<<...why exactly would someone want to clone thier partition onto an external drive? What does that do and what would you do with the cloned partition after it's on the external drive? What are the benefits of doing that?>>
The answer to the first part...it's a very easy way of backing up the Windows partition, which is the most important partition that exists...because it contains the operating system. Without the operating system, no programs can be installed, utilized...no files can be accessed.
If the question arises...why should anyone backup their Windows partition...then the answer is a very basic "because we do not know that the system will continue to operate without problems of some type." If problems do occur, it's wise to have some sort of answer for dealing with such. Backing up is the basic technique that home users should employ to achieve this.
There are multiple ways of backing up. One involves cloning the entire partition
(which is what I suggest because hard drives are so cheap and large now) and the other primary method would be to use software
(such as Acronis True Image) which would take a picture/image of the partitions/files
that anyone wanted to backup.
IMO, the biggest limitation of using backup software is that some of it requires that the program run within Windows to be used. In that case, the person still has to install Windows to use the software. By comparison...if I clone a partition to another hard drive (not an external hard drive), all I have to do is remove one drive and put the other in it's place and the system resumes functioning from the time period when I last cloned the contents.I don't recommend that anyone backup to an external drive
, since I believe that external drive usage is way overrated in terms of desireability. By connecting a drive that relies on another connection (USB) to the system...I have put more things in between the drive and system that can go wrong. The power supply for the drive...the connection between the enclosure and the drive...the USB connection itself...IMO, these things compound troubleshooting when things go wrong with the drive. I prefer to directly connect my backup drives to the motherboard, do my backups...and the remove them from connection to the motherboard and just put them back in the protective packaging until I do the next clone of the system drive.
I suppose that external drives are recommended as storage solutions by many...because they don't consider the variety of storage solutions that now exist.
Connecting a hard drive to the motherboard for a backup operation...does not imply that said drive must remain connected to the system. DVDs provide backup opportunities. Home networks provide additional opportunities.
In any case...a person who has a system and who does not backup routinely in some manner...a person who does not have a copy of the operating system to use for repair or install purposes...is just a willing victim waiting for computer suicide to occur.
As to the benefit of cloning to an external drive...no benefit at all, since Windows won't boot from an external drive. I now could be wrong in asserting that, but my understanding is that Microsoft has not created any version of Windows with such in mind. Soooo...in order to be a boot drive, the hard drive must be attached to the motherboard.
If one is using backup software (not cloning the partition), then an external drive will serve. But, once again, Windows must be installed first...then the program...and users have to hope that their USB ports are working properly. Some backup programs do not require installation of Windows first...because they can be run from a bootable CD.
I can't answer any questions about your eMachines system and their partitioning scheme. But I do know that system manufacturers who employ restore/recovery partitions or CDs...are likely to employ a small partition to contain files they would like on the system. Your owner's manual should cover repair and reinstall options and give some idea of how they work.
A bit dated, but useful: Backup Options - http://www.onecomputerguy.com/install/backup.htm
Implementing a backup strategy - http://www.pcug.org.au/boesen/Backups/backups.htm
Windows Backup Does Not Back Up to CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD-R Devices - http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=315255
Using NTBackup in XP - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308422
....and some more links that cover backing up (which is really what I consider the topic).
The simple answer to what is a partition...just a storage cabinet. In the days when hard drives were MUCH smaller than today and systems only had 1 hard drive...partitioning was the way to create storage cabinets on a system. Today, we have multiple-HD systems...so there's really less need to create things like extended partitions or logical partitions...but they remain as our inheritance.
In reading, you may see suggestions to create such...I suggest ignoring those and remembering that once there was a need for that. Today, there's no reason why every partition created should not be a primary partitition, excluding those users who feel like they need to create umpteen storage compartments on one hard drive.