If you’ve been using computers for any length of time, you’ve had the problem.
Maybe you haven’t had a hard drive fail, yet, but you’ve managed to delete or overwrite one of your data files with a changed version — and immediately said "Oh, NO!"
Most people have the problem and have no way to recover a copy of their older version. But you can, if you make a habit of backing up your data.
Karen’s Replicator ( www.karenware.com ) is a great program that I use for making backup copies of my data files. With Replicator, I can schedule backups of any modified files as often as I like. I can back up to a different directory on my hard drive, to a different hard drive (internal or external) or even to a directory on a shared drive across my home network.
By scheduling a daily backup of my data files, I know that I’ll have "yesterday’s" version safely available if I manage to butcher my data file.
Replicator covers your files, but is not a solution for Windows itself — Windows has to be reinstalled, not just copied into place.
Fortunately, there’s another solution that is similar to the Restore CDs and Restore DVDs that come with many computers.
I use Acronis True Image Home 2010 (Acronis is the company; True Image is the program.) to make my own versions of Restore DVDs. Often, I don’t even burn them to DVD’s. I can more easily save the images to an External drive and be able to restore from the external drive.
The important point with True Image is that I’m backing up the entire disk (or entire disk partitions) so that I can put it back the same way — with a working Windows operating system. I can restore to the same hard drive, to a different hard drive of the same size, or even to a larger hard drive.
More importantly, it’s not back to "Day 1" of the system. The recovery would put me back to the status of the date I made the image backup.
True Image also lets me make quick, smaller backups to get only the files that changed. These require the full backup as a base. The differential image backup records all changes since the last full backup. The incremental image backup records all the changes since the last full backup or the last incremental backup, whichever is later.
I can also choose to restore individual files from the images, so that gives me some snapshots of file versions at different times.
If you’re not doing any data backups or system backups now, check out Karen’s Replicator and Acronis True Image. They can make the occasional brain-freeze or hardware failure much less traumatic.