Thanks for the help.
I originally used Ghost2003 on my Nightowl cd, I made long ago and use a lot without problems.
The first step I took was to ghost the entire drive, not just the partition to a set of 2.xGig files. At the time I did not have another physical drive ready.
Later I ghosted an identical size drive from those image files.
It would start boot and fail with grub error 17. (both the image files, and the cloned drive pass Ghost's integrity check.)
So at this moment, I just finished making a file of each drives MBR:
dd if=/dev/hdc of=/home/guest/Desktop/orig.mbr bs=512 count=1 for the original drive.
dd if=/dev/hdc of=/home/guest/Desktop/clone.mbr bs=512 count=1 for the cloned drive
I then loaded 'hexeditor' I found in the synaptic repo for my ZEN live cd. (Yay PCLinuxOS to the rescue).
Both files are identical! But the original drive boots, the new one gets error 17.
I don't need to recover the data, the purpose is to make the system a spare drive in case the original goes south.
There is a lot of proprietary hardware around it, but I thought the drive looked typical. FAT32, grub loader etc.
There is some windows stuff on there as the drive holder is designed to be plugged in and read via usb on any windows box.
The drives are 80G, and part of this project was to explore the possibility of putting an IDE/flash drive to replace the hard drives, but wanted to make sure I didn't mess up the original system.
There is no provision for a cdrom or floppy on the system the drive lives on, but my present thought is to make a bootable usb stick and poke around the drives in the system rather than in my test tower.
But I am at square one with making a bootable usb, much as I want to learn that soon anyway.
Thanks, something to take our time waiting for 2010
I first compared the menu.lst and other things I read about, but there are no changes.
So what tiny bit of data am I missing from one platter to another? I thought for sure reading the hex of each MBR would show me the difference.