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Back up and protect your data

Take an exact copy of your entire hard drive
Drive-imaging tools enable you to back up your entire Windows installation

FEATURE INDEX
Introduction
The why and where of backing up
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Back up files and settings
Protect your irreplaceable documents, email, images and program preferences
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Back up to the internet
Discover which online tools offer the best value and features for your money
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More back-up tools, tips and techniques
Back up different versions of the same file and more
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Copy your hard drive
Drive imaging tools enable you to back up your entire Windows installation
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Free backup is finally here.  Mozy Remote Backup.
T
he next time you're forced to reinstall Windows - either from a recovery partition or installation disc - what would you give for a disc or partition that enabled you to reinstall Windows, all of your current hardware and updates, plus your favourite programs and settings without having to spend hours setting everything up?
 
   This is where a drive image tool such as Macrium Reflect Free or Paragon Drive Backup rides to the rescue. Recovery discs as provided by your manufacturer are created in the same way as a drive image: the computer is set up and prepared, and then an image taken. What the imaging tool does is hand you control of that image, enabling you to create your own customised Windows installation, giving you a head start every time you come to reinstall.
 
Important considerations
A drive image works by taking an exact byte-for-byte replica of a hard drive or drive partition - a snapshot of that drive at that particular point in time if you will. Restoring that snapshot will completely overwrite what is currently stored on the drive, so like a destructive recovery disc, you need to take precautions before you use it.
 
   If your data is stored on the same partition as your Windows installation, you'll need to make sure it's backed up separately immediately prior to using your drive image - see the "Back up your files and settings" section for details. Now of course might be the perfect time to consider separating your Windows installation and program files from your data and certain settings - this involves using another hard drive or partition, and you can find out more about partitioning by clicking here.

Back up with Macrium Reflect Free


Using Paragon
In the example below we're using Paragon Drive Backup 8.5, which has featured on a number of recent magazine cover discs. Paragon now produces a free tool called Paragon Drive Backup Express, which works in a similar way, albeit without any of the advanced tools, and you can get that from here.
 
   During installation you'll be prompted for a serial number, click the Registration button and follow the instructions to obtain your free key (again, check your junk mail folder if you don't receive the registration email promptly). Install any drivers if prompted, then restart to complete the installation. Now follow the step-by-step guide below to take a drive image.


Step-by-step: Take a complete drive image


1. BACK UP ENTIRE DISK


2. BACK UP SYSTEM PARTITION


3. SELECT BACK-UP DRIVE


4. LET BACKUP COMMENCE



Test and restore
Once done, test your archive to make sure it works by selecting Wizards > Check Archive Validity. When it comes to reinstalling Windows using your customised drive image, we'd recommend booting from your rescue disc (see the quick tip box). Once done, a graphical interface will appear - select Wizard > Simple Restore Wizard and follow the prompts to restore your partition or drive from your backup.






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