Just yesterday I finished setting up my first DIY build with Windows Vista. I finished installing various pieces of software. Traditionally, I've always done a complete reinstall of Windows each year to wipe out the registry creep and make everything nice and shiny. But doing that has always involved completely reinstalling everything. What is the best way for me to accomplish my goal of saving the complete system state for posterity?

I thought about using a second hard drive, booting up onto a linux live-cd, and using dd to make a full copy. But that's wasteful, and it takes awhile. What's the best solution?



I'd recommend using Clonezilla to backup your system. (FREE)


Norton Ghost

Norton Ghost works very well also but its not free.

I have an Alienware laptop (a few years old) with XP on it and one thing I got with it was the "Re-Spawn" CD. What this REALLY is is Norton Ghost on a CD. You boot up, then change to your data disc and restore.

The NICE thing about the restore is that it restores XP, all the system drives, etc, etc. with NO trial software, no antivirus, nothing.

The next step of course is to install antivirus, etc, etc but I absolutely LOVED the way they did the restore CD. Other laptop companies could learn a lesson from them.

Now that its a couple years later I've done a complete reinstall with updated drivers, etc, etc. I use CloneZilla and a plug in 1TB USB drive. I have my original bare bones install and a monthly backup of my laptop.

You can never have too many backups. ;-)

  • Clonezilla looks wonderful. I looked at and considered Ghost before coming to SF, but some of the reviews I had read turned me off of it. Thanks so much for the fast response! – yodaj007 Aug 12 '09 at 22:40
  • CloneZilla isn't as "pretty" as some of the other programs like "Norton Ghost" but it works pretty well once you get used to it. The NICE thing is... with a brand new install... EXPERIMENT with it... play with it. Do a backup AND a restore. The most you'll lose is a little bit of time. The knowledge, experience, and increase in comfort level using the software. – KPWINC Aug 12 '09 at 23:00

I find that DriveImage XML (link) works well for making backup images. By using Volume Shadow Services you can backup without having to reboot.

Easy to use and free for personal use.


'dd' is actually a pretty good approach. There was a similar question asked here before.

  • Yeah, I'm sorry. I really did try searching SF. I come from SO, so I knew and tried to follow proper etiquette. – yodaj007 Aug 12 '09 at 22:37

dd plus gzip can help with size, or using partimage to make a backup works well for us. But it is something that needs to be tested, as we've had issues (usually when cloning to a similar-but-different drive) where the result wouldn't boot and I ended up using testdisk to fix issues. But so far our fallback of dd+gzip seems to work fine.


I recommend Acronis True Image. It's $80 or so, but you can set up an incremental live clone so you don't have to shut down the system and it will keep updating the image on a schedule you specify. If you need to restore, you can restore specific files or as far as bare metal recovery (restore complete image). The software will create a bootable CD to use for restoring the image onto a new drive.

I've used all of the others, and Acronis is my preferred choice simply because I can do a complete clone while Windows is running. Ghost can also do this, but I've had better results using Acronis.

Also, Vista has it's own backup utility. Some say it's pretty good, but I haven't used it myself.

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