Disk imaging is one of the best types of backups. Programs like Norton Ghost or BootIt Next Generation will work well for this purpose. Essentially you're taking a snapshot of your drives and saving that as a backup. This is a lot better than simply copying certain files or folders to a backup device...although I do both.
With a disk image you can restore your machine to a certain point in time. I tend to partition things so that my OS, Program Files, and work data are on different drives. I only image the OS and Programs when I change something, but I image the Data daily.
what is the fastest/easiest way to back up my entire laptop?
I'll second Ghost, even though the documentation isn't very clear.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure when you've done a backup it will reload. Our accounts lady just found out the backups she made religiously everyday won't load, shes had to re-enter 5 months of work!
I was looking at using ghost or one of the others for a full back up to my ext hd (complete drive image in case of main HD failure.) But I noticed that if your main hd dies, you could not restore a backup from an ext hd to your main hdd. You could only do a full restore from a bootable HD.
Am I wrong on this?
If my main HD dies, could I put a new HD in, load ghost, and then restore the image to the new hd?
In the end I just decided to make a RAID 1 array. Then I won't have to worry about restoring anything. (See my other post about that.)
I've lost 2 HD in the last year and am trying to become extra careful now. I do back up all of my files nightly but loading XP and then all of the programs can take days. That's why I'm thinking of the RAID.
Then my paranoia kicks in...What if the power supply fails and take the RAID array with it? Maybe I need RAID *and* a drive image to an external drive (assuming it would work.)