The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.I recently purchased a new Windows 7 computer (see http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/11/i-bought-a-windows-7-pc.html). I brought it home, installed it, set it up, and then installed an anti-virus program. Then I cloned the hard drive.
Why? I want the safety of having a complete copy of the hard drive available at any time. If I ever have a problem in the future, such as losing a critical Windows file or picking up a virus that proves to be too stubborn to remove, I want to go back to a known good state. If I have a copy of the hard drive available, I can do that at any time.
I also make periodic new clones of the hard drive for the same reasons: I can always revert to an earlier version of the hard drive, complete with all installed programs and all of my data.
To be sure, most of today's computers ship with a "restorable copy" of Windows stored in a hidden partition on the hard drive. In essence, this is a clone of the hard drive as made at the factory. It is possible (with most computers) to reformat the hard drive and revert to the factory-supplied image it shipped with. However, that will mean the loss of all newly-installed programs and, worst of all, loss of your stored data. By making periodic clone copies, you can preserve your data and your installed programs as of the date/time the clone copy was made. You can revert back to an earlier clone at any time.
Back in the "good old days" of five or six years ago, I used Norton Ghost to make clone copies. In those days, Norton Ghost was a single purpose program that did one thing and did it well: it made copies of disk drives. However, since those days, the producer of Norton Ghost has been guilty of "featureware:" adding more and more things to the product so that it has now lost its original focus. Norton Ghost is still available for sale but the version available at retail stores today is a bit like a Swiss Army Knife: it does many things but it doesn't do any of them very well. In all cases, a tool designed for one specific task will do a better job and will be easier to use than the multi-purpose Swiss Army Knife.
Besides the creeping "featureware," the latest version of Norton Ghost costs $40 or more, depending upon where you purchase it. In fact, there are several alternatives available today, programs that are still designed for one purpose and then perform that purpose well. In fact, my favorite disk cloning tool is available free of charge.
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