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How to optimize your HDD for Windows 7, duplicate easily the OS

All operating systems are made of thousands of software pieces, many of them being read, modified and rewritten again to the HDD in a permanent process while you are using your computer. Incidences as cuts in the electric supply, viruses, failed install or uninstall operations or the use of wrong software, mean a permanent danger for the OS, eventually blocking your machine and forcing you to format the C drive.

Windows uses by default only the C drive for the OS and for all your personal files and folders, putting everything together into it. In the case that your HDD needs to be formatted all your personal files and folders will be deleted.

Since the first days of computing there are many apps designed to obtain a disk image to recover your OS and your files, apart from the known facilities provided by Microsoft.

The drive image allows you to rebuild from scratch the same drive from which it was obtained, and must be regularly updated as frequently as possible, because you loose any changes made afterwards.

Drive images can not be used to duplicate your OS into different partitions of the same hard disk.

Windows allows you to use as C drive any of up to 3 possible primary partitions and to create logical units totally independent from the OS, and this allows you to optimize your hard disk as follows:

- A first primary partition, size 100 MB only, for the "bootmanager". It keeps always hidden and works as active unit, manages the other two and allows you to boot as C drive any of both.
- A second primary partition, size 25 GB, to install into it Windows 7, as default C drive.
- A third primary partition, size 25 GB, to copy into it the previous one, after being properly modified, as optional C drive.
- Logical units: so many as you want, so big as you wish, until the whole hard disk space is full. They appear as drives D, E, F..., and they are by far the best place for all your personal files and folders.

Evident advantages of this optimization are, among others:
1.- The free Windows partition (last drive letter after all logical units) can be used as recovery copy and also saved into an external device. Its size is evidently greater than 4 GB if you copy/paste it, but if you use a compressed format it can be saved into a single DVD.
2.- Any of both units can be formatted and rebuilt from the other one without affecting the MBR, the PBR nor the user files and folders in about 10 minutes at the background while you go on doing your work.
3.- The division of the hard disk improves speed and stability, while fragmentation falls.

- If Windows 7 is preinstalled you must save the drivers for all built-in motherboard devices into an external device (CD, DVD, pendrive or USB disk). They are kept in a folder named swsetup (Hewlett Packard or Compaq) or cabs (others). You may usually find there afterwards the needed ones for both 64 and 32 bits modes.
- Whenever Windows 7 is already installed it is also recommended to create a Recovery Disc and also to obtain an image of the whole HDD into an external HD or into DVDs before erasing it.
- For best results it is very convenient to use for cloning purposes an independent file manager, i.e. "Total Commander" or "Freecommander", configuring it properly so that all hidden and system files are shown, instead of changing the default mode of the Windows 7 file manager, which keeps them hidden.
- Before beginning the installation of your Windows 7 version by using the DVD install disk you must consider what's the most convenient working mode for you. Your key can be used indistinctively to activate the x64 mode (64 bits, more powerful, allows using more than 4GB memory) or the x86 mode (32 bits, total compatibility with almost all apps designed for Windows XP).


- If you've got a DOS bootdisk you can use Fdisk.exe to delete each and every DOS or NON DOS partition. This is very useful in special if you must delete "dynamic" units. In any case, don't create any units using it, to avoid future problems.
- In order to create the new structure of the HDD you need a partition manager bootdisk. You may use i.e "Partition Wizard". Its freeware image for Windows 7 (to be burnt using Nero or any similar program to create a boot CD) can be downloaded from http://www.partition...m/download.html
- Boot your computer using the bootdisk, delete each and every existing partition if you had not done it before, and create two 25 GB primary partitions.
- After creating the second primary partition you must delete the first one in order to leave its 25 GB space, which is placed at the first sectors of the HDD, as not assigned space to be used by the Windows 7 install disk as explained in the following paragraph.
- The remaining HDD space after the second primary partition is the ideal place for your personal files and folders. You can fill it now by creating into it as many logical units as you wish, or leave it to be done afterwards, whenever you want, using the options offered by the Windows 7 disk management utility.

- Insert the Windows 7 install disk and reboot.
- Install it in the not assigned space.
- At the end of the install process the first 25 GB of the HDD have been used for the 100 MB hidden partition (which is essential for doubleboot and must keep always untouched) and the Windows 7 OS, which appear as primary partitions 1 y 2 respectively.

- Insert the Windows 7 install disk and reboot.
- Install Windows 7 at the second of the two initially created primary partitions, which now works as primary partition 3 as a consequence of the newly appeared hidden 100 MB partition number 1. No need to load any driver at all now.
- At the end of the setup a doubleboot screen will be shown allowing you to choose between the first and the second installation, loading by default the last one.
- Download a BCD editor, i.e. the freeware EasyBCD from: http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1
- Using the BCD editor rename the managed units as Win1 and Win2, change the boot order setting as default Win1 and set some 5 minutes as waiting time. After all this save a backup of all this using the option for that offered by the same program.
- Use the Windows 7 File Manager to rename each of both drives as Win1 and Win2. You need it for knowing at any moment which one of them is being used as drive C.