Back up Your Entire Computer with Windows Vista’s Complete PC Backup

The Complete PC Backup program is different from the regular backup program. Unlike the automatic backup, which is a file copying and archiving utility, the Complete PC Backup program is a disk imaging program.

A disk imaging program doesn’t copy individual files to a backup disk. Instead, it copies the raw information from a hard drive — specifically, the main drive partition on your PC. That’s where Windows, your programs, and all your personal files and other information are stored. All that stuff is compressed and copied to a removable drive.

Unlike regular backup, you have no way to pluck out individual files or folders from a disk image backup. The reason you use Complete PC Backup is to fully restore your computer’s hard drive in case of a disaster. The restore recovers everything: Windows, program files, and all your personal information.

Here’s how to pull off the Complete PC Backup operation:

  1. Open the Backup Status and Configuration window.

    Choose All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Backup Status and Configuration from the Start button’s menu.

  2. Ensure that the big button Complete PC Backup is selected on the left side of the window.

    The Backup Status and Configuration window appears.

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  3. Click the button Create a Backup Now.

  4. Type the administrator’s password or click the Continue button.

  5. Choose the option On a Hard Drive.

    You do not want to use optical discs. The Complete PC Backup operation takes a zillion of them.

  6. Select the external, NTFS-formatted hard drive from the menu button.

    Most drives do not come formatted with NTFS. You will need to convert the drive to NTFS before being able to run Complete PC Backup.

    If the disk doesn’t have enough room, you’re warned; choose another disk or work in Windows to remove excess files from the disk.

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. If necessary, choose any additional disk drives or partitions in your computer for backing up, and click the Next button.

    A summary screen appears, listing which disks will be backed up and how much space will be used.

    If you already ran Complete PC Backup, you see a message describing how only newer information will be added to the backup; unlike in a traditional backup, a new backup set isn’t created when you run Complete PC Backup a second time.

  9. Click the Start Backup button.

    An image backup doesn’t consume as much time as a file-by-file backup.

    When the backup is complete, you see the message The Backup Completed Successfully.

  10. Click the Close button and then close the Backup Status and Configuration window.

When you run the Complete PC Backup again, it makes a note of only the changed items on your PC, so it keeps the image backup fresh and also avoids using a lot of disk space. Refresh your image every 6 months or so. But continue to make regular backups. Those backups keep your own files current.

Beyond a couple of times a year, there’s really no reason to run the program more often.

  • You can also start a Complete PC Backup operation by clicking the Back Up Computer button in the Backup and Restore Center window.

  • The Complete PC Backup can be done whether or not you turned on the regular PC backup.

  • The backup image is placed on the external hard drive in a folder named WindowsImageBackup. It’s separate from any folders used with the standard backup program.

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