Foolproof Win7 Back-up System Please

  jimforrest 22:43 17 Feb 2015

I have been caught out twice now with computer failure! Although most stuff was backed up onto an external drive, there's always something that you've forgotten. In my case that was emails and a few progs in the Downloads folder.

All my 'recovery' CD's work on the basis that the HDD is working and that there is a repairable O/S on it (bad sector or a software glitch). In my case the HDD actually failed and nothing can be read off it.

So now I need a foolproof back-up. An external drive with an iso on it? Best method and best way to do it? And how do I keep an iso up to date?

Or a drive with a mirror image of the data (and O/S) so it can just either be swapped for the original drive or copied over? To keep it up to date a back-up which just copies 'changed' data could be used?

  jimforrest 00:25 18 Feb 2015

Sadly Jock on the HDD that's currently failed, my repair disk (I have 4 different ones) can't even 'see' the drive - so it can't repair it. I can get into the repair program but it goes no further. What I need is a back-up system to cover this situation.

  robin_x 00:47 18 Feb 2015

Yes, it is easy to forget something with ordinary backups.

So you make a System Image to an external HDD. Also known as an Image Backup.

A System Image is one big file or folder containing everything (including Windows files and settings).

(It can also be compared to your Factory Recovery Partition, but is completely up to date from whenever you create it.)


W7 can make a System Image (see Jock's link above for Create Image option) and it also makes a boot CD (Repair Disc) on a blank CD. (Or USB Flash)

If you need to restore an Image from external HDD, you just boot from the CD/Flash Drive and follow the correct options.

You should definitely get an external HDD and do this.

I'd recommend USB 3.0 - 1TB or 2TB for ~£50+

click here


Keep up to date by making more System Images. (weekly, fortnightly, monthly or whenever you want)

You can completely restore your system, installed programs, all data and settings to the original main HDD (if you or malware just messed up Windows).

Or to a new blank HDD if original HDD failed.



W7 Create Image is created in a folder called WindowsImageBackup on your external drive.

You are only allowed one. Subsequent Images overwrite previous ones. It's better to have several Images in case of (rare) corruption.

Also W7 doesn't allow full control over which partitions are in the Image. Or verify them. Or let you just restore a file or folder instead of the whole Image.

So for further Images, flexibility and Super Safety it can be dumped after making your first Image in favour of a 3rd Party app.

Macrium Reflect Free is widely used and recommended.


If your main drive fails, your Images will be safe on ext HDD, but you would also need a cloned HDD to get instantly back up and running (until you could buy a replacement)

Or, you could only have a cloned HDD (and forget about Images). But then there is the problem of keeping up to date and only having 1 clone.

Or, you could clone to large ext HDD, then partition spare space to save Images as well.

It gets a bit messy.

Easy option is have a spare computer.

Or make a Linux Live USB Flash Drive which will boot your computer and allow you on-line even if the HDD is missing.

click here

I'd recommend you have one of those too as part of your emergency kit.

Ubuntu is a good introduction to use on it.

  jimforrest 00:57 18 Feb 2015

Gosh that's helpful Robin! I need a bit of time to look further into your suggestions - but I'll start by getting my comp running again with an external drive and a disk image.

My son swears by Ubuntu so I'll have a word with him.

Many thanks.

  robin_x 01:25 18 Feb 2015

It's a bit of a learning curve but it's not rocket science.

Note you can only restore Images once you have made them.

If your computer is still broken, you'll have to do a clean install of W7, and restore what backup you have, before making Images and a proper backup/emergency strategy in the future.

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