Besides the work laptop, I just got to keep a Compaq Presario F700 for 3 months after which I need to return it "just like I had got it".

There are a few emotions involved here however that makes things complicated:

  1. The damned thing comes with Windows Vista which does not seem to have most of the drivers for my old hardware

  2. For some reason HP loaded a 32bit Vista (?! WHY ?!) on the 64 bit hardware

  3. I have my own openSuSE based setup that I am at home with and it would take me way too much time to get similar things on Vista

As you can see, I envison a complete reformat and repartition of the HDD.

The only thing stopping me right now is

how do I ensure that I can restore all the stuff curently loaded into the computer including all that hidden recovery partition and visible recovery partiton and all ?

This is why I made this posting.

I can't open the hardware however - it has got stickers across saying "warranty void if torn" or something... I am basically looking forward to simple software solutions - something like the Acronis product but on the "free" side

I had alook at a few drive imaging software and this one http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm kinda took my fancy.

Any suggestions/have-been-there-before/guides/walkthroughs/etc?


If this was me, and you do not want a headache later... buy a second hard drive - 5400rpm's are around £30 for a cheap one or £50ish for a cheap 7200RPM and replace it with the one in the laptop. (edit - this assumes that the laptop is not running TPM / Bitlocker or anything where the machine is locked to using a single hard drive)

This would be a easy swap (you may have to change around a caddy and use a few screws...) and it would mean returning the computer identically to how it is when you got it.

You can then get a usb caddy or similar from ebay (or a computer shop) for under £10 and use your new laptop hard drive as a large removable drive!

edit - since you can't change hardware. This is the long way round, but its free and should do what you want... you will need a spare machine, or install then remove.

The difficult way - download the Windows OPK / Deployment tools - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/solutionaccelerators/dd407791.aspx

From there, you need to follow the guides and build a bootable disk with imagex on it... or use any bootable win vista or win 7 disk and have imagex on a usb stick.

The easy way - obtain a iso (technet, MSDN or even from a cd) of Windows 7 or Windows Vista, Any version, 32 or 64 bit.

Copy the entire disk to a usb stick, If you can not find a USB stick big enough, you can leave the huge file in the /sources directory out since we are not actually going to install windows.

Next, you need to get imagex, http://www.tipandtrick.net/2008/imagex-600118000-x86-and-x64-for-windows-server-2008-and-vista-sp1-standalone-download/

Copy that to the usb stick. Also, to make it a lot easier, I just found this (but can not guarantee as never used it, but it looks good) http://www.autoitscript.com/gimagex/

Then, you want to basically capture your hard drive into a .wim file, use the gui or this :

imagex /capture c: c:\images /compress maximum

Full syntax available -

imagex /capture image_path image_file "name" {"description"} {/boot | /check | /compress [type] | /config | /flags "EditionID" | /norpfix | /scroll | /verify}


You can leave out the compress bit if you want, but may be worth your while

You are better off actually backing up to a usb hard drive / flash stick / network drive, but if that is a problem - you can just put it on the main hard drive.

After you have taken a backup of the .wim file, do whatever you want with the laptop!

To restore, simply boot into the windows pe environment again and run (done x: as I do not think this can be on the c drive when running).

imagex /apply x:\images\my_image.wim 1 c:\ /verify

Full syntax: imagex /apply image_file image_numberimage_nameimage_path {/check | /ref | /scroll | /verify}

  • I do have to +1 this since you really could just use your own drive for the cost of ghosting software...
    – Brandon
    Jul 30 '09 at 3:33
  • +1 from me too as this ensures indemnification from me being responsible for anything to do with the original shipped OS/Disk
    – Wayne
    Jul 30 '09 at 3:36
  • This was the easiest way out! I can't open the hardware however - it has got stickers across saying "warranty void if torn" or something... I am basically looking forward to simple software solutions - something like the Acronis product but on the "free" side
    – PoorLuzer
    Jul 31 '09 at 2:29
  • replying with addition for no hardware change Jul 31 '09 at 2:53
  • Wil, what a detailed and nice answer - unfortunately I could not 1 up it as I don't have 15 points or more :-( My question is - can't imagex do this from the Host OS like most of the disc cloning tools (including the driveimage-xml I linked to in my post)? Is that why I need to boot to a different OS and then run imagex? Getting stuff from MSDN is not an issue for me - I have membership.
    – PoorLuzer
    Aug 1 '09 at 1:19

Exactly like you had it? Image the PC with something like an Acronis product. When you're done, restore the image to an exact copy of what was there before.


Did it come with physical recovery media (i.e. recovery CD or recovery DVD)? If so, then booting off these usually recreates these hidden partitions.

However, the hidden partitions are usually what the recovery images are stored in these days, so if you didn't run the program to create the recovery discs before you nuked it, then chances are you're out of luck.

Have you nuked the installation yet, or is it still fresh?

If it's still fresh, just take a copy of it with Norton Ghost (if you can find a copy), or some other drive imaging software, and then restore it when you need to give it back.

  • Farseeker, I have not touched the thing yet - let me try all you guys suggestions firstm, THEN will I touch it. You just don't know my IT support department!
    – PoorLuzer
    Jul 31 '09 at 2:27
  • Haha fair enough! Jul 31 '09 at 21:05

If you have a liveCD lying around, and enough extra storage space to keep an image of the hard disk, you could use dd to copy it perfectly onto an external disk, then copy it back when it's time to return the laptop.

  • dd eh? Is that your suggestion? In fact why NOT dd? Hmm...
    – PoorLuzer
    Aug 1 '09 at 1:21
  • Gotta love those cryptic answers. I'm seeing DD being offered as an answer more often than I would like actually for pretty much every question. For your own reference, DD is a tool for Linux/Unix that does a byte-by-byte copy of whatever you ask it to do. Aug 1 '09 at 7:16

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