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image backups after OS reinstall with clean system

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Steven Avery:

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.


(any other favs?)
--- End quote ---

I have only ever used three imaging programs.

When I bought my first PC (knowing no better) I bought a copy of Norton Ghost 10 and as far as using it went I never had any problems.
Unfortunately a couple of years later I reinstalled the program but it proved impossible to reactivate it so I could only use it from the CD.
(To jump to the end of that story, three months later I got a letter from Symantec in Ireland, apologising and saying that my license number had been put back in their system, by that time I had moved on.) (I still have the CD somewhere but have never used it or reinstalled since.)(I also learned how invasive Symantec software is and what a pain it can be to get rid of.)

I then bought a copy of Acronis True Image 11 as an upgrade offer to Seagate DiscWizard (free and based on ATI).
Once again I had no problems using it and it is still in use on my old PC and my Netbook (both XP) today.

When I built a new PC last year I installed Windows 7 Pro x64 which neither of my programs would work on, after looking around I settled on the free version of EaseUS ToDo Backup v4.
The only negatives I have found compared to the other two programs is how long it takes to recover an image (NG and ATI take roughly twice as long to recover an image as they do to make a backup, EaseUS will do a full backup in under 2 minutes and takes between 2 hours and 2 hours 20 minutes for a recovery depending on whether I am recovering one or both partitions on my SSD) and the fact that the only way you can recover specific files from a Disk/Partition image is to mount the image and copy them which is simple enough unless they are system files which require a reboot, that gets more complicated and there are no instructions for it.
A couple of months after I started using EaseUS I got a copy of Workstation v4 in a giveaway but apart from a couple of extras everything else is the same as the free version in terms of use.

For a paid program if recovery time is not an issue I would recommend EaseUS every time, if it is an issue the other two programs are probably still among the best around although in both cases their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.
I have never had to contact EaseUS about a problem but I have done a couple of times to ask questions, both times their response was polite and helpful.

For free programs, once again EaseUS would be my first choice subject to same proviso as above, if I was asked for alternatives the only ones that I have tried are the free ATI based programs from either Seagate or Western Digital, both are very good but also very basic.

Steven Avery:

Thanks.  I will add Easeus free as #3.  It is so simple to make the backups, and my early c:/ backups are only 5-10 gigabytes, so the redundancy is recommended. One, or even two, could glitch out for various reasons.  I figure I saved at least 5 hours, maybe 10 and more and hassles, by not having to reinstall the XP OS (and I do have the original Dell CDs, if you have a CD problem it is even more helpful.).

It is true that a good shop will do the OS install for under $100, they have some good techie tools or machinery, but that is still $, time and hassle and you end up with a very barebones system and you have to spend more time getting to your personal base system.

btw, I still prefer my XP system over Windows 7 by quite a bit.  I was thinking if I needed a new puter to look for a fully decked out XP system (4 gigabytes memory, etc).  I still find Windows 7 comparatively annoying in various ways, including some lags in mouse and key use that I have to troubleshoot some day.

With Easeus they have a EaseUS Disk Copy Home Edition. Other sites say they also have EaseUS Todo Backup Free, however on their web site this seems to show as EaseUS Todo Backup Home as a Trial.

The plethora of products with Easeus (and Paragon) actually works against using them on a simple need like my early image backup.  One reason I like Macrium and DriveImageXL, very clear what you have.

For file-to-file backup, like my D:/ and special saves to USB sticks, I generally use Cobian or Backup4All.  I know Easeus is competent for that as well, but I like the dedicated tools.


An essential part of imaging is verifying the image, which should be done when you make it. I have never understood the idea of verification before recovery, by then it is a bit late.
Another thing worth doing is backing up to an external drive, on both my PC's I have more than one internal drive and use the second on both for regularly backups, I also back up both to different external drives once a month and although my Netbook only has one internal drive I back that up externally once a month as well.

If you are using XP it's worth thinking about the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, in the event of ultimate disaster and you had to do a clean install you can at least get your OS settings back very quickly and the file size is very small compared to an image so it is worth making one and keeping it somewhere.

I used to feel the same way about XP versus 7 and in some respects still do, there are a lot of little things in XP that never carried over.
When I started I felt like I was having to disable half the OS, two of the first things were Aero and UAC. Then I had to 'Take Ownership' of half the registry to make any changes.
I have now got a Classic Start Menu and Quick Launch back and last week I finally managed to get a Start Button that does not protrude above the Taskbar.
Having said that I find 7 a far more stable OS and after 9 months of using/modifying it I have got it about as close as I can get to the way I want it.

The EaseUS and Paragon websites can be a bit overwhelming, I usually suggest using somewhere like SnapFiles if you need a download, they get any newer versions soon after they come out.

If you just want basic imaging don't discount the Seagate or Western Digital programs, (apart from the name they are probably largely the same program) although you are supposed to have one or other of their hard drives installed they will work with any drives.

Steven Avery:

Some notes:

Macrium does have a verify option, but it does not automatically show and ask, so I ran it on the newer (more helpful, fuller early install closer to my base system) image I just did. Good to know, and they should make it more forthright.

DriveImageXL seems weak in that area, yet another way that Macrium seems a notch above DIXL (they also save quicker but that is not too important for my limited use).

Easeus talks of building a WindowsPE boot disk in the pro version, and don't mention a boot disk in the free.  Do any of these programs actually begin a restore of the c: from Windows? .. that would be tricky because they would have to "shell out".  If not, then how does Easeus do the restore in the free version?  I am ready to ask in their forum, before an install.  (If I remember, DIXL works with a boot disk, but memory is a bit vague.).

Since I had more than one Macrium image, the verify before restore option was still quite helpful, but clearly the important time to verify is right after the save (and then again before the restore, you would feel bad to see a restore fail).

I see lots of people trying to save infected and kludged Windows systems, when they should backup their files, cut bait, and restore an early image.  However, to do that .. you need an early image, otherwise you hit the bricks of an OS install, which can be quite frustrating (even if edumacational).  You are always pleased when you then have the light system and begin to think through what you really use and want.



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