Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a Dell laptop with a 250 GB 5400 RPM system drive and a 200 GB 7200 RPM drive from Dell I would like to replace it with.

I thought I could put this drive in the laptop, clone the disk, and then replace the 250 w/ the 200 and be good to go, but Dell has a proprietary SATA interface that is different for HD1 and HD2. Both of my disks have the HD1 attachment. sigh

I also have a SATA-USB connector. I would like to use this to connect the second drive, but now I'm not sure which utilities I can use to clone the drive.

The factors I am concerned about are this:
1. New drive is smaller than old (only 72 GB used on old drive)
2. new drive will be attached via USB, not directly to the SATA
3. old OS runs Vista, so I can't use my full copy of Norton Ghost 10 (or can I?)

Any live CDs I can use to boot to that will do a full copy meeting my conditions above? I'm comfortable using command-line or Linux tools to accomplish this, I just need it to go smoothly. (wife's computer...)

I would also be willing to use gparted or something similar to resize my current disk partition to meet the reduced capacity of the newer drive, as a last resort.

share|improve this question
Which Dell laptop model is it? Inspiron 17xx? – Jay R. May 20 '09 at 17:38
Dell Studio 1737 – Nathan DeWitt May 21 '09 at 14:05
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I've done something very similar with diskparted and gparted from sysresccd. Sole spoiler is that it backs up/restores only partitions one by one. But the MBR can be saved as well, so no problems. Bonus: very easily "scriptable" by commandline, in case you need to do that more often, or want to make an "unattended" or "businesstrip" rescue cd.

Attention: gparted has a "round to cylinders" checkbox (checked by default) when creating the empty partition. In my install, I had to uncheck this and let the first (Vista's) partition start at 1 instead of 0 (if I recall correctly, but you will see).
If you forget to uncheck that, you will not have the possibility to uncheck it when you try to resize/relocate the partition afterwards. To have the partition start at 1 was mandatory for Vista.

share|improve this answer
i only have one partition, so that shouldn't be a problem. where do i find documentation on Vista's partition so I can get it right the first time? – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 16:54
I dunno, I got it working just by writing down the values gparted told me for the working install. – lImbus May 20 '09 at 16:57
in addition to setting a flag on the partition to boot, I also had to run Windows Repair on the Vista setup disk, probably because I forgot to uncheck the "round to cylinders" checkbox. Ah well, it all worked in the end. – Nathan DeWitt May 24 '09 at 3:52

I use Acronis True Image, which has a great easy-to-use clone feature that goes like such:

1) Boot off the Acronis bootable CD (it lets you make one) with both drives plugged in (old on SATA and new on USB).

2) Tell it to clone the main drive to the new drive. As long as the used space on the old drive fits in the new drive, it'll automatically handle all the partition resizing for you.

3) When the clone is complete, shut down the computer. Replace the old drive with the new one and boot up. Presto, everything will exactly the same under the new drive.

True Image also lets you fully destroy your old drive's data if you want.

share|improve this answer
what version do you recommend? – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 16:53
I recommend the latest build of version 11 (Home) - I haven't tested the 2009 out yet. – Matias Nino May 26 '09 at 18:03


share|improve this answer
looks like it would work, but I'd love to see a bit more instructions with it... the screenshots are the closest I could find so far, and they didn't go into disk cloning. Ie - will it support going to a smaller disk? Will it work with the disk connected via USB? – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 16:26
Halfway through the Clonezilla process, I get this message: ATTENTION ... (2) Clonezilla will not restre an image from a large disk (partition) to a smaller disk (partition). However, it can restore an image froma small disk (partition) to a larger disk (partition). (3) If you do NOT want Clonezilla to create a partition table, check -k: ... I guess now I need to research partition tables to see if reusing the partition table from the larger disk would be bad... – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 17:12
tried using -k1, create partition table proportionally. process started, error message saying "cannot restore image from to smaller disk", but then continued to start to copy. I quit the process before anything happened, but I'm not sure if the image error applies to me since I'm doing a disk copy. I'm thinking Clonezilla will not work unless I first use gparted or something to resize my current partition down to under 200 GB. Any thoughts? – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 17:22
Just resize the partition using something like GParted. – Mark Brackett May 20 '09 at 18:29
If I have to resize the partition using gparted, why wouldn't I just use gparted to also copy the partition? That's what I ended up doing, and why I accepted the other answer. – Nathan DeWitt May 24 '09 at 3:54

You can use gparted on a LiveCD like systemrescuecd to shrink the partition and then copy it over to the other drive. Although you may run in to issues booting Windows if the drive interface is substantially different from one to the other.

share|improve this answer
both drives are SATA 300... or do you mean something else by "drive interface"? – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 16:22
Should be ok then. You are just replacing the drive right? You'd probably only run into problems if you were say trying to clone a SATA drive to an IDE drive. – Chad P May 20 '09 at 16:32
ya, just replacing. – Nathan DeWitt May 20 '09 at 16:34

Since they are SATA, I have done this by actually hooking the drives up in my desktop PC. You should be able to remove the proprietary connectors, put both drives in your desktop, and use whatever cloning/imaging software you would like to take care of it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.