The Explorer: Bullet-Proof Your Windows Setup - InformationWeek
Software // Enterprise Applications
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Fred Langa
Fred Langa

The Explorer: Bullet-Proof Your Windows Setup

It's fast, easy, and inexpensive with this technique!

Let's start this week's column with a little quiz about you and your computing habits.

1. Have you ever wished you could just click a button and effortlessly get your PC back to a 100 percent perfect state in just minutes, with everything optimally installed, set up, tuned, compacted, defragged, adjusted, and working exactly the way you prefer?

2. Have you ever had an "Oh, no" moment when you realized that some file or folder you deleted a while ago and that's no longer in your Recycle Bin actually contained important information?

3. Have you ever saved a bad new copy of a file you were working on over a good, older copy, thereby losing or scrambling the good file?

4. Do you store legally-significant data on your system, say, business or tax records, that you need to keep for a very long time?

If you're like most people, you answered "yes" to at least one of the above. And if you're like me, you answered "yes" to them all.

The good news is that there's a fast, easy, inexpensive way to accomplish all the above. Not only does this technique deliver all four benefits mentioned above -- and more -- but the #1 benefit is so powerful it's worth restating:

With this technique, you can zap your system back to a perfect state in no more time than it takes to grab a cup of coffee. Unlike "Go Back" and similar utilities, this technique doesn't just undo the last changes you made, but can restore your entire software setup -- OS, apps, and data, everything -- to like-new condition. And also unlike the Go Back-type tools, no matter how badly hosed your system is -- even if you've totally scrambled your Windows installation, messed up important application software, or rendered your primary "boot partition" completely unusable and unbootable -- this technique lets you get your system back to a stable, perfect, working order in a few effortless minutes. It even gets at the those system files that normally are live, in use, and unavailable to standard Windows backup software.

The technology's only been available to consumers for a couple years; I first wrote about it in a 1998 column.

But a lot has changed since then, and it's time for an update: The technology I'm talking about is something called "drive imaging."

I use the eponymous Drive Image utility ($60 from PowerQuest), but there are other drive imagers, such as Symantec's $70 Ghost. I prefer Drive Image because it's fast and bulletproof; and grew out of product technology that was originally designed for very high-end applications, such as for PC manufacturers who want to drop hundreds of megs of setup files on machine after machine after machine. Drive Image is a "consumerized" version of that same robust technology. Because it's what I use, I'll focus on Drive Image for the rest of this discussion, but the basic concepts apply to other brands of disk imaging software as well.

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