Steve Litt on 24 May 2016 17:58:51 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] Backing up recovery partitions to a USB device, making bootable

On Tue, 24 May 2016 20:34:16 -0400
Greg Helledy <> wrote:

> My new Dell 2-in-1 naturally didn't come with any recovery CDs.  What
> it did come with are two partitions at the "end" of the 128 GB SSD.
> Both are NTFS, one is 450 MB with a label of WINRETOOLS and one is
> 10.79GB with a label of Image.
> I want to get these off the SSD and onto a USB drive to free up over
> 11 GB of space before I partition the drive yet more and try to
> squeeze another OS onto it (the SSD came with a total of 5
> partitions).

[snip the known problem that Windows sux]

> I guess I need to put a bootloader on the USB?  I looked into doing
> that with System Recovery CD but the directions focus on chroot,
> under the assumption that you have a working linux install on the
> drive you want to install GRUB on.  Is it possible to install GRUB on
> a drive that doesn't have linux on it?  How could I do that?
> Or am I doing this wrong, is there a better way to make the drive
> bootable?

I'd take a different approach in two different ways.

First, I wouldn't trust a USB drive with something as important as
restore partitions long term. I'd burn them to a DVD, kept out of the
light, well protected from humidity and extreme temperatures. It's cool
to copy them to USB on the way to burning to DVD, but make sure no bits
are flipped in the transition (md5sum or similar).

Second, the technique I'd use to back up the restore partitions would
be that I'd boot System Rescue CD,
( ) using CD
or DVD media, to achieve the backup. I'd use ddrescue to back up the
two restore partitions, and also back up the partition table, which
would be the first 512 bytes of an MBR booting disk (/dev/sda), or a
larger amount of a UEFI booting disk. I have a program to tell how much
to back up, but the program's not ready for prime time. My experience
tells me that 10MB would be more than enough, and since you'd be
restoring from scratch anyway, no worry if it overwrites stuff.

I'd also put some instructions on the restore DVD telling how to
restore from the restore partitions. On some computers you just press a
physical button. On others, you go into the "bios" and select "restore
from restore partition". On others, you need to have a running Windows
OS, which of course would present you with a buried shovel.

With the stuff stored safely on a DVD, the restore would be to boot to
a System Rescue CD CD, lay down the backed up first 10MB of /dev/sda,
then then ddrescue the backed up partitions back to their newly made
counterpart partitions on /dev/sda. I'm pretty sure that would work
although I only did it once, a long time ago.

I'm not guaranteeing that would work, but that's what I'd do.


Steve Litt 
May 2016 featured book: Rapid Learning for the 21st Century
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