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After being tired of all my systems main drives slowly degrading as time passes by, I've been thinking about splitting my laptops disk into two drives, C and D (running Windows 7).

The C drive would be the main drive with all the system files, applications I use, etc. And D for all my data, but - I want to keep it constantly freshly imaged. Basically install my OS and all the apps I need, create an image of it, and then on every boot the system (C-drive) should be reset to that image.

The ability to add things to the image would be very welcome also, say that I find that I need application X, then I want to be able to install it, create a new image and use that image instead.

Is there a name for this idea/setup/technique? How do I set it up? What tools do I need? Can it be done in software or do I need some extra hardware? Are there any guides out on the internet?

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seriously tho, harrymc's right, auto imaging on every boot is not what you want to do. –  quack quixote Dec 16 '09 at 13:32

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I can suggest a couple of options, of varying painfulness.

If you absolutely have to re-image every time you start up then you may be wanting a copy of Norton Ghost, I think it has sufficient command line abilities to be able to make a batch script to restore a partition. The problem with this solution is that it could take anywhere from half an hour up to a few hours to re-image as your base image could be quite large with Win7. Similarly creating the image would be a laborious task too and would take a bit longer than the re-image.

I suspect what you actually want is DeepFreeze which would prevent any changes to your system being permanent so all changes get wiped on a restart. I'd suspect that there would be a mode/option to make changes permanent but I've never played with the softare. It is payware, but for what you get it looks a reasonable price (£22.50 GBP). It looks like you can get an evaluation version to test it out so I'd look at that.

A free version of Deepfreeze would be Windows Steadystate, but it is not compatable with Windows 7.

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DeepFreeze is exactly what you are looking for. It has the ability to "Unfreeze" the drive to make changes when they are needed. I've played with it quite a bit in a corporate environment and I think it will do exactly what you are looking for. –  Russ Warren Dec 16 '09 at 14:49
    
Thanks for the confirmation, I have been curious about Deepfreeze and whether it had that facility. I know Steadystate gave you the option to commit changes on shutdown but as I said, it doesn't work on Win7 which makes it useless here. –  Mokubai Dec 16 '09 at 15:26
    
Alternatives to Norton Ghost also exist, one is Clonezilla and its website lists a few more alternatives. clonezilla.org –  Mokubai Dec 16 '09 at 23:50
    
Perfect! Thanks for a great reply –  thr Dec 17 '09 at 12:59

Doing this automatically is a very bad idea for several reasons:

  1. Boot time will be horribly long
  2. Many applications store parameters in the registry, which you'll lose.

Meaning that your solution is worse than the problem itself.

I suggest that you use instead tools to clean and defrag the registry, as well as defrag the hard disk from time to time. These tools will optimize Windows in order to reduce the performance degradation (this degradation should really be quite marginal at worse - Windows doesn't degrade by that much).

However, putting the system and data on separate partitions is a very good idea, except that reducing the system partition will probably involve a reinstallation of Windows and all your applications.

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Downvoted because it's not an answer to the question I posted. You're basically saying "don't do this", I'm aware of the drawbacks (and problems that can arise) - I need an answer on how to do it, not an answer telling me not to do it. –  thr Dec 16 '09 at 13:14
    
Please excuse me sir for trying to spare you a bad mistake. –  harrymc Dec 16 '09 at 13:20
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+1 for stating the obvious that wasn't stated in the opening post. There's no reason to downvote someone for giving you more information that what was actually written. How was he supposed to know that you're aware of all the drawbacks and problems? If we made the assumption that every person asking a question knew everything regarding the problem, we'd never get an answer! –  Russ Warren Dec 16 '09 at 14:47

You could use the built in Image Tool in Windows 7, or use Norton Ghost to create an Image at every boot. This would allow you to install software and have clean images, as an archive if you like.

The scenario could play out like this:

  • Install Windows 7
  • Install software
  • Install patches
  • Create first Image <-- Version 1 if you like

Then, every week or so, you could just pull the image out and recover the OS. Which leaves you with a clean computer.

If you want, you can also move the Users\YourUserAccount to D: Which would leave you the trouble with re-downloading, conversations, visual studio projects and what ever you have there.

So, let's say you want to install something, you could boot the clean image, or take one of those created while rebooting the system and install to that. Which then will give you a clean image with the latest installed software.

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Want you're looking for is what is commonly known is "Reimaging" and is not practical in your case. I'm pretty sure you are not aware of the consquences. Reimaging is only recommended for places such as university sites being used by the students who are not allowed to keep any data on the local machines AND no personal setting is supposed to be stored in their local profile. In your case, although you're saying that you already know the drawbacks, it is not practical unless you reset yourself every morning too!

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