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New Member
Sep 27, 2009
Windows 7 System Image

Windows 7 has a feature called "System Image" to backup and recover the entire system. The image is compressed. You need a separate partition on your hard drive or a secondary hard drive.

Windows 7 System Image does NOT create a bootable drive... nor does it include your email. It just builds a massive compressed file that you have to restore if your os or hard drive fails. If your use a partition on your host hard drive and your hard drive fails, your backup will also be lost.

Since you really need a second hard drive for the System Image backup method to be RELIABLE it makes more sense to CLONE your primary drive to a second BOOTABLE hard drive.

Remember ALL hard drives eventually fail -- it's a wise investment to keep your entire system cloned/backed up to ANOTHER drive that is ready to run by simply setting your boot sequence to use your backup drive.

Acronis True Image

There are only a few backup utilities that copy the entire Win 7 system and made the new hard drive bootable. True Image is very simple to use and works great. It cloned up my 100 gb primary drive to a new drive in about 20 minutes.

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You can get a free version from the Western Digital website but it only works
when at least one hard drive is WD or Segate brand.

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Tip: use "Clone Disk" under "Utilities" in True Image.

Remember: BEFORE you backup to a new bootable drive, you'll save time if you delete temporary files and clean and optimize your system and empty your recycle bin. After your clone drive is setup, modify your bios boot sequence and load it then BACKUP YOUR BOOTMANAGER FILES then shut down - RATHER than reboot - and you backup will be good to go. (I'll explain backing up the bootmanager files in a minute.)


A cloned hard drive has many advantages over a VHD and System Image:

1. You can boot directly into a cloned backup hard drive by changing the bios boot sequence. With a VHD you need a multi-boot option. (You can setup a native VHD boot but it's complicated.) You can NOT boot into a system image.

2. You can't get anything out of your VHD without booting into it. If you have a backup hard drive you direct access to copy, delete, backup working files anytime. Accessing data in a system image is also complicated.

3. A VHD is slower and complicated to build. The first time you boot into a VHD you have to go through the entire setup/installation/registration/activation process. And tweak it and update drivers and setup your software.. on and on.. you get the idea. A cloned drive does not need any of that.

4. A cloned drive preserves encryption. System Image removes encryption, therefore, the restore will not be encrypted. (All your bases are belong to us.)

5. A cloned backup drive takes NO hit on performance.


It's easy set up a multi-boot menu (only 3 commands) to boot directly into your backup drive without the need to modify your bios boot sequence twice (to set the boot priority and then reset it back to your primary drive.)

First this is VERY IMPORTANT: make a backup of your bcd file first on your primary hard drive. (That is the file the multi-boot menu options are stored in.)
(BcdEdit.exe is on your Win 7 install cd - Also if you search your windows\winsxs folder you'll find it deep inside and can copy and paste it to another folder where it's easier to access. If you can't find BcdEdit.exe then you probably shouldn't be doing this anyway.)

From a command prompt (in the FOLDER where you copied BcdEdit.exe) type and enter:

BcdEdit /export c:\savedbcd

If you mess up, you can always undo changes with this command:

BcdEdit /import c:\savedbcd

Here are the 3 commands to run from the command prompt ...to set up your multi-boot menu to access your backup hard drive. You can copy these commands from here and paste them to your command prompt window with a right click / paste.

BcdEdit /copy {current} /d "Backup Drive"

You will get this message with DIFFERENT guid numbers

The entry was successfully copied to
{bda1ead3-8577-11de-883c-00226808ae4c} ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Use YOUR guid number (including {} )in the 2 following commands and use YOUR backup drive letter, mine is E: NOTE! If you install an additional hard drive in your system, it may change your backup drive LETTER and your multi-boot menu option (to load your backup drive) will not function. You can still modify your bios boot sequence to boot into your backup drive or repeat this process using the correct drive letter... or when/if you remove the drive you added the multi-boot menu will be correct again. It also may be possible to set the priority of your 1st 2nd and 3rd hard drive in the bios --under hard drives -- not boot sequence. Not all bios-es support this.

Note: It is easier to right click in your Command Prompt window and select "Mark" and highlight YOUR guid number then press ENTER to copy it. Then CTRL + V to paste it to the command below where it says "YOUR GUID NUMBER" Then copy and paste the entire command - including YOUR drive letter - to your command prompt and press enter.

BcdEdit /set { YOUR GUID NUMBER } osdevice partition=E:

Use up arrow key and set the description after your guid number:

BcdEdit /set { YOUR GUID NUMBER } description "Backup Drive"

That's it! You can run Msconfig and look under "Boot" and see your entry. If you make mistakes with the numbers, BcdEdit will complain... and if there is something you don't like about the description or you made a mistake with the drive letter or it doesn't work when you test it later, you can simply delete your entry in Msconfig/boot and try again.


You can also set up your multi-boot menu to offer the option to boot to a command prompt (instead of loading Windows.) Just insert a USB flash drive and use it's drive letter in the steps above. (Name it: Command Prompt) You don't need any files or folders on the USB and after you run the BcdEdit commands you can even remove it.... and windows will go into restore mode when no os is found. (You only need a valid drive letter when you run the BcdEdit commands. An SD disk will probably work just as well.) When you BOOT into your "Command Prompt" from your multi-boot menu, you will enter the repair mode. Cancel System Repair and go to Advanced System Restore, click Next and Ok then select Command Prompt. (Somewhere in there, Shift + F10 may go directly to the command prompt too... I'm getting a headache about now.)

If you boot to the command prompt (using THIS method) it's faster and much easier than going into your bios to configure the boot sequence to boot from your dvd, then changing it back. As you know, at this command prompt (rather than the one that opens when you are running Windows) you will circumvent the protections that Windows applies to lock/hide files (to keep one user from viewing another user's data, etc.) When Windows is loaded you'll get at least 100 file protection errors if you simply try to xcopy the user's profiles to another drive. If you boot to a command prompt from the multi-boot menu, (or from the install disk) you can copy anything/everything.

Note: ANOTHER method to create a bootable USB drive is to use the "Backup" tool in Win 7 and select "Create a system repair disk" Then make the disk and copy all the files (hidden and system) to a USB drive. This USB setup WILL boot to the repair mode (on it's on) when the bios priority is set to USB.

Stay with me camera guy.

WARNING... IF YOU ARE BACKING UP *TO* YOUR CLONED HARD DRIVE, be very careful WITH FILE SYNCHRONIZING SOFTWARE and programs like Xcopy that can copy and overwrite hidden files. It's easy to OVERWRITE critical boot files on your backup drive ( like bcd and bootmgr) If those files are overwritten from the original drive to your backup drive, when you try to boot to your backup drive it will default to the original drive.

If you overwrite you bootfiles on your BACKUP drive you will have to run "True Image" again - or REPAIR your backup drive bootmanager - to boot into your backup. You CAN backup your day to day work files to your cloned backup drive but it's safer and easier (and only takes about 20 mins) to clean your primary system and clone again with True Image.

I have done this process several times and I have backed up files from my primary drive to the backup - that's how I know these pitfalls. I have come to the conclusion that it's easier to boot to the command prompt from a USB drive and change to the BACKUP drive (root folder) and run "Xcopy [primary drive]\*.* /cdys" to backup my day to day work files (that have been updated,) (since I do not use the Xcopy option to include hidden files, it will ignore the thousands of temp files... and takes only 2 or 3 minutes) then, about once a month I can delete temporary files, clean and compact the registry and empty the recycle bin and run True Image and have it clone the entire primary drive. This will include the stuff Xcopy has been missing, like new programs that have been installed and new registry tweaks, updates and settings to my primary os.

Should my primary drive fail the only modifications I would have to make to my cackup would be to manually rebuild the multi-boot menu (for the new backup drive and command prompt) since it can't be backed up from the original drive -- and reinstall any new software since the last clone of my primary drive.
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