Last one or two times I did an OS reinstall is was a real bear. Many hours getting the OS install and drivers and software and basics right.
So I made sure to use the freebies of image backup, especially Macrium and DriveImageXL (any other favs?) to make multiple images in the days right after the install, stuck them on some Iomega and burned the recovery CDs. This can be fully free. I liked Macrium a little better especially since the result tended to be one easy to work with file of about 5 to 10 gigabytes for my early images.
When I went to restore, one image was busted (Macrium has a test-verify mode before) so the fact that I had made multiples was very helpful.
For this the more data you put on the d:\ the better. I'm not sure whether you can get Xampp type servers there though, so you be sure to back up the stuff you need, probably you also back up the full d:\ to be safe, even if you have to do some final backup with a recovery CD because your Windows was uncooperative.
(The file managers in the Recovery CD's vary, Dolphin on Kaspersky is ok, some have Midnight Commander, you do want one that thinks a bit in Windows rather than raw Linux only, once I had FreeCommander but I don't know where. I avoid the more complex recovery CDs like BartPE and UBCD4Windows).
You do have to keep in mind that if you reduce the c:\ size after the backup you won't be able to get the free larger image scrunched down (the paid version might work by eliminating blank space). So it is a good idea to partition down the c:\ to where you think you are comfy (in my case 30 gigabytes) before imaging.
Understand that ... I do not like image backup for full, funky systems. ... the systems are too tardy and cumbersome anyway. If they give you trouble, you want a clean reinstall, and the good clean reinstall is the image thing, making sure you have serial numbers, etc.
Anyway, I just did one of these. Could not sign on. Probably winlogon.exe was glitched, I tried various safe and debug modes, various tricks for fix, checked registry entries in the Rescue CD, and nothing was really working. I even tried a Windows XP pseudo-install where it fixes the OS, but that locked up at one point where it was looking for a file and the mouse and keyboard would not move. Weird.
So I made sure backup was good (I had done the d:\ right before the final glitch, it turns out to be nicely redundant) and reinstalled the c:\ from the image using the Macrium recovery CD.
And I must say, Macrium worked super-fine. Within about an hour the reinstall was done, email was loading down, browsers were updated, my main programs had been already loaded, I had updated and added a couple more programs that I now consider basic, and I decide to write this little note.
And after an hour or two of update I plan to do a more refined image backup or two for the down-the-pike "next time". A few definite programs loaded, really not much, I am quite happy with the light system that I have.
It is real comforting to have the system back up, all the drivers totally fine (I think I may have an optional screen adjustment to check, changing the resolution, that's all) and all the main programs, including PrivacyFirewall and my AV up and running immediately with the restore. And all my data up-to-date on the d:/ email, Linkman, Rightnote, etc.
So here is the buzz. Early OS and programs (after you have all the basic up and running) images can be ultra-friendly. They don't have to cost a penny. They don't take a lot of time. And they can make it very easy when Windows clogs.
However, use some redundancy. More than one program. More than one image for each program. Then when Windows gives you a hassle, don't worry too much about cutting bait and going back to an early state.
In my case my image has about 25 apps installed. Probably I had about 100 and more at the time of the kludge. And I probably will reinstall about 25 in the next few days. However, it is always nice to think "do I really need that .. now?". And just put on what you really, really use.