Life is a Montage

associations of disparate elements meld together to form my life

Create a System Image with Windows 7, and learn to convert FAT32 to NTFS

on February 19, 2010

When I bought a new computer at the end of last year, I chose one already loaded with Windows 7.  I had stayed with Windows XP on my old computer since I had strong reservations about Vista. I’m not usually an early adopter (although I would love to go out and get every new glittery piece of technology as soon as it comes out, but I can’t afford it, and I know there are going to be bugs), but my research on Windows 7 sounded like it was at least as stable as XP and had some features I was interested in using. One of those features was system imaging. I had used Acronis a few years ago to create an image of my main hard drive, but then the external drive with the image on it died, and took my copy of Acronis with it. I still liked the idea of imaging my system’s drive, but was disillusioned by the loss of my data  anyway.

When I decided to make a system image, I was worried that my current backup drive, an external 250 gig drive, might not be big enough, or that my backup might be erased by the system image. I decided to buy a new drive, and looked online at Best Buy to check sizes and prices. How long ago did I buy my 250g drive? A few years, I guess. Now everywhere I looked I saw 600 gig, 750 gig, and a LOT of 1 terabyte drives. All I wanted was one big enough to — hmmm, how big IS my new system’s drive? Wow! It’s got a 600 gig drive, and I have used about 50 gig so far. Not sure just how big a drive I need to backup the system image fora 600g drive — Grabbed the 1 terabyte drive that was least expensive but had a good brand name, and came home. When I started trying to make a system image, I needed a little help… and some evidence that it would work if my system crashed. Did a little searching and found these two sites that seemed to agree with each other on the steps for me to take, and some info about restoring a system using the system image backup that sounded like it was worth doing. How to Geek and Window7Update.com both made it sound pretty simple, so I started the process. Right off the bat, I got an error message that the system image could not be copied on to my new external drive because it was formatted for FAT32 instead of the required NTFS. Why is that?! I bought a new drive and expected it to be compatible with my new OS. So I read some more and found that formatting for FAT32 allows the drive to be compatible for both PC and Macs — I remember when I had to be careful when buying software at the local computer store (whoa! How long ago was that?) and had to look to see if the software was formatted for PC or Mac. Same with floppy disks — now I know there’s a lot of you out there who never had to do that!

Okay, so is this when I format my external drive, and change it to NTFS? Hmmm, there is a backup program on that drive that I may want to use – formatting will erase that… is there something I can do about that? More searching, and now I find a new command that I haven’t used before – Convert. By using Convert.exe, Windows will change the format of the external drive from FAT32 to NTFS and will NOT erase any data on the drive. Too cool … to be believed? The instructions lead me to the Windows Command Prompt window (used to work with it all the time before Windows, but rarely visit anymore – hi, old friend! ) to type in convert J:/fs:ntfs (J is letter of my external drive). Didn’t work the first time – got error messages about files being in use, but when I rebooted and did it again, it started working. After a few minutes, I read the message that the conversion was successful. Time to start system imaging.

Started up the Backup process again and clicked on Create a System Image – this time there was no error message about FAT32, and after less than a half hour I saw a message about successful completion.

The next day, I started thinking about my regular backup drive, the 250g one, and decided that I could put the system image on it also since I had found that it didn’t take a lot of space. Started up Backup and — error message about my drive being formated as FAT32 instead of NTFS. Grrrr! All righty, I looked for my bookmarks to those instructions about convert and ran it on my I: drive — it worked and my backed up files were still intact. Started up system imaging and completed my second copy of an image of my current system. These backups plus my online backups by Carbonite plus file copies I place on the external drives give me a good deal of serenity. I know hard drives die, and maybe both my drives will die together, but then I”ll still have Carbonite. Hopefully, I will have Carbonite and two never-needed copies of my system’s image.

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