Current Position:Home > How do I clone a fully operational system that relies on Windows 7 for the underlying operating system?

How do I clone a fully operational system that relies on Windows 7 for the underlying operating system?

Update:10-11Source: network consolidation
I'm a retired IT professional desiring to assist a friend who owns a small business who recently experienced very malicious attacks on her computers from unknown parties operating anonymously on the Internet. Because
of her lack of preparation for such events, her future ability to continue to conduct her business was seriously threatened. The incident revealed, to my friend, the need to be prepared to deal with spontaneously occurring problems that create suspicious conditions
that arise with modern computer software before they can be analyzed in a sufficiently comprehensive manner to have an opinion regarding the appropriate course of action for obtaining a permanent remedy. In that, the ability to quickly react on the basis of
only suspicion is the goal.
I want to recommend an approach that involves maintaining an offline image of an operational system that is capable of running any of her computers. This image needs to include all of the software required to run
her business. In that, it is not limited to the operating system. This single image could then be used to restore any computer to a known reliable state should the need arise. This technique will also insure that each computer has sufficiently similar capability
to allow them to substitute for each other. Insofar as image restoration is itself an operation susceptible to causing unacceptable business delay I'm also recommending that each of the identical computers (i.e., from a hardware perspective) operate in a multi-boot
environment where a virtually offline backup can be instantiated via a simple reboot (i.e., an operation that all users of the Windows operating systems turn to when strange behavior is first observed). My intention is to limit the cloned system (i.e., partition
or C: drive) to the operational software. The business data along with storage for temporary data will be isolated on other partitions (i.e, mounted with other drive letters) accessible by each instance of the software eligible for multi-boot operation.
This kind of operation is something that I know how to setup on older versions of the Windows operating system. However, Microsoft has now dropped support for all of those operating systems and my much more limited
experience with the currently supported operating systems reveals that changes to the boot process will necessitate making changes to the specific preparations needed to build such an environment.
Before recommending that my friend replace all of her computers with new ones, that includes paying for new operating system (i.e., Windows) licenses, I need some assurance that the new operating systems are as
good as the old ones in this respect. These need to be relatively inexpensive desktop computers and we're only talking about a few of them. Let's say fewer than half a dozen. My friend is a sole proprietor and even though her business has become completely
dependent on what was once called personal computers she must operate on a fairly tight budget. This especially includes the budget for technology.
The articles I've been able to find on the Microsoft support websites seem to treat multi-boot as a situation where someone is running different versions of possibly difference operating systems whereas my need
to produce a single image that will both run on multiple computers as well as multiple partitions on the same computer. I'd appreciate finding some technical advice that applies to building such a system using a supported version of Windows.

The Best Answer

I tried the image creation/restoration described by Jared.  I don't think it makes much sense to rely on an operational system to do such a restoration therefore I opted for method 3 which involves using a "System Repair Disk".  My first
reaction is what a crude tool.  The image creation process had no trouble putting the image on a simple network share.  However, it appeared as though the restoration couldn't even connect with the device.  I then copied the files to a USB drive. 
In this case the repair disk said it couldn't find the files even though they were there.  It offered no mechanism to even look and see what was there.  It appears as though it will only find the image if it is located in a folder by the certain
name used on creation and it is in root directory.  Not very handy.
As ugly as all that was when we finally come to the point of making the restore it looks like the only option is to restore the entire disk, which in my case would mean also restoring both the windows partition and the recovery partition.  This just
isn't what I want to do.  It is also something I wouldn't even consider doing unless it was the only possible way to recover from a failed hard drive.
In summary, unless I've completely failed to notice how it works that just isn't going to work.
I hope there is something better than this.  What about WinPE and ImageX?
Absent anything useful from Microsoft it will be necessary to try using other software.  Time to try Acronis!  I guess.