Back up and restore Boot Camp partitions

Reader Dave Bradley is trading up, but would like to take his Boot Camp partition along for the ride. He writes:

I’m planning to replace the hard drive in my MacBook Pro with a higher-capacity drive. On that MacBook Pro I have both a partition for my Mac stuff and a Boot Camp partition that has Windows on it. I’m going to use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the Mac partition to an external drive I have and then restore it to the new drive, but how do I make a copy of the Boot Camp partition?

I’ll begin by saying that it’s possible. I’ll follow that by suggesting that unless you’ve spent days configuring Windows you might be better off with a fresh install of Boot Camp and Windows. I don’t think I’m telling secrets out of school in saying that it takes Windows very little time to get completely junked up. Sometimes starting over is the best course.

But if that means hours and hours of additional work, then cloning and restoring may be your preference. To do that, grab a copy of Two Canoes Software’s free Winclone. I used it last week to perform an operation similar to the one you’re about to undertake and it worked beautifully.

Just launch Winclone, choose your Boot Camp partition from the Source menu, and click the Image button. As the button’s name suggests, this creates an image of that partition and saves it on the Mac side of the drive. Now clone the Mac partition and then swap the drives. Once you’ve swapped the drives and restored the Mac side, launch Winclone on the new drive, click the Restore tab, drag the Boot Camp image into Winclone’s Restore Image field, and click Restore. Winclone will create a new Boot Camp partition on your drive and restore its contents from the image you created earlier.

Note that thanks to Microsoft’s Draconian Windows activation scheme it’s highly likely that you’ll have to activate Windows again. When I did this, online activation was a bust as Microsoft believed that I was trying to exceed my activation limit (because Windows was tied to my old hard drive). Go immediately to phone activation, as telling the nice automated operator that you’ve installed Windows on only one computer seems to satisfy her to the point that she’s willing to cough up the seemingly endless string of numbers that allow you to activate Windows.

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