I have two Dell D600 laptops, one of which I consider my "flagship" machine. They're numbered 6 and 7. (All of the older laptops have been retired, although I still have some of them here as parts sources.) I also have three 320GB laptop hard drives and two 250GB drives. Due to my unfortunate history with computers, I try to do a double-rolling backup in the form of cloned drives on the flagship machine, which has until recently been #6. #7 is a relatively recent acquisition.
Both 6 and 7 shipped with small hard drives. Each has different software on it, and in some cases, no installation CD-ROMs or any other way to re-install the software if the drives go bad. In both cases, I "clone up" the small drives into one of the larger drives here. #6 has some hardware annoyances and I wanted to "transfer the flag" to #7, which also has the software I want to retain. But #6 has the 320GB drives, and you can't "clone down" from a larger to a smaller drive. Also, #6 and #7 have different sets of drivers in them. I did try once just moving #6's drive into #7's body, but it didn't work, even though they're both the same hardware. There are too many variables, and things went badly and I had to retreat. (I was using one of #6's backup clones for that test, so no harm was done at the time.) Still, I wanted to get this flag-transfer done, and this weekend looked like the only time I would have to do it.
So the plan was that I would clone #7's base drive into the older of the two 320GB backups, then install that into #7's shell and get in configured the way I wanted. Then I would transfer all of my settings and files from the "active" copy of #6's 320 GB drive. That would make #7 my new "flag" machine. The two remaining 320 GB drives (including the one that started inside #6) would become the new rolling backups for #7. I could then use the as-delivered copy of #6's drive and clone it into one of the 250GB drives and configure it for the now-secondary #6.
This plan would work and didn't seem like it would take forever. I have Total Recovery Pro 7 as my drive cloning software and a couple of IDE-to-USB connectors. For the first of the many steps, I decided to use #6's copy of TRP and plug the source #7 drive and the destination 320GB drive into the USB hub and clone from drive 1 to drive 2 (drive 0 being the hard drive inside the computer, which would theoretically simply be running the cloning software).
Something went wrong. Partway through the clone, the software seemed to freeze up and I had to do a hard power off to get things back together again. Except that #6 now would not boot! And when you stop a clone part-way through, the destination drive is useless (except as a potential new destination). I suddenly went from having a main drive and two backups to having lost the main drive and only having one backup.
Okay, so in goes the backup clone, which boots fine. I copy all of the files and settings from the non-booting drive. (As usual when this happens, the drive was readable but not bootable. No, I have no idea why.) I think went ahead and cloned the resulting operating drive back into the non-booting drive, as I wanted to make sure I had a complete backup of the flag drive on #6 before starting over.
So now I started the process of moving drives back and forth. All day long and into the night. And moving data back and forth, too. And reconfiguring computers, downloading drivers, downloading interminable updates, cloning from drive to drive until I finally, sometime this afternoon, I got things settled out. I think.
For much of this time, either one laptop or the other was offline. Fortunately, I had my work machine here, which meant I could stay caught up with e-mail and such. For good measure, I'll set the work machine's clone backup running overnight tonight.
After two days of futzing around with computers, I finally have my newly-configured machine #7 going the way I want it, I think. I will doubtless spend weeks finding things that I left out and have to restore from other backups, but the biggest things are in place, and I now have the software I want on the computer I want with the hardware I want. Fingers crossed things stay that way for a while.