Backing up a Windows system

By Osiyo53 ·
I've read a number of threads on this forum about changing registration keys, restoring XP, and so forth. But have yet to find anything here concerning a problem I have.

This is about a home system, not one of the systems at work. A friend bought a machine, new, with WinXP home installed. No backup or install CD provided. I presume it's a legal copy as he's survived numerous MS validity checks while downloading updates and such, and he's got a legit looking sticker on the box, and it's a box which came from a well known sellor (HP).

The machine has a couple years on it now, and the friend is nervous and wants to do create a backup/restore disk for his OS. Primarily, for usage in case the HD crashes. The machine does all he wants, fast enough for his purposes. So he sees no need to upgrade the machine at this time.

Vista is now out but my friend does not want to bother with it for at least the next year or two. Until any major bugs are worked out, AND because he uses some specialty software in his work which we already know will NOT work with Vista. Makers of said specialty software (there are 3 applications which are in this category which he uses and needs) are working on the problem. But who knows how long before they solve the problem?

This kind of thing is outside my knowledge as what I do for a living doesn't actually involve having to do installs, except for the normal sort. ie Have computer, have OS install disk, run it. That is, if new computer doesn't already have the OS installed. Then I install and configure a number of very specialized apps for the line of work I'm in. Then I'm done. Any problems down the road with the computer and it's OS itself is the problem of our customer and/or our IT department. My own specialty is a specialized kind of programming (machine control), configuring or modifying those specialized apps, and some networking stuff such as getting a machine onto a network, testing and fixing network connections, etc.

So ... does anyone know a workable method of getting the OS "install" files off this guy's machine so he can burn em to CD. I presume that once he can do this, he should be able to reinstall to the same machine (motherboard) with just a change out of a hard drive if it becomes necessary and then use the code on his sticker to do a legit reactivation?

I told him I believe this should be legal. All he wants is to be able to repair the original machine and still use original OS. He's got original CD's for all the apps he wants and needs. He understands the license is tied to THAT machine, he's not asking to be able to transfer the OS to another. If motherboard fails, for instance, he understands he'll just have to bite the bullet and try to find a replacement with XP on it or go with a machine with Vista loaded and HOPE the app makers get their non-compatibility issues solved by that time.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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All Answers

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backup XP

if you just want to create backup image to be able to restore it on the same PC you can use norton ghost then if you need to recover the OS just put the disk in a run ghost. here is a good tutorial for you to follow.

if you dont want to go out and buy ghost you can always use sysprep. here is another link that show how sysprep works.

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try this

by sadym In reply to Backing up a Windows syst ...

edited by moderator

Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

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Get the recovery CD set from HP.

by grassiap In reply to Backing up a Windows syst ...


having worked for several years at HP I'm surprised that the box did not come with a set of CD/DVD with it.

Check this:
to get CDs from HP,

to download an ISO image of the recovery CD (this one will not recreate the out-of-factory version, but enable to boot from the CD and restore your last backup from an other media, USB HDD, network share, ...)


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I have been contracting to HP for a couple of years now and as far as i know they dont supply customers with recovery disks. On initial system boot customers are asked if they want to create a set of recovery CD's, most dont so i keep quite a large stash of them. The other thing about them is that they are "recovery CD's" so they are only good if you want to set your PC back to factory default, they arn't any good for creating an image of an entire system including user data. that is why you would need to use something like ghost of sysprep.

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by Osiyo53 In reply to HP

Thank you,

And thanks to everyone else who posted replies. If nothing else, after reading what you wrote, and reading the links provided, I've learned a bit more than I knew. Which is always a good thing.

Talked to my friend. He said that he seems to remember that upon first boot he was asked to create a recovery disk. But, at that time, declined. Thinking that he could always do that later. As he'd been able to do under other versions of Windows and on other systems. But now, that he's gone back and looked for it he doesn't find the option anywhere.

I guess, possibly, it was a one shot deal? I'm guessing. As I stated before, this is not my area of knowledge. I do know my wife recently bought a new Compaq laptop (I gather Compaq is now owned by HP) and I did the initial startup and setup for her. As always. And I noted that it prompted me to make a series of recovery disks ... and made it clear that I must do it right then, or within 14 days ... OR it'd never allow it again.

Geez, talk about being pushy ! I did wonder why they'd limit an owners ability to both a one shot deal, and further limit you to a relatively small time frame in which to take the offer. Seems strange to me. In any event, on my own machines and machines in my household I make it a habit to make immediate recovery disks anyway if the machines do not come with them so I sat and ran that utility and made the 28 or so CD's that were needed.

So, as concerns my friend. I'd guess that making an image with something like Acronis True Image might be his best option?

I mention Acronis only because I've been meaning to buy an imaging application personally and when asking about I've had a number of people tell me that they thought Acronis to be the better product for casual (read that as inexperienced and not too demanding) users.

I checked, there is no copy of a recovery CD, or CD set, for his model HP available on their site.

Now, a another question. If we get Acronis, will it also image that "hidden" partition on his current hard drive. Which is where I'm guessing that HP keeps alternative hardware drivers. I'm thinking about the situation where my friend might has a hardware crash, and needed to replace a drive, a video card, etc.

No biggie if it won't, I could always do a lookup for him and find a driver on the Net at HP's site or elsewhere, in such an event. Just want to know and figured since you've worked with HP's you might know the answer.

As it stands, I told him to buy a largish box of blank CD's since it looks like we're gonna have to image EVERYTHING, even the misc junk that he'd not necessarily want to keep if he has to recover from a major crash/hardware failure.

The original thought I had was that'd be nice if he could just do a baseline re-install ... ie The system gets re-installed as it was when he bought the machine. I have local copies of every Win update for XP, that the average person would want and use, available. So we could just do a fast update of the original. Then he could load up and install his major apps that he absolutely needs (his work office is his home computer, and he has original app CD's). And he'd be good to go, with a relatively clean install.

Chuckle, he's had problems in the past. ie A daughter grown too big for pants who got on THAT computer, despite Dad's warning to NOT TOUCH under any circumstance. She has her own, but Dad's is faster, has better graphics and sound and so forth. Plus he has the CD burner. I gather she would use it when he wasn't home to visit site's she probably shouldn't (my opinion), and I know she was hanging around some sites where she could download music ... almost certainly illegally. Because he came up with a pretty serious virus infection on that machine. When he called me and I went over to take a look, saw traces of files downloaded of the sort I know HE wouldn't be downloading, and sites visited that aren't the sort he'd visit knowingly. Daughter had tried to erase evidence, but I found stuff she didn't know about so didn't delete. Took a while, and several searches of the Net for me to ID the several bugs he had and to get em removed.

Daughter got a good verbal dressing down. Good enough so I couldn't post exactly what was said to this forum without risk of offending a number of people. And was warned that a repeat would mean she'd be living on the street. (She confessed she'd looked over his shoulder while he typed in his password)

And the incident has put him in a sweat. He's very careful with THAT machine. Only places he connects to over the Net are business related, etc. Does keep all his important data files, that he needs for his work, backed up religiously. Has a separate puter (old one but serves the purpose) for entertainment browsing, IM, etc.

So now he's really regretting not doing that initial creation of recovery CD set, and is in a lather to take some sort of step to backup that machine as best he can at this point.

Thanks again ... to all.

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by syst3m.admin1strator In reply to Thanks

what happends is that when you do a fresh install or recovery of a HP/Compaq machine it creates a hidden partition, once it creates the hidden partition it'll reboot and install the system off the hidden partition.

this may seen a waste of time but there is a method for this madness and it is that if you have a problem with the system you can do a recovery straight off the hidden partition, just like you can run the recovery console in XP.

i have tried acronis its a good program but i stick to norton ghost because on a network i can create a full unattended install of XP, have all the machines boot up and join a multicast session, download and install the OS. where as acronis is limited in that sence but it is still a great program for creating a backup image none the less.

you can backup the hidden partition with acronis, but because the hidden partition is a partition so you will need to backup both partitions.

i cant say that i have ever backed one up but i know it will work. i'm pretty sure that the hidden partition show up a you may need to show hidden files/folders and maybe even show hidded system files then just run the program to backup C: and

there is just one thing the hidden partition is model/make specific, not only that but when a HP/Compaq machine gets build (hardware wise) you run a tool called a HP tattoo disk. this disk programs the BIOS and informs the system about the hardware it is using, when you use this tool it prompts you for things such as make, model, serial number, product number etc.. i really dought that you can obtain it off the internet.

so if you images the system and install it in another machine it will work but you will get problems because the BIOS has been programed for a cirten hardware platform, some problems include devices not working i.e. onboard sound, problems with USB's etc..

dont get me wrong you can change hardware the only thing that will effect the system and may cause errors is if you change the motherboard. once you change a motherboard even if it is the same make/model board it will need to be tattooed.

personally what i would do is get another harddrive and either:

setup a raid 0 althougth you may need to get a raid controller card so this may not be the best option.
use norton ghost and create a disk to image once a month (but also do weekly backups) that way you will have a fall back image to load onto the system

if worse come to worse and you have to reload the image it will contain most personal data and all the system data. the personal data that it doesnt contain, which would only be at most a few weeks because you'd do the image once a month will be on other media from doing weekly backups.

i hope this helps you and also hope i havent gone off track.

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if you would ...

by grassiap In reply to Thanks

if you would share the exact model name and part number (as the appear on the identification label a the back of the computer) I can check for you the image of the recovery CD.

If it is too old (but we are talking of 5 yrs old) it may not be available on the public web, I'll then reconnect with colleagues at HP Support in Ireland to see the best option.

as for making a backup of the hidden partition, I agree to for to a disk imaging sotfware. Ghost being the reference, Powerquest DriveImage being just as good IMHO, as a home user you may want to have a look at drivesnapshot that being a shareware is cheap and might prove sufficient for your needs


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