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Can I restore a backup to a partition smaller than it was when backed up?

I have one physical hard drive which, before installing the OS, I split into
two partitions: a C drive and a D drive. I have Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
with SP1 installed. I use EaseUS Todo Backup Free to take a weekly image of C
and have it saved onto D. I also save the last months worth of images, as well
as the initial image from when I first installed the OS. My question is this:
If I resize both partitions by moving some of the free space from the C
partition and adding it to the D partition (so now the size of C is smaller
than when any prior images were taken), would those prior images still restore
properly if the need ever came to use them? And if they would still restore
properly, upon restoration, would I then find my partitions returned to the
sizes when the image was taken?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #23
, I look at the issues encountered when trying to restore a
backup image to a partition of a different size.

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Restoring to a smaller partition

What you’re doing makes me very nervous. The reason I say this is because I’ve experience this scenario, almost exactly this scenario although not with that particular program. This is a scenario that can cause backup programs some problems.

My experience was attempting to restore a 1.5 TB image to a 1 TB drive. Obviously, the image was not full. I had less than a terabyte of data in the image, but because the partition that I was restoring to was smaller than the partition I had backed up from, the backup program balked. It basically wouldn’t let me use the normal partition restoration tools to restore.

I had to jump through a couple of hoops to make it happen and ultimately it wasn’t pretty. I was actually kind-of disappointed in the backup software that I was using.

I do not know if EaseUS Todo will handle this scenario properly for you. I would strongly recommend you go out to their support site and ask exactly this same question because they’re the ones that are gonna have to give you a qualified answer as to that program’s capabilities. I think you do run the risk of any of these three scenarios, you might consider.

  1. It may just work: as long as the amount of data that you’re restoring is less than the size of the partition than you are restoring it to.

  2. It may fail as mine failed – because the partitions are of different sizes. Fortunately, I hope it will fail early! Mine did. It didn’t even start because it said, “Oh, wait a minute. The partitions are the wrong size. I can’t do this.”

  3. The third solution is that it’s possible that restoring the partition could restore the size of the partition. Unfortunately, that would impact your D drive: exactly how that would work if it happens, I honestly don’t know.

I consider it a pretty risky proposition all in all.

Backing up to a partition!

Now, there’s something about what you’ve described that I consider even riskier. I’m going to suggest you stop doing it!

  • You are backing up one partition of your hard drive to another partition of that same hard drive!

Realize that if that hard drive dies, you lose both the original partition and all the backups that you placed on that same drive. That is really a bad idea. Backups can save you from some things, but a hard drive failure is going to be catastrophic and you will end up losing everything.

Backup to a separate drive

At a minimum, I suggest that you get another drive. I suggest you get yourself an external drive, probably even larger, that has the room you need. Have the backups go to that external drive. If for whatever reason your internal drive (with however many partitions you would like to have on it) fails completely, then you will have the backups on a different media, in a different place that will not have been affected by that hard drive dying.

  • I strongly suggest you change the way you’re backing things up.

Coincidentally, if you do change the way things are backed up, then this whole concept of partition sizes gets a little bit more flexible for you. I think you have more options.

Finally, I really do think you need to talk to the EaseUS people to understand exactly how their backup software is going to react to the scenario that you described.

Next from Answercast 23- I dropped my external hard disk, how do I recover the data?

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2 comments on “Can I restore a backup to a partition smaller than it was when backed up?”

  1. I am the asker of the question. Thank you for the reply, Leo. I will ask the EaseUs support people their thoughts re a change in partition size.

    As for my backing up to another partition, I completely agree with your concerns. However, let me explain why I am ok with still doing that, and I think you might no longer have an issue with my method.

    I do already backup my data to a portable hard drive (which I then store in a fire safe). I do this by copying my actual data files to the portable hard drive, not by creating an image.

    My intention by creating an image, however, is solely to save me from having to reinstall the OS and all my programs in the case I get infected by a nasty virus or whatnot. If my physical hard drive itself crashes, or the computer itself is stolen or broken, the image would be of no use to me anyway. (I would instead create another fresh image on a new computer and start the process anew.)

    I would, however, no matter what, have my backed up data files waiting for me on the portable hard drive in my fire safe.

    Reply
  2. If nothing else, you can mount the VHD of the image and shrink the VHD to the size you need – if Disk Management does not play, use Partition Wizard. Then reimage the VHD and restore that image.

    All Pro versions of the imaging programs I know can resize an image during restoration (as long as the data fits). But many free imaging programs (e.g. free Macrium) do not have that capability. Free Paragon can resize and for EaseUS I don’t know because I have never used it.

    Reply

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