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Best way to create an image of my hard drive for backup and restore in case of system crash

Posted on 2011-05-08
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I am wanting to make a clone of my hard drive for backup purposes. I would like some advice as to what would be the best way to go about it . . . as well as the most economical. I plan on using the free backup and recovery tool by Paragon Software. I have an Asus notebook running Windows 7 Professional with a 250 GB hard drive of which 146 GB is used. I have a CD/DVD drive to which I can write to and multiple USB 2.0 ports.

Ok. A few questions now.

If I want this backup image file to be available in case of a system crash, I really need to create a bootable disc, right? Or a bootable thumb drive? And really, since I'm cloning a hard drive with 146 GB of data, I'm looking at using multiple discs or flash drives, right? By the way, is most cloning software designed to compress the image file at the end of the process? Also, I have an external hard drive attached to my notebook, but if I store the image file there, I will not have a way to access it in case of a system crash, right? I mean, I would need the image file to be on a media that is bootable, right? I know blu-ray discs have a far greater capacity, but they will not work in my CD/DVD drive, will they? Well . . . I think you probably have a good idea as to what I'm trying to do here. I'm just looking for the most efficient and economical way to go about it based on my current hardware, etc. I've never done this before and I'm just looking to learn something in the process as well. Thanks!
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Question by:Thunderman54
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by:rindi
rindi earned 248 total points
ID: 35715977
If I'm not mistaken the paragon utility should have an option with which you can create a bootable CD, so your backup itself doesn't have to be bootable. You would just boot the utility from that CD you made, then restore from the backup. This would also take care of your Question about accessing the external HD, the tool starts from a Windows PE version so unless your chipset is very un-standard it'll be able to access any USB drives.

I wouldn't recommend backing up to optical Media, that is in my opinion too expensive and such a disk can easily get scratched and corrupt your backup. Most imaging tools compress while backing up in real time, and not at the end of the process.

I would just backup to an external HD (not a flash drive), as they are more reliable and also cheaper for the capacity.
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 35716014
Seperate the boot cd from your backup in your plan. This is normal. So the boot device will either be a cd or flash drive. Then your actual backup will be on an external USB harddrive.
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by:rindi
ID: 35716029
I've just installed and checked the Paragon free backup tool, and it does allow you to make a recovery CD. If you click on "Tools" there is a "Recovery Media Builder" option. I was mistaken with the Windows PE though, actually it is a Linux based CD, but that doesn't really make a big difference, except that from my experience that works better on more hardware and loads faster. This tool is also able to make differential backups, so for backups after your first you'll not need as much space on your external disk. But i'd still make backups to at least 2 external HD, maybe a full backup plus 6 differentials on one for the  first week, and the same on the 2nd Disk for the 2nd week, and then always rotate them.
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Author Comment

by:Thunderman54
ID: 35716157
What is a Windows PE version? And . . . your saying the bootable CD you can create with the Paragon software is something that just has their Utility on it and allows you to copy/restore the image file back to your main hard drive? I should definitely be able to see my external HD as well . . . without Windows even loading? Do I need to have the image file on it's own partition on the external HD, or is it even possible to partition an external hard drive?
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by:rindi
ID: 35716175
Windows PE is a very basic version of Windows 7 that boots off a CD, but it seems that only the non-free versions of paragon software allow you to create such a PE CD, the free versions allow you to make a bootable CD based on Linux.

It boots a small OS directly from the CD, has very good Plug and Play so it recognizes most available hardware. This mean you don't have to install windows or any other OS when you want to recover. And yes, the external HD should be visible.

You can partition the external HD, but in my opinion that wouldn't be of much use unless you want to use it for other things apart from backups.

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Author Comment

by:Thunderman54
ID: 35716231
I do use my ext HD currently to do a monthly backup of a few files and folders using Microsoft's "Synctoy" program. I think I would like to continue to do this . . . in addition to having a cloned image of my entire hardrive. So . . . that being the case, would you recommend partitioning the ext HD to keep them separate? If so, can I just use Windows built in partitioning program?
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Aaron Tomosky earned 252 total points
ID: 35716258
Food for thought. This is hat I do on my personal laptop:
I have patrol Ed my one drive into c and d. C has windows and programs. D has data (I relocated documents, videos, music, etc to this drive but not my entire profile)
I use an image based backup for c. I use synctoy for d. Both of these backups go to the same external drive that is not partitioned. D goes to a folder called dbackup. The images go to a folder called images.
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Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 35716267
It isn't really necessary to partition the disk, as you can backup the image to a Directory you have set for this. If you make separate partitions it's difficult to know in advance what sizes the partitions should be and you would possibly waste space.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Thunderman54
ID: 35716645
Thanks for the help
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