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Back up your hard drive with Complete PC Backup imaging utility

Windows Vista also comes with a hard disk imaging utility, called Complete PC Backup, that can create an image file that contains the complete contents and structure of a hard disk.

As you know, all of the previous Windows operating systems come with a backup utility to allow you to back up all the files on your hard disk. So too does Windows Vista. However, in addition to its standard backup utility, Windows Vista also comes with a hard disk imaging utility, called Complete PC Backup. This utility can create an image file that contains the complete contents and structure of a hard disk. If you've ever used Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image, then you have a good idea of what Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup imaging utility is all about.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll take a closer look at the Complete PC Backup utility.

Caveats

Keep in mind that that the type of backup that Complete PC Backup creates can not be used to restore single files—it can only restore the entire hard disk. For that reason, Microsoft recommends that even though you use Complete PC Backup, you still use the standard backup utility on a regular basis. Another thing to keep in mind is that Complete PC Backup and Restore is not included with Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium.

Accessing Complete PC Backup

There are two ways you can access the Complete PC Backup operation. You can access it from the Backup and Restore Center by clicking Start | All Programs | Maintenance. You can also access it from the Backup Status and Configuration page by clicking Start | All Programs | Accessories | System tools. Both of these initial user interfaces are shown in Figures A and B.

Figure A

You can launch the Complete PC Backup utility from the Backup and RestoreCenter.

Figure B

You can also launch the Complete PC Backup utility from the Backup Status and Configuration page.

From either interface, launching the Complete PC Backup utility first brings up a User Account Control dialog box. You'll need to click Continue to actually start the Complete PC Backup utility.

Creating the backup image

Once Complete PC Backup launches, you'll see its opening screen, which first scans your system for available backup devices and then prompts you to select one. As you can see in Figure C, I'm going to back up to a DVD RW drive for this example, but I could have chosen a secondary internal or external hard disk.

Figure C

Complete PC Backup can save the image that it creates to either a hard disk or a DVD.

When you click Next, you'll see a confirmation page that provides an estimate of the number of disks the image will require. Once you click Start backup button, the Complete PC Backup utility will be begin its preparation operation.

You'll then be prompted to insert a DVD disk into the DVD RW drive, as shown in Figure D. Notice the progress bar in the background indicates the beginning of the preparation operation. The Complete PC Backup utility will then prompt you to format the disk. You'll then see the Format operation commence, as shown in Figure E.

Figure D

Once the Complete PC Backup utility performs it initial preparation, you'll be prompted to insert a disk into the drive.

Figure E

The actual format operation takes less than a minute to complete.

Once the DVD has been formatted, Complete PC Backup utility will begin imaging the disk. As the operation continues and the first disk is filled, you're prompted to insert and format subsequent disks. In my case it took three3 DVDs to backup my 26GB installation. The first two DVDs were filled at 4.37GB while the third required only 568MB, which comes out to about 9GB—not a bad compression ratio.

Restoring an image backup

To restore a hard disk using the image, you'll need to boot from the Windows Vista DVD. You'll then see two Install Windows screens and will select your language in the first and then select the Repair your computer option in the second. When you get to the Windows Recovery Environment screen, as shown in Figure F, you'll select the Complete PC Restore option and follow the prompts to restore your system.

Figure F

The Windows Recovery Environment allows you to choose from a host of recovery tools, including Complete PC Restore.

Conclusion

In addition to its standard file backup utility, Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup imaging utility is designed to allow you to create an image of an entire hard disk. If you have comments or information to share about Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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