Can you recommend of other os imaging software that you use if you haven't use macrium reflect yet. And how do I restore the os from that image? And which is faster? reinstalling the os then install the applications that you need. Or making use of the imaging software to backup the installation along with the applications?Which takes more time?
I use Macrium Reflect and am happy with it, but Paragon Backup and Recovery Free Edition is another good option. Acronis is another alternative, but you'll have to pay money for it, and I don't like it as much as the two aforementioned programs.
Both Macrium and Paragon, once installed, will allow you to burn a recovery CD from within the program. Later on, if you need to restore your whole system from an image, you'll boot your computer from the recovery CD, plug in the hard drive containing your system image, and then perform recovery from the live CD. You can also mount Macrium images from within Windows if you just need to restore some of your files (a Macrium Reflect Image Mounting Service gets installed along with the program).
The one big gotcha with Macrium Reflect is that it cannot restore an image to a hard drive smaller than the original. However, if you're in a pinch there's an ugly workaround for this involving Robocopy:
Although Macrium has this limitation, overall I prefer it to Paragon; it's faster than Paragon and generally feels a lot more foolproof.
Making full system image backups will take somewhat more time compared to partial filesystem backups done with an efficient tool like rsync or Microsoft SyncToy. However, restoring your full system from an image will be much faster (and far less labor-intensive) than reinstalling the OS and all your applications from scratch, especially if you rely on a lot of different programs.
So in my opinion, the security of knowing that I can have my system back up and running within a couple of hours, should my hard drive die, is worth the extra time it takes to make image-based backups. It needn't even be a burden on you, if you can just start Macrium a couple nights a week right before you go to bed. Also, if you buy the full version of Macrium you can create delta images, which may be significantly faster than creating full images (though I haven't tried this myself).
Anyway, I hope this helps...