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I have a couple of computers running Windows XP and they all have the same software installed on the same hardware. I would like to create one image, so that in case a user's computer dies I can just restore it with the image. That will save me time by not installing Windows all over again and all the software.

Also, every user has their own favorites, desktop etc. I would like to back that up too, so that after an image restoration I can restore their favorites, desktop etc.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First you want is to create an image of your entire harddrive. Here are some very popular software choices to do this:

  • Acronis True Image
  • Paragon Backup & Recovery 2010 Free Advanced
  • Macrium Reflect Free
  • Clonezilla

Next you want to make copies of each user profile. Windows XP has a utility for that. Using this utility is described at this site:
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/sysdm_userprofile_copy.mspx?mfr=true

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You can use USMT to backup the profiles. This will work for domain and local users. You will need to read the documentation, but its pretty easy. This will keep all settings as well.

Then to create an image you can create one image and use sysprep to create a generalized image of the OS. This will take out anything that's not needed for the OS, but keep the software you installed on there. You can then always load this sysprep image up and it will take about 15-20 minutes to install the OS on the computer. This is slower than creating a binary copy, but it gives you the advantage of creating a general install to put on any computer.

You can create an exact copy which will be faster to restore, but you need to keep multiple versions for each users. There's plenty of programs out there like acronis and norton ghost. I personally use acronis and it works great!

When you decide what you want to do or what you need, then you can always ask on how to use that utility if you are unsure. USMT is a command line utility, but it really is simple to use.

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