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I run Windows Vista.

I am looking for a relatively painless way to backup my main system disk (lets assume C: ) to an USB-mounted drive.

  • The USB mounted drive has the same disk geometry as my main C: disk
  • backup needs to happen automatically (i.e. through scheduled tasks) on a schedule
  • If and when my main disk has a hardware failure, I should just be able to
    • take out the faulty drive
    • and replace it with the USB mounted drive
    • and should be able to boot my Windows system as if nothing bad has happened.

Jamie Zawinski describes the my ideal system here (Look at "Option 2"), but his scheme only works on Macs.

I have seen several questions and answers on this site regarding topics that are similar, but havent quite found a topic that directly addresses my question...

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I think that what you are wanting to do to clone your drive to a USB drive. Here is some software that i found that might be useful to you:

  1. Macrium Reflect Free: (Open Source Software)

This software is able to image your currently running system (using a facility known as Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service) to another local hard disk, to the Network, a USB or Firewire drive, and DVD. It has a built-in scheduler, so that you can schedule it to back up your system at a convenient time by itself, has 32 bit and 64 bit versions, comes with a Linux-based bootable rescue CD as well as a BartPE plugin, etc. (The commercial full version includes the ability to automatically verify images made, password protection of your images, a Windows PE 2.0 rescue CD with RAID support, etc.)

2, Norton Ghost 15 (Paid Software)

  • Creates full system and file backups — Safeguards your system, settings, applications, and files with flexible, comprehensive backup protection.

  • Restores from system failures — Recovers your system and data even when you can’t restart your computer.

  • Enables convenient, secure offsite backups — Saves recovery points to an FTP site for easier offsite management and even backs up your data to network-attached storage devices.

  • Backs up on schedules and events — Lets you decide what is backed up and when so you can customize backups based on how you use your computer.

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i've used macrium reflect free and it works quite well (use the alternate restore disk though). Paid solutionwise, acronis is supposed to be decent as well. – Journeyman Geek Sep 2 '10 at 1:54

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