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Reimaging windows

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In order to be able to reimage your harddrive you need to have a more or less recent image. This is especially true if your drive suddenly dies. So the first stage of any reimaging process and creating on a regular basis a set of images

One terabyte USB drive are now commodity (can be bought for less then $50). This amount of space permits creating images of C drive of several 1GB USB drive (do not put all eggs into one basket) on a weekly basis (or even daily if you move your data folder to another partition) and keeping them for several months.

If you do not store your data on C drive (and you should not) total size of C drive is around 80GB for Windows 7 with Office Professional and several other applications installable. That means that image of C drive can be as compact as 30GB.  In this case you can restore your computer in case of troubles in approximately an hour instead of three-four days.  And can resume your work in two or three hours (image is usually is slightly out of date and so needs minor tweaking) this approach will save you countless hours on the phone with the vendor or researching the subject on Internet  ;-).

USB 3.0 or SATA or iSATA connection to backup permits backing up/restoring of  70-80G of data on C partition (which is the typical size of data on C partition in Windows 7) in approximately 15 min. USB 2.0 takes longer but still you can fully restore 30 GB image in less then hour.  USB 3.0 speed is close to iSATA.

Creating images is also a very effective anti-spyware strategy. 

I strongly recommend using Dual Partition Windows configuration

Move your data off C-partition to minimize the C: image size

It makes sense splitting your harddrive into two partitions and storing some of your user folders (and first of all Documents folder) as well as all private data on the second partition, which you should backup daily using Acronis image or similar Ghost-derived tool. 

 For those who store a lot of media on this drives this makes creation of the image of your system partition quicker as it has a smaller size. For those who do not store much data on the C: partition this step can be omitted.  But those are tactical issues.

The key strategic idea here is using image later for fast restore of your OS.  One drive failure more that pays for for  rigid discipline of making backups using images on daily basis.

So the strategy has positive side effects allowing you better (actually much better than usual) protect your vital data in case of crash or malware infection.  

This is an optional step, but it make sense to minimize your C-drive as you probably will restore the system several times during the lifetime of a particular PC. You can create links to Folders in "C:\Documents and Settings\dell\Application Data\" folder. For example Mozilla Thunderbird write emails in folder

"C:\Documents and Settings\dell\Application Data\Thunderbird\"

You can move it to say data drive D and link it with softlink (I use FAR for this purpose, but most file managers provide an option to create a link to the folder)

The key idea here is to make your system image smaller so that creation of the backup image of the partition does not take too long. Let's say 20-30 min for the backup of C-partition to the USB 2.0 drive. 

People often keep way too much staff of C drive and recently with music, photos and videos the situation became really unmanageable. If you move most of your documents and files to the other drive (let's call it D: -- data), then the total amount of space consumed by Windows XP with a typical software set (let's say MS Office, Thunderbird, Firebox) is approximately 30G or even less.

If you use Thunderbird and store all your email on C-drive that this size can be substantially larger. That's another reason to use the second harddrive or at least partition for your data.

While "separation of user files and system files" is optional, it does provides some advantages. First of all it reduces the chances of loss of your data due to malware infection: the most typical reason for loss of the data on C-drive are some badly Though out and hastily executed actions directed toward removal of infection. It also permits to collect all your valuable data (and your data are definitely more valuable then system image, may be 100 or 1000 times more valuable). If your data are on a separate small partition you can backup them more often (preferably daily).

If you move your data to a separate partition (second partition on primary drive or second hard drive or even USB drive) you will have better control on what is what. If you use laptop having two partitions (C: and D: ) on a single internal drive is more convenient.  So you need to shrink C: partitions (see below).

In any case it is important practice to store your data on a partition different from the system partition and this practice should be strictly adhered to. You can save yourself from a lot of troubles by separating Windows operating system and your data.

Relocating  parts or all your profile from C: to D: drive have several advantages in data recovery situations: 

This is easier to do with Windows 7 then with Windows XP although moving My Documents folder is possible under Windows XP too. See how to relocate Documents & Settings

Clean and defragment the C drive

To minimize the amount of data you need to backup from system partition you need to clean the drive from junk. There are several directories to clean. Among them: 

The best way I know to accomplish this task is to run a free utility called CCleaner. Recent versions are a little bit too much intrusive for my taiste so you can uninstall it after cleaning the drive.

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO malware or Adware! :)

After that it makes sense to defragment the C partition (unless you are using solid state drive).  It is actually safer to defragment the drive after the backup.

Write the image of C: partition to the second drive

For desktops the easiest solution is to use USB drive or install additional harddrive. For laptops and minis your only option is to use external drive. eSATA drives are faster then USB so if your laptop/desktop supports eSATA it makes sense to buy eSATA enclosure and install the drive in it.

The procedure depends on the tool for creating images that you are using. The are several free and commercial possibilities here (see more information is

We will discuss only Acronis and its free versions 

Acronis True Image is one of the cheapest commercial offerings and is pretty reliable if you use full image mode. You can find it for approximately $25-$35 delivered electronically. Free version are available with Seagate drives (including SSD), WD drives, Crucial drive and several other vendors.

It does not have high rating on Amazon but that is mainly due to complex cases when users expect from the program too much (case of sandwiched drive with multiple OS installed is one typical problematic case). For simple cases like ours this is OK program.

It is one of  the cheapest of commercial offerings and works reasonably well.  It is important to test not only creation of the image but restoring it as well

Create a bootable system disk or partition

Purchase or assemble a drive identical to in size to the one you use in your desktop or laptop (having spare drive is a good idea, as drive failure is the most frustrating experience for PC and especially laptop users) or a small USB drive (64G-120G, not more) and make a full copy or just a bootable copy of your C partition on this drive.

You can just restore the image you created on a previous step on the drive. True Image has special function of cloning of disks (hidden in Tools menu) is very useful and works really well. Please note that it uses a standalone loader (I think it is Linux based, not WinCE based).

 It is very important that this operation is performed on a healthy system. While attempt to save a dying or infected system might succeed, failure in such case is more typical and should not surprise anybody...

Also the image that you use of C partition that you clone should have imaging program installed.

This "definitely healthy" bootable USB drive can later be indispensible for restoring the system partition on your PC or laptop. As it is a fully usable system it relives time pressure from the restoration process. And it is time pressure that is the source of most blunders during the restoration process, the blunders that often cost users their data. 

It does not need make it to up today. You can update this drive one a month or quarter.  Moreover the content of this drive can be completely static but in this case you need periodically check it (at least one a quarter). 

Create a daily schedule for backing up your data partition

If you moved most of your user data to the second partition (D:) you can backup Operating system partition (C:)  one in a week or biweekly. In no case Microsoft backup should be used for your data. This is a defective product. Incremental backups are OK for you data partition but not for the system (C:) partition.

It is wise to write images on a large drive so that at least a dozen generation of images are available for both you C partition and D (data) partition.

The reason is that corruption of files often is detected in period larger then interval between backups (assuming it is one week for C-drive and one day for D drive).  60 days backup storage is standard recommended practice.  1-2TB drive  is usually sufficient to keep several dozen of generations of images.  That provide you the capability to restore from image that is not infected even if you notice the infection in a week or two.

Mirrored drives for backup are important as the value of your data far exceed the value of additional drive required for mirroring. There are several such drives and enclosures the support RAID 1. This is a very good investment:

You can split this drive (1GB of usable space) into two partitions: one for C: images (500 MB) and the second for your data (also 500MB). 

One image of C partition will be around 22GB so 500GB is enough for approximately 20 of them.

Typical data partitions (unless you are an avid photographer) is probably 6GB, but can be as large as 20GB. In case of 6GB you probably never exhaust the space on the second partition. In case of 20GB or more your mileage may vary.

Restoration process

While many simpler variants are possible in variant described below we will assume usage as a backup storage one of the following devices:

To make recovery faster and less labor consuming, this backup drive can be split into two partitions: one small for booting the OS (~ 60GB) and the second for backup images. Two drives also can be used.  The idea is to have ability to boot from the partition of the second drive the OS with all components. Summarizing we need to have:

  1. The small 120GB - 250GB partition (or additional USB drive) for replica of C drive. It will be used for restoring the image that you have so the disk can be booted into Windows and you can continue work almost immediately without frantic efforts to restore the internal C-drive (efforts that can often lead to important data destroyed, multiplying the damage from the infection).  Using the second drive is especially convenient for laptop users. In this case you can buy a drive identical or slightly bigger then you have on your laptop. If you harddrive crashes you can replace it with backup drive not waiting for delivery of a new drive. The latter happens more often on laptops because the latter usually are abused much more then desktop. 
  2. The second large partitions  (or the second drive). It will be used exclusively for storing images of the C-partition and regular backups of user data. Should have large size (at least 1TB or better 2 TB).

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[Sep 24, 2015] SanDisk Extreme SSD 480 GB SATA 6.0 Gb-s 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SDSSDX-480G-G25 Computers & Accessories

I LOVE this drive. Cool. Fast, fast, fast. April 11, 2012


Size Name:120 GB|Amazon Verified Purchase

Feb 28, 13 update: I'll be receiving my 3rd Sandisk SSD today for my new Asus notebook which didn't come with a SSD. The hard disk is noticeably sluggish, generates heat and noise and drains the battery. After using Sandisk SSDs on my other computers, I'm spoiled. A Sandisk SSD is probably the best component (highest ROI) one can add to a computer to dramatically improve performance.

Quick review:

* Really runs much faster than any hard disk (and I've got a bunch of new WD hard disks). Ignore what other people have written -- everything runs MUCH faster on this SSD. Web applications, giant files. This sucker is FAST!
* Runs very cool. I measured the temperature and it's only a few degrees warmer than the temperature of the room
* Very easy to transfer the contents of whatever sized hard disk you have use free easy-to-use software
* Works in both desktop and laptop computers (I installed one in each of my computers).
* You don't have to be a geek to install the SSD. This is the first time I ever installed an SSD.

You can read more if you want, but it's not necessary. The solid state disk is fast, quiet and runs cool. You'll love it.

I saw this on Amazon's "Today's Deals" and at $119 for a 120GB SSD, I said, "Why not give it a try?"

I installed this SSD on a laptop with Windows 7.

Wow! this laptop is now really fast. Everything runs so much quicker. Windows Experience for the hard disk went from 5.9 to 7.7

I've never seen Windows load so fast before. Applications and data load significantly faster.

I was so impressed with the speed improvement, I then bought another SSD and installed it on my desktop computer using Windows XP3.

[July 25, 12 UPDATE: I just received this Raytek MT6 Non-contact MiniTemp Infrared Thermometer. The ambient temperature next to the case computer running XP3 was 77 degrees. The Sandisk SSD is only 82 degrees (no cooling fan). On a laptop, the coolest temperature I could measure on the back of the laptop running Windows 7 was 86 degrees - the laptop was on my wife's lap for hours so a lot of the heat came from her. Opening the back cover of the laptop, the Sandisk SSD was only 93 degrees. This is in a room that's 77 degrees.]

Using HD Tach,

The burst speed for the SSD: 4027MB/s.
Random access: 0.2ms
CPU Utilization: 2%
Average speed: 270MB/s

The burst speed for a WD drive (WD1002FAEX) with 64MB of cache: 245MB/s
Random access: 12ms
CPU utilization: 1%
Average speed: 113MB/s

Numbers and benchmarks aside, the overall computer responsiveness is dramatically better. Suspending the computer now takes just a few seconds and waking it up is also extremely fast.

[June 10, 2012 update: I'm now using Lightroom, Nik Dfine and Nik Sharpen which involves transferring >100MB files back and forth. There's only a brief hesitation in-between each step.]

Cloning from a hard disk to the SSD using Macrium Reflect v5.0 Free Edition worked perfectly.

Out of simple curiosity, I installed XP3. XP3 installation took just 7 minutes. The 100+ Windows updates took only a few minutes.

After running the SSD for a few hours, the SSD is barely warm. I can remove the hard disk fan and make the computer even quieter.

My wife is a user. She doesn't know or care about hardware or benchmarks. She does, however, makes unsolicited remarks from time to time how much better the laptop runs. The laptop used to drive her nuts since it was so slow. Now she's happy.

We're absolutely delighted with the SSDs. Buy it. You'll love it.

These are the step-by-step instructions to clone your Windows 7 disk to the SSD:

1. Download and install Macrium Reflect v5.0 Free Edition.
2. Shut-down Windows
3. Unplug laptop (if plugged into electrical outlet)
4. Remove laptop battery
5. Install SSD (in my laptop, I just had to remove a panel in the back and plug in the SSD). Note: You'll have both the original hard disk and the new blank SSD installed.
6. Put battery back into computer and plug laptop into an electrical outlet
7. Start Windows
8. Launch Macrium Reflect v5.0 Free Edition
9. Clone partitions from hard disk to the SSD (this works even if the SSD is smaller than the original hard disk). In my case, this took about an hour. Note: Cloning the hard disk to the SSD with Macrium is simply dragging the Windows partitions to the SSD. Partitions are automatically resized if necessary.
10. Shut-down Windows
11. Unplug laptop from electrical outlet
12. Remove hard disk from laptop and save it somewhere safe just in case you ever need a backup. Make sure you label the old hard disk.
13. Put SSD into original laptop hard disk bay
14. Plug battery in
15. Turn computer on
16. Computer will restart to complete software installation
17. You're done.

I should point out that this is the first time I ever touched hardware in a laptop (complete newbie with laptops). The above may sound like a lot of work or complicated but I broke down the instructions step-by-step.

Important update: Windows 7 does not automatically recognize the drive as a SSD and you should disable the Prefetch feature. Update: Someone in the comments section wrote that running Windows Experience in Windows 7 will automatically disable prefetch.

I used the free TweakPrefetch utility for Windows to disable Prefetch. Google "TweakPrefetch Utility download" to find the URL (Amazon doesn't allow URLs so I can't give you the exact address but you'll find it at Softpedia) and follow the instructions which involves clicking the SSD checkbox and rebooting.

[Update] My wife and I have been using these SSDs daily on our separate computers for the past two months and we're still extremely happy with the greatly improved performance. My wife's laptop (not a top of the line model) takes 15 seconds from a cold start to Windows 7 up and running.

So easy… and so fast. By J. Perkins VINE VOICE on August 30, 2014

Style Name: Drive OnlySize: 480GB Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

This was a cinch to install, but it still took me awhile to figure out what I was doing. The other reviews were very helpful, along with the SanDisk support website. I wanted to install this SSD on my Dell Inspiron i15R-1632sLV 15.6-Inch Laptop, which has been pretty good for the most part. However, it takes forever to start up-there seems to be a lot of Dell bloatware that it could do without.

So here is the process for installing this on a laptop:

1. Obtain a USB to SATA adapter cable.

I did not realize I needed this to hook up the SSD for cloning until after step 2 so I had to wait a few days after I ordered it.

2. Clean up and back up your hard drive.

The SanDisk SSD 480 GB is smaller than the hard drive on my Dell (750 GB), and I had a lot of photos, videos, and music taking up a lot of room. So first I cleaned up my hard drive and got rid of junk I did not want anymore. Then I backed up my personal files, including all of those aforementioned photos and videos, before deleting them from my hard drive.

3. Clone your existing hard drive.

After I received the cable, I downloaded Macrium Reflect cloning software from I considered buying the software recommended by Sandisk, but other reviewers recommended Macrium Reflect. It also got good reviews from CNET. Macrium was easy to use, but it took a while to clone my hard drive onto the SSD. Plug the SSD into your USB port using the adapter. My computer at first did not install the driver for the SSD until I unplugged another USB device that was pulling power from my computer. Of course, keep your laptop power supply connected during this process-don't try to do it on battery power. After opening the Reflect program, I decided to watch one of their Help videos on cloning a drive, which was very helpful. I followed those directions and proceeded to clone the drive. It took about two hours to complete the clone (about 125 GB of data).

4. Install the SSD.

Then all you have to do is install the SSD, which is also very easy if all the screws cooperate. Turn off and unplug your laptop. Turn it over. Remove the battery. Unscrew and remove the back panel covering the hard drive (on the Dell, I just took a guess and removed the central panel and there was the hard drive, the same size as the SSD). Remove the screws holding the hard drive bracket in the laptop, gently pull the hard drive out of the connector using the plastic pull tab on the bracket, and remove the hard drive. Then remove the screws holding the hard drive to the bracket (one of mine was difficult to remove and almost got completely stripped before coming loose. Attach the SSD to the bracket in the same way using the same screws. Set the SSD in the laptop where the hard drive was and slide the connector in place. Then screw the bracket in place using the same screws. Reattach the back panel, reinstall the battery, plug the computer back up, and start it up. The computer then required a restart to finish the installation, and that was it. The whole install process took less than 20 minutes (after the cloning part).

The difference in performance was immediately noticeable. Where before it took five minutes to start up, it now starts in less than 30 seconds. All tasks, from loading web pages to starting programs, are quite zippier than before.

I wish I had the bigger size (960 GB), but this should encourage me to keep my mess of photos and videos in better order. My only complaint is that I did not initially realize that I needed the USB to Sata adapter until I sat down to install this and then had to wait a few days while I ordered it. But that is really my own fault for not doing the research beforehand. Anyway, this is a great upgrade to my computer. Highly recommended.



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