Hard Drive Backup Image
If you do everything just right, you'll end up with a perfect hard drive. Your operating system will be bug-free; your applications will play well together; your data will be neatly organized in folders; everything will be just perfect. And then it will change. That's why you need a backup image of your hard drive…
Create A Backup Image Of Your Hard Drive
Change is inevitable. Your operating system and applications write and re-write data constantly. A power surge or voltage drop during disk writing can mess things up. You consciously or accidentally move things around or change settings. You add new applications that do unexpected things. Maybe you catch a virus. Things get out of whack. If only you could put them back the way they were! That's what a disk image is for.
A disk image is a single file that contains a perfect copy of your hard drive as it existed at a given point in time. Store the disk image safely somewhere else. Reformat your hard drive, if the mess gets that bad. Copy the disk image onto the formatted drive. Presto! You're back to that point in time, with everything just as you had it.
Keep in mind that a backup image does not allow you to restore selected files -- it's all or nothing. So I suggest you also read my related articles Free Backup Solutions and Online Backup to familiarize yourself with other options that will allow you to backup and restore individual files or folders.
When Should You Make a Disk Image?
Making a disk image takes a very long time, and you can't use your computer while the image is being made; it would be like a photo subject moving during a snapshot. So make a disk image only at times of critical changes in your hard drive:
- After installing an operating system and all its available patches for the first time. This gives you a clean base upon which to install applications.
- Before installing major applications like Microft Office, in which any number of things can go wrong.
- Before downloading and installing Windows Service Packs, in which any number of things can go wrong.
- At variable intervals depending on how much you add, remove, and rearrange data and applications. Once a month, a quarter, whatever.
How Do I Make a Disk Image?
Some flavors of Windows Vista and Windows 7 can make "system images" which are backup disk images. To create a system image on Windows Vista, Click on Start / Control Panel / System and Maintenance / Backup and Restore Center. Then click on "Back up Computer", and follow the steps in the wizard. On Windows 7, you'll need to click on Start / Control Panel /Backup and Restore, then click "Create a system image".
Note that this system image feature is available only in Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, but not in Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium. According to reports I've seen, System Image will be available in all versions of Windows 7.
So if you have Windows XP, or some other version of Windows that does not provide the System Image feature, you're not out of luck. Try one of these commercial or freeware disk imaging applications with different approaches and benefits:
- Macrium Reflect is a totally free disk imaging solution.
- Norton Ghost is a heavily marketed and consequently widely used disk image utility. It's also priced at $69.99. Users have mixed opinions of it.
- Acronis has a variety of disk imaging solutions designed for basic home use up to enterprise-wide IT management. Free trial versions are available for downloading. I've used Acronis on my office computers for several years and it works well for me.
Have you made a backup image of your hard drive? Post your comments and questions below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Aug 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Hard Drive Backup Image (Posted: 4 Aug 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved