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This little success story is about using Norton Ghost to create a bootable Linux partition on a separate hard drive.
I am running SuSE 8.2. My Reiser partition is hda5 and the swap partition is hda6. The trick is to make a Ghost floppy disk from which to boot, and use the disk-to-disk clone feature. AFAIK this makes a direct sector copy as opposed to an image file. It copied the boot sector and everything -- grub comes right up and away you go. The only trickiness I encountered was setting the HD jumpers correctly so that the target HD shows up as the primary IDE master.
Details: My source Reiser partition is only 3 GB in size and Ghost will not let me resize it. My target HD is 40 GB in size. There is a 1 GB primary FAT 32 partition at the beginning of the little HD and a 1 GB Linux swap partition at the end. Before copying, Ghost offered to make the FAT 32 and swap partitions some gargantuan size to fill the 40 GB HD whilst keeping the Reiser partition at 3 GB, but I shrunk the FAT 32 partition down to its original 1 GB and made the swap partition 3 GB.
I suppose the downside is that you need Windows to run Ghost to make the floppy disk. I don't recall Ghost coming with a floppy -- if it did it is buried somewhere on my desk. I don't know if Drive Copy from Powerquest, which I believe is also a sector copier, will work but it might.
If you don't back up your HD you're playing with fire. Backups have saved my butt on many occasions when I screwed something up and wanted to put it back the way it was, or when the entire HD up and died as mine did at 3:30 am this past Xmas morning. HD crash? No problem! Swap in the bootable backup, pitch the old one in the trash and off you go. If you keep your backup recent you'll lose a minimal amount of data. And don't forget to backup the backup.