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I have a Windows Vista Dell Machine. From the past 2 days, it's acting strange and I feel it could crash. I have a restore point but if there is a hardware failure, that's all worthless.

Can someone suggest me a quick way of creating a backup/image of my entire drives?

Please share the different options.

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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Firstly, backup the "important" stuff - go to C:\Users and copy everything from there onto removable storage - a USB hard drive or similar.

Then, look at doing a full backup with something like the built-in backup software if you have that edition. You may want to look into a 3rd party utility if you don't have a qualifying version. Acronis make a good one.

Finally, if it's "acting strange" that doesn't mean it "could crash" and it sounds like fear, uncertainty and doubt to me. Backup anyway, and backup every week (at least) but generally Windows computers tend to "go that way" before long, and they get bogged down with errors etc. The only way to prevent it (and indeed, with all operating systems) is to keep a clean system and not to overload it with software you just don't need.

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excellent answer! –  Parry Sep 10 '09 at 10:31
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Definitely do a quick drag-n-drop of your data folders to external media as a one-time thing.

If you need to image the disk, have a look at CloneZilla. It's free and very flexible (if not the most user-friendly ever).

To backup data on windows hosts I deploy cwrsync server and run some custom code on a BSD fileserver that does the rsync and manages snapshot rotations via hardlinks. Automating backups is very important, because most of us are too lazy/forgetful to push a big red button, even once a week.

Finally, see this related question for a really good discussions of backups in general: http://serverfault.com/questions/25883/how-do-you-do-your-backup (serverfault ftw!)

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Boot using a Linux/FreeBSD/etc live CD, attach an external HDD with appropriate file system and size, and image your internal drive to it with a command similar to this:

dd if=/dev/sda bs=1024k | bzip2 --best >mywindows.img.bz2

where /dev/sda or a similar file specifies your internal drive.

Use gzip instead of bzip2 --best on obsolete hardware, or image creation will take ages

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