSD is smaller than the old disk. My source partition was 100GB, my SSD is only 80GB. So what to do? Luckily, the disk manager utility in Windows 7 comes with the capability to shrink partitions. Alas, it only shrinks unused space, and in my case it was able to only shrink it by about 6 MB – not enough. I deleted the hibernate file and the page file, and I defragmented the partition with the Windows tool, but shrinking still did not do a good enough job, in spite of over 40GB of unused space on this drive. I ended up getting a free copy of the Auslogics Defrag utility, which I highly recommend. Run in “Optimization” mode, it did a fine job of relocating all my files to the beginning of the partition, and I was able to shrink the partition with the Windows 7 disk manager down to about 40GB.
Use Clonezilla to create an image file of the source partition
I booted the source machine from the live DVD and followed the instructions for creating an image of the NTFS partition. I used a USB drive as the storage medium for the image file. I went with the “Beginner” mode in Clonezilla, which hides several parameter screens from the user and uses default settings.
Make a safety copy of the target partition
Before any attempt of restoring the image on the target computer, I created a safety image of the partition. If something goes wrong, one can easily end up with a wiped disk and a computer that does not boot. The safety copy came in handy for me.
Restore the image
I tried to restore an image from partition 2 on the source disk to partition one on the target disk, and failed. After posting a question in the forum, I received an answer that suggested that restoring to a partition with a different number could cause the problem. Once I renamed the image files in the image directory on my USB drive prior to restoring, it worked. I renamed any file beginning with “SDA2” to “SDA1”, and I edited one of the the text files (don’t remember the name) that only contained the string “SDA2”. With this change, I was able to restore the image file to the single partition on the SSD.
BOOTMGR is missing
Yes – because I cloned a partition that did not contain a boot manager, there was none available on the single partition on my drive after the restore. The easiest way to fix that was to do a “startup repair” from the Windows 7 installation media. What is said here about Vista still applies to Windows 7, including the fact that it takes 2 passes.
Take it from here
Windows 7 still will not boot if you restored to different hardware. It will take various passes of “repair” runs from the boot screen (installation media may or may not be needed for this) until the proper drivers are installed and the system recognizes your new hardware so that Windows can boot. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to get to that point. When trying to boot Windows, an error would pop up (“Your computer was unable to start”), and after some activity, it would say “Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically”. So it is back to square 1 and the backup plan, which is – rebuilding the machine from scratch. Do not attempt to restore the system partition of a Lenovo T60p to a T410 – it will not work.
I did not try the sysprep tool at this point, as suggested in one of the answers to this question on superuser.com. It looks like this could have been the missing piece.
When I did try sysprep during attempts to bring my old laptop’s disk into a virtual machine a few days later, it failed with a fatal error. Luckily, I found a work-around right away here.
My take-away from trying to save myself a laptop rebuild for so long is that all this technology (disk cloning, backup, and VM migration) is at an early stage, not widely used, not proven and prone to failure.