Cloned my hard disk drive

Over the weekend, I spent some time to upgrade the hard disk drive in my notebook computer to one with a larger capacity. This hard disk is the system disk, containing the Windows XP operating system installation. In previous upgrades that involved the system disk, I would do a complete new installation of the operating system, the reasons being that generally it is the cleanest and it avoids moving the junks accumulated over the years to the new hard disk drive.

This time round, I wanted to save some time and decided to try a disk cloning program. Although I have heard of programs such as Norton Ghost that helps you clone a hard disk, I have never used one. I need to find a program that can do this job. My main criteria was that it had to be “cheap” (aka free) since I am not willing to shell out money for a program that I perhaps will use only once in every two to three years.

I went to Snapfiles and look up their freeware program. I decided to try Xxclone. It was a very small download (1.2MB) but to my pleasant surprise, it worked very well.

Here are the steps I took to upgrade the hard disk drive in case anyone is interested:

  1. Connect the new hard disk drive to my computer through an external USB 2.0 drive enclosure.
  2. Partition and format the drive using the Disk Management tool in Windows XP under Administrative Tools > Computer Management (in Control Panel). If this is the first time the drive is being formatted, I suggest NOT using “Quick Format” to check and make sure that there are no bad sectors.
  3. After the drive is formatted, assign a drive letter to it.
  4. Install and run Xxclone.
  5. Select the source disk and the target disk.
  6. Use the “Backup the entire volume by copying all the files form scratch.” (/backup1) option. This is the only option if you are using the free version.
  7. Click “Start” and then go have a coffee or something while Xxclone does its job.
  8. After the cloning is completed, use the “Cool Tools” to make the new disk bootable (“Make Bootable”). Also duplicate the volume ID if you like.
  9. Power down the computer, swap out the old drive with the new drive.
  10. Power up the computer, and … viola, the new disk boots correctly with the same Windows environment.

For me it was a painless experience, and all this for a price of $0. I couldn’t help but write this post to recommend it. 🙂

Mozy Backup after one year

2007-12-10-mozyhome.pngI have been using the free online backup service from to backup my home computer for more than a year. So far it has worked well and although I have not had a hard disk disaster that requires a restore from Mozy, I have tried using Mozy to retrieve one or two files. It works as expected.

Recently, with my growing camcorder video collection, I thought about using their paid service, called MozyHome, that offers unlimited backup at a price of $4.95 a month. It sounds like a reasonable deal — pay $54.45 a year (one month free with one year subscription) and get off-site backup protection for my files.

One concern I have though is whether “unlimited backup” is really unlimited. As we all know, sometimes “unlimited” does not really mean that the space is unlimited; rather the company chooses to impose some unpublished limitations. For example, some web hosting plans have been known to advertised with “unlimited” space but once a certain limit is reached, the hosting would terminate the service to the customer.

I posed this question to Mozy, and here’s their reply (which came in no more than 10 minutes!):

Unlimited really means Unlimited! We’re constantly adding more space to our database so we’ll be able to keep up with whatever you throw at it.

In other words, don’t worry about it, just back it up.

I am still mauling this over. If you have any experience with using the MozyHome paid service, it will be great to hear it!

And if you are interested in the free backup service, refer to my earlier post HERE. You can get an additional 256 MB from the referral link.

OpenDNS – A Safer and Faster DNS

After reading a recent article in PCWorld, I switched my DNS server on my router from those operated by my ISP to those from OpenDNS. In my unscientific tests, I noted a drop in delay in the time taken to lookup a given website.

The following information is from OpenDNS:

Why should I use OpenDNS?

Why is OpenDNS safer than what I’m using now for DNS?

OpenDNS intercepts phishing attempts. OpenDNS customers will be warned if they attempt to visit a phishing site.

Why is OpenDNS faster than other DNS services?

Two things make OpenDNS faster than similar services. First, OpenDNS runs a really big, smart cache, so every OpenDNS user benefits from the activities of the broader OpenDNS user base. Second, OpenDNS runs a high-performance network which is geographically distributed (see network map) and serviced by several redundant connections. OpenDNS responds to your query from the nearest location. That means we’re very fast (and extremely reliable, to boot).

Why is OpenDNS smarter?

We fix typos in the URLs you enter whenever we can. For example, if you’re using OpenDNS craigslist.og will lead directly to

If we’re not sure what to do with an error, we provide search results for you to choose from.

Does using OpenDNS cost me money?

No. OpenDNS is free to use.

How do I start using OpenDNS?

Change your DNS settings to the OpenDNS servers:


More details are in the Getting Started section, with step-by-step instructions for different routers, operating systems, and networks.

Reminder: there is no software to install, no cost, and you can switch any time.