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There might not be an answer to this, but for a home Win7 system, what files/directories must be backed up to recover after a windows crash? I can reinstall software, and I keep data files elsewhere. When I use acronis home backup software to backup my "critical" files it seems to choose the entire partition. Updates are mostly browser cache files and the like.

Or, after a crash, should I just reinstall windows. I dread the hours of windows updates that would require.

Thanks.

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migrated from serverfault.com Sep 1 '12 at 15:27

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This is off-topic here (see our FAQ), but I can't understand why you want to go for a "minimal" backup instead of a full backup that gets you going quickly after a disk crash. Usually, installing Windows including updates is a fast process compared to the countless hours one need to reinstall and reconfigure all the other stuff you need on a machine. Incidentally, my home machine's disk crashed just yesterday and in an hour our so, I'll have written the backup to a new disk and can continue where I left before the crash without any fuss. –  SvW Sep 1 '12 at 14:56
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Use Acronis to do a full disk image, then everything is backed up. –  Moab Sep 1 '12 at 15:41
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you have 2 options for backups data only or full system. with data only you get all the important user data as well as application configurations if possible and then after a failure you reinstall windows and all your applications. then restore your data and settings.

full system restores allow you to boot from a media and make your system like it was the day of the backup. no reinstalling of apps and no reregistering of software... configurations are as they were.

full system can take any where from lets say as little as 70% of your current total used space to the exact size of your current hdd. the compression capibilitys of each brand of image software vary greatly as does the compressability of each different file on your system. if you have tons of text files the drive is likely to compress more than if you had mostly mp4 files as the mp4 is already compressed. some software is able to notice duplicate files and only keep 1 copy for all of them. say user.dll lives in 3 program files directorys as well as windows. some backup software notes they are all the same file and what location they all are at then keeps 1 file.

Acronis isnt a bad app ghost works well to. there are also free software that can do the job it just depends on what you are willing to spend an what features you need.

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forgot to mention 1 thing. The full backups will keep any annoying quarks to your system as well. If you have the system just the way you like it and theres no annoying bugs etc its great. but if theres this one program you always have to open a specific file run a specific button ... and then start using it as normal that will also be brought along with every thing else. depending on how complex your setup is and how specific your tastes are you may also do well with a full image at the time it works perfect and then reinstall data and newer apps from there. –  Kendrick Oct 4 '12 at 20:41
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