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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!
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.)
You could only do a full restore from a bootable HD
Ghost creates a boot diskette. Depending on the option you choose you can load a disk image from USB, network or CD/DVD. The image doesn't need to be on a bootable drive.
However, I think it will also create bootable cd/dvd if you don't want to use a floppy.
I keep a current image on my external USB HDD, and occasionally burn a copy on to CD.