I once again went to the backup computer, but this time I installed more of the software on the backup machine than I have done in the past, and did more to try and get the backup computer to be configured about the way I want the main one to be. That's time-consuming, but it means that I shouldn't have to do that work again on the clone. I then cloned the backup machine's boot drive (a 160GB drive) onto the failed-twice drive (a 250GB drive, but I retained the original partition size, leaving the rest of the drive unpartitioned). I left that clone job, which takes between 1 and 2 hours, to run when I left for work.
On the way home, I went to Fry's and bought another 250GB IDE drive. Wow, IDE drives are starting to get scarce. It's not surprising, given that all new machines use SATA interfaces, but I'm surprised at how the amount of shelf space given to IDE drives has decreased in just a couple of months.
Grumbling over having to shell out yet another $100 for computer hardware, I headed home and installed the completed clone into the main computer. It booted, thank goodness. I then installed a couple of pieces of software that I'd forgotten to add to the backup machine. Given how cranky the HP C6100 series printer software is, I think it's just as well that I didn't 'contaminate' the backup machine with it. It took more than an hour to get what should be a relatively simple set of drivers installed. But anyway, after adding that and dealing with the codecs I need to read MP4 files in WMP11 and fiddling around with the configuration so it boots the way I want, I decided it was time to "upgrade" to the new drive. Note that these various installations required multiple reboots, so (for now), the twice-failed hard drive is properly recognizing the boot sector and is booting.
Attaching the new 250GB drive with the bridge cable, I set off a clone, this time resizing the new partition so that it uses all of the space on the drive for the system partition. I'll leave that to run when I go to bed. Tomorrow morning, I'll move the newly-spawned clone into place as my primary hard drive. In theory, I should end up with three 250GB hard drives -- a primary and backups A and B. From here forward, I will do my backups by cloning the primary into the older of the two backups A/B, so that if something fails mid-clone like it did a few days ago, I still have the newer clone as another backup.
Having to keep two extra 250GB drives around to back up a single system drive seems a bit excessive, but given my history with computers, it seems like the prudent thing to do. For all of the annoyance all of these reinstalls and clones have been, I still haven't had a significant loss of user data, although there are a couple of places where I'm sure glad Cheryl had copies of certain files or configuration settings she could send me. I may even go get another 160GB drive -- if they're still on the shelves! -- so that the backup machine is also doubly backed up.