Have you ever made a copy of your computer’s hard drive in hopes of pasting it to the same state the day the PC crashes? I did! That means to make an ISO image, sort of PDF of your system. Let’s talk about cloning a hard drive.

What’s the point?

To clone one or more partitions, or even the entire hard disk in the same state in which it is, has the advantage of allowing, in case of a total crash of your machine, to recover your device more quickly. Your system will then be operational again, programs installed and setting made. As long as you use the same PC.

What software can do this?

I use for several years “Acronis True Image 2010” and I never thought of changing product. It is a paid software. You can find more information about it on the site of the manufacturer (www.acronis.com )

After doing a quick search on the Internet, I found two free softwares. As I have not tested them, I cannot tell you what they can do or cannot do. You have :

• Macrium Reflect Free Edition
• Clonezilla

Provide external support to save your image

If your computer is contaminated with a virus, it’s no help if you have saved your image on the hard drive of your device. This is why it’s better to save it on an external media such as DVD or external hard drive. CDs are too small.

Cloning your system at different stages

I have been using the same computers for over 6 years. I have, on several occasions, had to make a total reset. It’s clear that our work habits change with the years. We no longer use the same programs. So what’s the use of reinstalling Office 2003, when we use Office 2010 or even Libre Office?

Having an image of your disk in the factory state, gives you the opportunity to reconfigure your computer from the base, if you wish. This also allows you to have a “clean” computer without all the installations and uninstalls of software, games and others.

So I suggest you to do:

  1. An image at the factory state, I mean just after the first settings.
    The Windows operating system has been installed as well as all the drivers and factory programs provided by the manufacturer and compatible with your hardware.
  2. An image when the computer is ready for use.
    You have now installed and set up an anti-virus, your specifics softwares and made all the settings and updates.
  3. An yearly image of the entire hard drive or more often if you wish.
    Programs are not renewed so often. Generally, they release a major version a year. In addition, when you make a complete picture, this can quickly become very heavy depending on the type of files you have and long to make.

Create a bootable USB key to start your restore

Creating a bootable key from which to start restoring your system is imperative. If your PC no longer wants to boot, you cannot ask it to start recovering your image and restoring it to your hard drive. This is where the bootable USB key comes in. With Acronis True Image, it is possible to program such a key.

In conclusion, you are now decked out. With a fallback strategy, backups, ISO images of your system and a bootable USB key, you can handle many situations.

In the next chapter, I’ll talk about what you can do when you fell there is a problem, but it’s not really there, when your computer “coughs” a little bit, but still works.

(Photos : CC0 @ pexels.com)