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Windows 7 : Protecting Your Files - Using Backup and Restore (part 2) - Backing up the entire PC with an image, Restoring from an image to a new hard drive

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3. Restoring files from a backup

If there ever comes a time when you've lost or destroyed some important files, you can restore them from your backup. But understand that this method is only required if the files or folders are not in the Recycle Bin. Before you bother with the method described here, open the Recycle Bin and look for the missing file or folder. If you find what you're looking for, right-click it and choose Restore. The deleted item is right back where it was, and there's no need to proceed with the procedure described here.

If neither of these methods helps you recover the lost items, you can restore from your backup. First, log in to the user account from which you lost the files. If you used a CD or DVD to make the backup, insert the disk into the drive. If you used an external hard drive, make sure that drive is connected and turned on.

When you get to the page shown in Figure 5, use the Browse for Files button to locate specific files to recover. Click Browse for Folders if you're trying to recover a folder. Click Search to locate a specific item to restore. When you find the file or folder you want to restore, click its icon and the Add button. You can repeat the process as necessary to add as many files and folders as needed to the list of files and folders to restore. When the list is complete, click Next to move on to the next steps.

On the last wizard page, you're given the option to restore items to their original location or a new location. Stick with the original location if you're recovering files you've accidentally deleted. If you still have the originals and want to use the restored files as extra copies, specify a different location for the restored files. Then click Restore.

4. Backing up the entire PC with an image

The Create a System Image link in the Backup and Restore Center backs up everything on your primary hard drive (drive C:). That includes Windows 7 and all of your installed programs. That backup takes considerably more time and storage space than a file backup, but it offers the advantage of being able to recover everything in the event of a disaster that makes your hard drive inoperable.

A complete PC backup is also different from a file backup in that it doesn't allow you to restore only specific lost files. It's an all-or-none thing. The most common use is to make a brand-new empty replacement hard drive contain exactly the same files that were on the old hard drive the last time you made a backup.

You don't need to back up your entire PC often, because the vast majority of files in your Windows and Program Files folders rarely, if ever, change. How often you back up is entirely up to you. The usual recommendation is every six months.

To back up your entire hard drive, click the Create a System Image link. A wizard opens to take you through the process step by step. You'll need to choose where you want to place your backup image.

If your primary hard drive is partitioned into multiple logical drives, you can choose to include or exclude those. Just make your selections and click Start Backup and the backup will begin. It will run in the background so you can continue to use your computer during the backup process.

Figure 5. Choose files and folders to restore.

When the backup is complete, the drive to which you backed up has a new folder icon named WindowsImageBackup. The "image" part of the name stems from the fact that the backup is like a "snapshot" of the drive's contents. It's not the kind of image you can see with your own eyes, though. You can't open that folder and navigate through your original folders.

5. Restoring from an image to a new hard drive

If you lose your entire hard drive and need to replace it, use the following procedure to restore from your image backup. It's important to remember this is an all-or-none recovery. You cannot use this method to restore specific folders or files:

  1. Leave the computer turned off (it won't start with a brand-new hard drive anyway).

  2. If you backed up to DVD, insert the first DVD into your DVD drive. If you backed up to an external hard drive, connect that external hard drive to the computer.

  3. Turn on the computer and hold down the F8 key while the computer is starting. If your keyboard has a Function Lock (or F Lock) key, make sure it's on or the F8 key might not work. The Advanced Boot Options page will appear.

    NOTE

    If you can't use the F8 key to get to the recovery options from the hard drive, put your Windows 7 Installation disk into a CD or DVD drive. Then start the computer and hold down the F8 key as the computer is starting.

  4. When the Advanced Boot Options page appears, click Repair Your Computer.

  5. In the System Recovery Options dialog box, click System Image Recovery, and follow the instructions on-screen to choose the image and complete the restore operation.

When you've completed all the steps, you should be able to start the computer normally without the backup disks. Everything will be exactly as it was at the time you made the backup. If you need to install other files you backed up using Back Up Files, follow the procedure under "Restoring files from a backup" to restore those.

6. Restore an image to a partially damaged disk

If your situation is such that you can still start the computer with Windows 7, but need to bring back previous programs, settings, and files, you can restore from the image file from Backup and Recovery. That will make your hard drive identical to the way it was when you created the image backup. Just open Backup and Recovery. Then click the Recover System Settings or Your Computer link at the bottom of Backup and Restore. Click Advanced Recovery Methods, and click Use a System Image You Created Earlier to Recover Your Computer. Backup and Restore gives you the option of backing up your current files or skipping that step. Follow the remaining steps in the wizard to optionally back up your files and then perform the restore.
 
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