How to Use Windows 7’s System Image Backup Feature

windows 7 - control panel - system and security - backup and restore - page

In mid February 2009, shortly after installing Windows 7 Beta on my primary PC, I made the huge mistake of running an automated ‘Registry Cleaner’ program. Suffice it to say, it destroyed my system.

Because, my data is backed up on a nightly basis, I lost no data. But I did lose years (stretching back to my first Vista x64 install in January of 2007) of application installations and tweaks. Two months later I have finally (mostly) completed the long and laborious chore of re-installing and tweaking the many dozens of applications I use every day.

To ensure that I NEVER experience this special kind of hell again I decided to create an image of my primary system C:\ drive. I looked at various commercial system image/ghosting programs but decided that the system image feature built into Windows 7 was sufficient for my needs.


  • The process took about 30 minutes for a 100 Gig C:\ drive.
  • I was able to use Windows 7 and all my apps as normal during the entire time the image was being created.
  • Compression was terrific. It compressed my 100 GB system to a 45 GB image backup.

Below is a simple step-by-step description of how to use it. The process is simple:

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Drobo Recovers from Drive Crash as Promised

droboData files on each of my web server, laptops, primary computer and iMac are regularly and automatically backed up to my networked Drobo. I also use the Drobo as a primary repository for 100’s of Gigabytes of centralized data – accessible from any device on my home office network, including my Apple TV, TiVo, PS3 and Xbox 360.

drobo flashing red lightAs of three days ago,  I had two 500 Gigabyte drives and 1 Terabyte drive installed in the Drobo. Two days ago a flashing red light appeared beside one of the 500 Gig drives. This meant that the drive had failed. I purchased a 1 Terabyte Western Digital replacement drive for $114 at infonec.

True to data robotics claims, I was able to hot swap out the defective 500 Gigabyte drive and slide in the new Terabyte drive without incident. It took about 15 seconds to do. Subsequently, it took about six hours for Drobo to reconstitute data redundancy – ie: to format the new drive and redistribute my data across the newly constituted drive array such that data would once again not be lost if any drive failed. During the recovery process, lights beside the three drives blinked green and red. This page on the website says the lights blink green and yellow. It looked more like green and red to me.

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Automatic Outlook 2007 Email Backups – Sort Of

Outlook 2007 For years now I have used Second Copy to both: (i) automatically backup my critical files to external storage devices (currently to a Drobo); and (ii) to synchronize key files between my computers across my network and laptops.

By and large it has worked well (perhaps some of its foibles will be the subject of a future post). But one thing it cannot do, and no other software that I’m aware of can, is backup Outlook’s PST files while Outlook is running. PST files are the files where Outlook stores emails, calendar data, contact info etc.

In my world, my PC is usually running 24/7 and so is Outlook.

For years I have searched, on and off and without success for software that can backup PST files while Outlook is running. Recently I came across Microsoft’s Outlook 2007/2003/2002 Add-in: Personal Folders Backup ("PFB")utility (download here).

While it cannot backup Outlook files while Outlook is running, it does the next best thing – it backs them up automatically when you exit Outlook. Since I exit Outlook at least a few times a week, my PST files are now backed up that often.

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