Drive Partitions: There are a significant number of partition arrangements, from a number of computer manufactures which have preinstalled versions of Windows 7, systems upgraded from Vista or XP and finally to home built systems. TechNet has a good article that covers a number of BIOS and UEFI partition arrangements:
For this article I will be covering a couple of BIOS / Master Boot Record based drive partition arrangements with respect to creating an Image Backup strategy and implementing it.
All backups will be made from the Windows 7 environment and backup restoration / drive recovery will be made from a bootable recovery disk. One such backup would be an image of the entire hard drive. Note that a number of computers with Windows 7 preinstalled also include a recovery partition. Partition sizes vary from one manufacture to another and can be as small as 10GB or as large as 30GB.
Another backup would be just the Windows 7 partition. Usually you would only need to backup only the Windows 7 partition when you install or remove software when in the Windows 7 OS.
These 2 types of backups will allow you to revert to your pre Windows 8 drive configuration should you choose to do so and will also allow you to prepare your drive for installation of each successive release of Windows 8.
The choice of which backup software is yours (Windows 7 Backup and Restore is not recommended) however I suggest one of the following three products:
1. Norton Ghost 15 (Installs in Windows 7 only, but will backup and restore both Windows 7 and 8 partitions)
2. Acronis True Image 2011, 2012 or 2013 (2013 supports both Windows 7 & 8)
3. EaseUS Todo Backup version 4.0, 4.5 or 5.0 (5.0 supports Windows 7 & 8)
(For those of you who do not have Ghost or True Image, Todo backup has a free solution, you need to search their site to find its hard to located the free download).
For the upcoming evaluations of Windows 8 I will be using Ghost 15 installed in Windows 7, for those of you using other backup software the backup software should be installed in and the "Drive Image" created from the Windows 7 environment before you make any partition changes and or install Windows 8. Each of the Image Backup software applications mentioned will backup and restore both your Windows 7 and Windows 8 partitions when using the Ghost, Acronis or Todo "Recovery DVD" media.
First a baseline image backup of the entire drive will be created. After the Windows 7 partition is shrunk to create unallocated space for use in installing Windows 8 another baseline image backup of the entire drive will be created, this second baseline will be used as a starting point prior to installing each release of Windows 8 over the coming months.
Separate image backups of just the Windows 7 partition will be made only when and if additional applications are installed within Windows 7.