When your hard drive dies, you would normally need to go through the process of reinstalling your operating system and programs. If you are lucky, and have prepared yourself for a disaster, you might even be able to restore your data. One thing that you are not able to restore are all of the customisations you have done to your system.
Any way you look at it, it is going to take you the best part of a day to have your system up and running again, and weeks before you get everything back just how you like it.
The system restore options in Windows are great for restoring a malfunctioning system back to a fully working state, but they do not work when your hard drive calls it a day.
Plan ahead for such a disaster by saving an “image” of your computer. An image is a compressed file that contains the entire contents of a hard drive. Windows, programs, hardware drivers, settings and data are all backed up in the image. If your hard drive dies, or gets cluttered with rubbish, you are able to restore your system, and restore so that it is exactly the same as it was when you saved the image.
Clonezilla is a program that will do just that. You can save your entire computers contents into a single file. You can then burn the file to a DVD for safe keeping. You will want to read the documentation so that you can find out how to store a copy of Clonezilla on your DVD, and how to make the DVD bootable. This way you will have everything on hand to restore your computer, on the one disk.
Restoration of the image is likely to take less than one hour. Probably closer to 10 minutes. This is a big improvement to a whole days work. There is nothing else that needs to be done, except to restore your incremental document backups. You can save an incredible amount of time if you want to restore the image to numerous computers.
If you are happy with the way your system is running, it is a good time to make your image. In the case that you need to restore it, you don’t wasn’t to restore an image created while your system was not running at its optimum. You will be very thankful that you made the backup in the long term… or possibly even the short! Hard drives are one of the least reliable components of any computer system.
There are a number of programs that will do this same task. Many companies use the commercial package from Norton called Ghost. It basically does the same thing, it just looks a little nicer and costs money.
Clonezilla is available for free from SourceForge.