Mind your image!

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– Maria Helena Brenner Kelly (PLD member) –

PLD_tech-cornerIn the first post about the journey towards fault tolerance, I talked about the easiest and least invasive way to bring your Windows system back to a situation when it worked fine: restore points. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not enough. You need something more thorough.

Since restore points only act on the software, obvious situations when they don’t work are hardware failures, particularly hard drive failures and, unfortunately, we all have been there. Another situation is when part of your software becomes corrupted and restore points are not able to take you back to a time when that piece of software worked.

That’s when System Image comes into play. An image is a copy of your hard drive (or partition, in case you have partitioned your drive) on DVDs, on another hard drive or on a network. It will have all your programs, drivers, and data: everything that is in your hard drive. If your hard drive fails or your system becomes infected by a virus that you are not able to get rid of using a restore point, you can use the image to recover the system to the state when the image was created.

As far as I know, iOS and Linux have tools to create system images. However, Windows is the system with which I have experience. Creating an image in Windows is pretty easy. In Windows 7, for example, follow Control Panel>Backup and Restore>Create a System Image, and you will get to this screen:

I highly recommend that you save the image on a separate hard drive, rather than DVDs, for the image needs the same space used in your C:\ hard disk. Once you click Next, the process will start. Just follow the prompts all the way. When the image is done, store the hard drive in a safe place.

Now, let’s say your hard drive failed, you cannot even start Windows in your system, and you want to use the image to bring the system back as it was when you created the image.

Before using the image, you will need an additional item just to help you start the computer: a repair DVD. (I am assuming you have one because when you buy a Windows computer, in the “Getting started” instructions, that’s the first thing they tell you to do. If you don’t have one, stop reading my post, create one, and then come back. You can follow these Windows 7 instructions or Windows 8 instructions.)

Use the repair DVD to boot your system, and you will be presented the System Recovery Options. Pick “System Recovery from Image” and follow the instructions.

Some observations:

  • You should create your System Image when you feel everything is running smoothly in your system. If you use a tune-up tool (e.g. Iolo’s, Norton’s, SlimWare’s), which I strongly recommend, run your tune-up before creating the image.
  • System Image is not a data backup tool. Creating an image takes too long, and it is not something you will do every day. Therefore, it is likely the data in your image will be obsolete when you recover the system from an image. To get your system back where you want, you recover from the image and then you restore the data from the last data backup you created.
  • Recovering a system from a restore point is easier and less “invasive” than recovering it from an image. I recommend trying a restore point first, unless you are sure it won’t help (e.g., your HDD failed).

Maria Helena was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of São Paulo, a graduate degree in business administration from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, and a certificate in translation from New York University. Her work involved both the areas of finance and IT for 25 years, ten of which at IBM in the US. She is a freelance translator and lives in the state of Bahia, in Brazil.

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