Win 7: Backing up without a second HDD?

After an Acer Aspire One netbook belonging to someone else became suspiciously sluggish I have just re-installed Windows 7, all essential security programs, security and anti-adware browser addons, a safe hosts file, and all necessary programs to make full use of media etc.

This took some time to do, and I can see myself having to do it all over again in a few months time, and although it is incredibly easy to re-install Windows 7 using Acer Recovery (holding down Alt + F10 immediately at boot - you may need to try this several times), it is a pain in the ass customizing the system.

Ideally I would like to take make a complete backup image file and store it somewhere safe. The problem is that there is no external HDD to back up onto, and the only media available to backup onto, a Verbatim 16GB flash drive, Windows Backup will not work with.

There is not and there never will be multimedia to backup on this system.

When I try Start Menu >> Search >> Backup and Restore >> Create system image >> On a hard disk >> <Select the flash drive> >> initially here it told me it could not use it as it was not formatted to NTFS (for linux compatibility), but on formatting to said file system it now advises me:

This drive is not a valid back up location.

Strange since there is an option to install to multiple DVDs, although obviously this is not practical with a netbook.

I understand the drive is about 10GBs short for a complete backup of the system and what I have installed, but from the videos I have watched online I should have the option to deselect the system files themselves, and just back up the rest. This would work almost as well as a complete backup, because as I have said it is relatively easy and pain free to reinstall bare-metal Windows 7 from Acer's on-board media which must be some hidden partition.

Is there some way to make this work? Would it succeed if I ordered a 32GB flash drive?

Is there any way to backup an image onto the same image it comes from, even if I would have to boot off a flash drive to achieve this?

Maybe I could fool the system temporarily into thinking there was a separate partition to backup onto using something like Daemon Tools to create some sort of virtual drive?

I know I could use GParted to partition the drive, something I have used before but I understand it could damage the HDD, although since the drive is relatively empty and I would only be splitting partitions rather than moving them it would be okay?
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More about backing
  1. you can do it with Clonezilla.

    Clonezilla is a Free & Open Source Software for Disk Imaging and Cloning. You can make a Full System Backup or transfer the entire contents of one drive to another if you are doing a Hard drive upgrade.

    How to use Clonezilla Step By Step instructions with pictures!
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