How to basics: back-up and restore (part 2)

Features David Hayward Feb 7, 2013

David Hayward explains another form of backing up

In part 1 of this article, we covered the basic file level backup as provided by Windows; this week we’ll have a look at another kind of backup known as an image.

Imaging provides a total backup solution for your computer. It basically takes a snapshot of your hard drive at that time. When we say snapshot, we mean literally everything: operating system, installed programs, pictures, videos, work documents, the whole lot. It will also snapshot any problems you have inherent in your OS as well, but let’s assume for now that your computer is operating without any issues.

The imaging process usually takes a lot longer than the previous file level backup, but then that’s to be expected, as you’re making a clone of your hard drive and storing it as an individual file. Restoring it is a different kettle of fish, however.

If you’re restoring your image onto the same computer (perhaps you’ve purchased a new hard drive), then you’ll be perfectly fine. If you’re restoring onto a different computer, then you’ll come across one or two issues. The first could very well be the fact that Windows refuses point-blank to boot into the new hardware, which leaves your precious backup somewhat useless, and the second, usually the more common, involves you having to re-enter a new Windows licence key, along with the removal of the old systems drivers and the installation of the new ones.

What are the advantages then? Well, the main one is the amount of time you’ll save by not having to set up your system again, and the speed at which you can get back working again. The other is the assurance that everything will be as it was previously.

Imaging

Open up the Control Panel, then go to ‘System and Security’ > ‘Backup and Restore’, and you’ll see the hyperlinked ‘Create a system image’ on the left of the screen. Clicking this will open up a window very much the file/folder level backup from last week. Windows will scan your system looking for media that can be utilised as a credible means to store the image onto.

Click ‘Next’ and you’ll be asked which drive to image, including the system reserved space. Generally speaking, if you need to restore your computer after a failed hard drive, then select the system drive (C: most of the time) and the reserved system space, because one cannot function properly without the other.

Clicking ‘Next’ will bring up the familiar summary of choices window. Provided everything is correct, go ahead and click ‘Start Backup’. Once the process is complete, you’ll have the opportunity to create a rescue disc. This is very important, the finished disc will allow you to boot into a Windows rescue GUI that will give you the option to restore the system image back onto a new hard drive.

When you’re all done, rescue disc and everything, you should have a folder on your backup drive called ‘WindowsImageBackup’ which contains the snapshot of your system.

Restoring

Keep the rescue disc you made in a safe place. This is what will be used to restore your system. In the event of a hard drive failure or new setup, simply insert the rescue disc and hook up the medium where the image was stored. Select the boot priority from the system BIOS to the optical drive and follow the on-screen prompts from the rescue disc GUI to restore your system.

After a short while, you’ll be able to reboot your system and use it as it was before the catastrophe.