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Best way to do an image back up of Windows 7 hard disk - win 7 or 3rd party?

I'm torn between two ways of doing an image back up of the 250G drive in my laptop.

My main concern is if the operating system gets screwed up, say due to malware or a virus or something, I don't want to spend 2 weeks re-installing win 7 and all my software.  I can't afford the downtime.  

So I want an image that will get me back up and running in a few hours.

I'm backing up the laptop  to a 320G 2.5" drive.

If I use a 3rd party backup program like Acronis, it gives gives me an image that looks exactly like the original, I can navigate each directory and file, and if the original HD dies, I could simply swap hard disks.

If I use Windows 7 image backup, the original file structure is obscured in some propriety Microsoft format.  I can't  go in an get a specific file.  But, the image is useful if I need to reboot using the repair disk because it looks for image files.

Any suggestions or anything else I should be considering?

Again my main priority is getting back up and running quickly if windows somehow gets trashed.

There is a separate nightly  back up that protects my latest data files.  So those are taken care of



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bigmikey88
Asked:
bigmikey88
3 Solutions
 
Run5kCommented:
Personally, I would stick with the built-in Windows system image backup capabilities for several reasons:

- You can't beat the price... it's already available within Windows 7!

- You don't really need the capability to drill down and recover specific files or folders if you are already performing separate backup procedures for your data files.  Additionally, the built-in Restore Previous Versions function can quickly recover files & folders on-the-fly.

- It's fast and easy.  You would definitely be up and running again in much less than the few hours that you mentioned.

For those of us in the studio audience who aren't familiar with the built-in capabilities, here are some good tutorials:

Windows 7 - Backup Complete Computer - Create an Image Backup

How To Restore Windows 7 from a System Image

How to Do a System Image Recovery in Windows 7
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xcasCommented:
if you don't have hidden partition i would use DriveImage XML...

if  you do have hidden partitions use EaseUS Todo Backup... it has clone capability..

(hidden partition = recovery partitions)
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rindiCommented:
You can also restore single files or folders from the Windows 7 Images. When you open Backup and Restore in the Control Panel you can select restore and then browse those files or folder you want. Apart from that, you can also browse the backup files with your file-manager, and then open the zip files the backup utility made, and from that you can restore files you need.

Apart from that, imaging software won't allow you to just replace the original disk with the one the image is on. You have to restore that image to a harddisk first before you can use it. If you just want to replace the disk you need cloning software, not imaging software...

If you want something that is easier to use than the windows 7 built-in backup tool, I recommend the free utilities you can get from paragon (provided it is for private use). They have a free backup and restore tool (you can create images with it), and also a free partition manager tool (with this you can also do cloning):

http://www.paragon-software.com/free/
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ajjmunozCommented:
I would use Acronis.


Why Acronis:
If you use Acronis, the backup size will only be as big as how much data you actually have on the harddrive.
You can password protect the image.
You can save the image in multiple directories if you'd like to.
If you use the Acronis, the format is compatible with multiple applications.
Acronis will allow you to restore single files if you need to in the future.

Why NOT Windows 7:
If you use Windows 7, If you backup a 100GB hard drive (correct me if I'm wrong), your backup will either be 100GB or close to that size.
The Windows 7 imaging/backup is only compatible with the whole Windows backup/restore process and is NOT able to be used with any other restoring software.


This is my personal opinion. If you disagree, provide why instead of just telling me I'm wrong and that Windows 7 backups are totally awesome. From my experience, the one time I did a Windows backup was the only time I was never able to use a backed up image. It was just too bulky and took too long.
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drose10Commented:
Two considerations . . .

1.  If your primary concern is restoring Windows and user files after casual virus infestation, EaseUS Todo Backup (free) puts your system back to a perfect working state in about 15 minutes - no external drive or CD boot required.  Use the free EaseUS Partition Master Home to create an extended partiton called something like "Recovery".

2.  If your primary worry is complete hard drive failure, Acronis True Image Home will indeed make an exact copy of your drive.  In fact, purchase the Acronis Plus Pack too and you'll have the ability to migrate your old hard disk image to a brand new computer, no matter how different the hardware.
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nobusCommented:
i  recommend paragon also; i found it faster than most, and easy to use - and it is also free
if you want to make an image, you may be interested in making 2 partitions on your disk, one for data, and one for the rest - this reduces the time needed for making & restoring the image drastically
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TroyHrehirchukCommented:
bigmikey88

I believe you have answered you own question already wanted to highlight the main goal you have is get back up and running in 15 minutes

>>I'm torn between two ways of doing an image back up of the 250G drive in my laptop.

It sounds like you are already comfortable with ACRONIS stick with what you know.

>>My main concern is if the operating system gets screwed up, say due to malware or a virus or >>something, I don't want to spend 2 weeks re-installing win 7 and all my software.  I can't afford the >>downtime.

My question here is are you carrying your 320G 2.5 around with you?

>>So I want an image that will get me back up and running in a few hours.

>>I'm backing up the laptop  to a 320G 2.5" drive.

If you are carrying your 320 ext around with you keep it plugged in and have Acronis do incremental at intervals you would like. The nice thing about the newer versions of Acronis it is incredibly configurable depending on what you want to do... Do this through tasks...

>>If I use a 3rd party backup program like Acronis, it gives gives me an image that looks exactly like the >>original, I can navigate each directory and file, and if the original HD dies, I could simply swap hard >>disks.

With the 320g ext you can make that bootable Acronis disk as well and boot from it in the event of your laptop failing ( boot from USB ) A word of caution though if you are carrying around you 320ext I would suggest another HD in another place for both security reasons and following the 3 rule backup system :) and perhaps look at on-line/cloud backup of your image weekly or bi-weekly Acronis provides such as service as you probably know already :)

>>If I use Windows 7 image backup, the original file structure is obscured in some propriety Microsoft >>format.  I can't  go in an get a specific file.  But, the image is useful if I need to reboot using the repair >>disk because it looks for image files.

Windows 7 image backup is ruled out here by your original goal

>>Any suggestions or anything else I should be considering?

>>Again my main priority is getting back up and running quickly if windows somehow gets trashed.

>>There is a separate nightly  back up that protects my latest data files.  So those are taken care of
If I may make another suggestion to backup your my docs folder via the cloud using online backup or even Acronis on-line storage or 3rd party M$ cloud.

Regards,
TH

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bigmikey88Author Commented:
So I tried to work with Win 7 image utility and it sucked.  It insisted on including a stack of raid drives that I did not want included on the 320G back up HD.  I'm sure there was some way around that, but after an hour I could not find it.

So I am using Acronis to clone the main HD.  That actually goes into an off site storage location i.e. safety deposit box at bank.  Then I will keep one around locally for faster recovery.

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bigmikey88Author Commented:
So I tried to work with Win 7 image utility and it sucked.  It insisted on including a stack of raid drives that I did not want included on the 320G back up HD.  I'm sure there was some way around that, but after an hour I could not find it.

So I am using Acronis to clone the main HD.  That actually goes into an off site storage location i.e. safety deposit box at bank.  Then I will keep one around locally for faster recovery.
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