How to backup your operating system installation to an image file:

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Offline 1972vet

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How to backup your operating system installation to an image file:
« on: September 20, 2009, 08:22:39 AM »
With today's malware issues as they are, it's more important than ever to have a quick, easy method to restore your operating system to good working order. Backing up to an image file just makes good sense.

The best idea here is to do this either after a clean install of your operating system, or if you are certain you are not infected. If you've just performed a clean install, read on. If not, please be sure to update your on board antivirus product and perform a complete system scan of the hard disk. Allow the software to quarantine whatever it complains of. Research those scan results to insure they are either valid or false. If valid, then use your antivirus software to delete those quarantined items. If you found they were false positives, then of course you will want to restore those items.

Perform a disk cleanup to ensure all the clutter is gone. Click Start-->Programs-->Accessories-->System Tools-->Disk Cleanup. check off the following:
Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin, and Temporary Files. Click the More Options tab. Here you can remove the Windows components you KNOW that are safe for you to remove (if you are unsure about this, just skip this and go on), Installed programs that you are not using, and Old System Restore Points.

For this tutorial only, I would recommend removing all but the latest restore point to reduce the size of your operating system as much as possible in order to create the smallest image file later on. Click "OK" after you've made your selection(s).

When the disk cleanmgr completes, the next step should be to check the disk for errors. Keeping in mind, you are about to create an image of your operating system. You would not want to restore your operating system using an image file which contains extraneous programs/files/folders/garbage and clutter...neither would you want an image of a badly fragmented disk, or one that contains errors.

Before you defrag the disk, you should always clean up first, then check the disk for errors...otherwise, you will be trying to have windows sort the errors and clutter and asking it to place THEM on the disk scattered about along with whatever free space windows also finds. Not a good idea.

To check the disk, click start-->run...then type CMD into the run box and click "OK" or hit the "enter" key. When the command window opens, copy and paste the following into the command prompt window and press the enter key:
chkdsk /f
...the response will be a question. Please answer yes, then reboot the computer. When your system comes up, windows will begin to check the disk and make any corrections necessary. When it completes, windows will once more automatically reboot your system.

When it comes back up, if you want to see what corrections were made, you can view the results in your event log:
  • Click start-->run...type eventvwr.msc then click "OK".
  • In Event Viewer, click the "Application" log.
  • In the right pane, look down the Source column for
    "Winlogon" and double-click on that entry to view the results

Next, we need to defragment the volume. It's best to defrag in Safe mode where only a few necessary windows processes are running.

Click start-->All Programs-->Accessories-->System Tools-->Disk Defragmenter. Click on the drive you want to create an image file of. If you have only one, this should have opened to it directly by default. Click the Defragment button and do nothing else while the defrag process is underway. When it completes, reboot to your normal windows user mode.

Now we can begin to make the image of your operating system. You will need a couple CD's or DVD's (your preference). In order to use the least number of them, the best plan would be to reduce the image to it's smallest possible size. Compressing the drive before we make the image file is a good way to do that.

Right click on the drive you want to create an image of and select "Properties". At the bottom of the Properties Box window, check the box Compress drive to save disk space. Click "Apply" and allow the time for windows to finish compressing the files that it will. It's important to note that there are some files/folders that windows will not compress. You can certainly peruse the drive and find those items and compress them...but don't do that. As stated above, just let windows compress "what it will". Those few files/folders that are not compressed automatically should be left as they are. Windows chose not to compress them for a reason so leave them be...When it completes, we can begin to make the image.

Download Macrium Reflect's free edition imaging software. Open the software, find your drive on the list and click on it. From the menu at the top, select Backup and Create Image.

Follow the wizard's prompts to completion and voila! You now have a compact image of your operating system in good working order. Saved to a disk, it's a cinch to restore the entire operating system complete with all your installed software and hardware to good working order in just a few clicks and a short wait for the restore to complete.

If you have partitioned your hard drive, you'll also make out well if you keep this image file on one of your other partitions. Using the Macrium Reflect software, you can restore the drive you took an image of from that back up as well. Either case, you have a good copy of your entire operating system backed up to an image file where you can quickly and easily restore that installation of windows back to the condition it was in when you made the image.

If you need some reference to a good piece of free "Partitioning" software, use Partitioning Master free home edition.
Good Luck!

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