Creating a backup to a computer system drive requires a small learning curve and a few hours of time to complete. In the event of a hard disk crash or stubborn virus attack, however, having imaged the hard drive invariably turns out to be worth the minimal effort involved.
The process of imaging the hard drive is also called "ghosting" or "cloning."
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Disk-imaging software
- Storage media
Confirm that all three Microsoft Windows XP service packs---SP1, SP2 and SP3---are installed by checking the "Programs" in the control panel. These may be downloaded from the Microsoft website if not present.
Have the original Microsoft Windows XP registration code nearby. This is often found on the underside of a laptop or the back of a desktop computer.
Copy all important documents to a safe location, either on a CD/DVD or on a separate hard drive.
Eliminate any unnecessary programs. Check the system for errors, viruses and malware and correct or remove them.
Defragment the hard drive by opening the "Start" menu and navigating to "Accessories," "System Tools" and "Disk Defragment."
Make a boot disk---if one is not present---by using the XP utility. From the "Start" menu select "My Computer." Choose the floppy drive to create the boot disk. Insert the disk. Format the disk. Select "Create MS-DOS Start up disk" in "Format Options." Click "Start."
Load the selected imagining utility in the CD/DVD drive bay and wait for autorun to start the program interface, or select the program if autorun does not start the program. This is done by opening Explorer, navigating to the CD/DVD drive with the utility program, opening the program file and double-clicking on the "Run Program" icon.
When the program interface appears, select the drive to be imaged, which normally is the "C" drive.
Follow any set-up directions provided by the software manufacturer.
Press the appropriate key to initiate the cloning process.
When the utility completes the image, remove and label the disk(s) with a suitable title.
Tips and warnings
- There are a few free "ghosting" utilities available for download on the Internet. These are basic programs with very few features. Other programs for sale offer a variety of imaging features, including the ability to select which files to clone, multiple image copy production and complete disk wiping. These utilities might be useful when selling a computer or servicing several computers simultaneously.
- Confirm that the copy of Microsoft Windows XP on the hard drive being cloned is legitimate. During the cloning process, the program may ask for the 16- or 20-character registration code. Using a bootleg copy or not having the registration numbers at hand could result in a crash of the imaging software and the permanent loss of all data.
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