A system backup is very convenient if you have a total system crash. Back in the Windows 95 days, I started using PowerQuest’s Drive Image to do image backups of my hard drive partitions. Why? It made recovering from a hardware or software glitch much easier.
I remember my son getting a tank warfare game, which he thought was a lot of fun. Until he exited the game and rebooted. Windows would no longer go into 800×600 mode. It was stuck in 640×480, even when it said that it was running in 800×600. The ultimate fix was to reinstall Windows.
You can guess part 2, I’m sure — I finished late at night, went to work the next day, and by the time I got home, he had reinstalled the game and destroyed the system again.
Drive imaging came to the rescue. This time, I told him to keep his hands off until I told him he could touch the computer again. I reinstalled Windows. Reinstalled all the drivers. Reinstalled the basic software (Word Perfect, Netscape Communicator, and some others). Then, I made an image of the drive using Drive Image.
The next time I needed to reinstall Windows on his computer, it took me 10 minutes, including booting the floppy disk to start the process. All that basic system data fit on one CDROM — those were the good old days.
In the Windows XP world, we can do similar image backups of entire disks including multiple partitions, writing them directly on bootable DVD’s or even external USB drives. Norton Ghost and Symantec Drive Image 9 (which is rumored to be the replacement for the aging Ghost product) can do this, although they are very Windows-centric.
A couple other options are Acronis True Image ($50, http://terryscomputertips.com/Acronis) and TeraByte Unlimited’s BootIt NG ($35, http://www.terabyteunlimited.com). You can also restore individual files from either True Image and BootIt NG.
Acronis True Image is imaging software only, but it allows you to do full images backups and incremental images, too. Acronis True Image can even back up your system while you are actually running, which a normal backup program can not do. Most backup programs require that that Windows system files be "closed" before they can be copied.
BootIT NG is a multi-function package, which functions as a boot manager, allowing you to boot multiple different operating systems from one computer and which also does partition imaging, but it runs before Windows ever boots. BootIt NG has a free download accessory that will restore individual files from within Windows and a related program that will perform backups while Windows is running (Image for Windows, $28). Bootit NG will also make images of Linux partitions.
Check out some drive imaging software. It may be a pain to remember to do a system backup, but one day, you’ll be glad you did.