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Making an image of a Windows install


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My Windows XP SP2 install is acting up again, and I figure I should just reinstall it. Thing is, reinstalling is a pain; I have to set up all my programs and settings again, apply hacks and registry tweaks I've completely forgotten about, and I always tend to end up with Windows installed on some weird drive letter like G:. (I want C: dammit!) So I was thinking, once I've finished the installation and set everything up the way I like it, I could just make a ghost image of the partition and/or copy all the files to a DVD, and next time I need to reinstall, I could just wipe the partition and restore from the image/copy the files back, and only have to update anything I've changed since then.

The problem is, I fear that there are probably some things that differ between installs; the installer probably sets everything up for the specific hardware, partition scheme etc that's present at the time, and if I were to make an image, change something (say add RAM, add/remove a PCI device, change the partition setup etc), then restore the image, it would be confused by all the changes. So the question is would this be a problem, or could I safely just copy everything back and let Windows figure it out?

BTW, I keep all my files on a separate partition; the one with the Windows install on it is ONLY for Windows and the Program Files directory. So having to keep the image updated wouldn't be a big problem, just need to apply any major changes to it when I make them.

Edited by HyperHacker
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Using ghost is the way, I use at home, cause like you said, It's a pain to make the whole modifications again is a pain. There shouldn't be any problems with hardware changes, apart from changes on the mainboard chipset, especially the HDD controller could lead to problems.

Some time ago, I found a way, howto Prepare windows XP, if you want to change the mainboard, but didn't retrieve it. With such a preparation, there would be left absolutely no problem to use an image.

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Just copying the files, isn't such a good idea, because of the whole security settings of the files.

I normally use Symantec Ghost ( originally created by Norton ), but this isn't free. This program has the advantage, that they got a lot of things to work in DOS, like USB or network connections.

There also exists a program called drive snapshot. It has not such a nice handling like ghost, but there is a 30 days full working test-version, which should do the job for your needs at home.


Edited by Doc Symbiosis
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I used Acronis to image my xp install, and I found free software to image server and it was just as simple to do. Along with BartPe (or WinPe) you can use Drive Image XML to create the image, it has pretty good compression too. Here's a link to the guede I used http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/. It didn't take long to make the discs I needed and created my bootable image in one try. The gude seemed a bit confusing at first, but I never used and PE software before either, I just followed the directions and it woked perfect. I would find some more links but I'm battling Adware.Look2Me right now. It would just be too easy to re-install my server image.

Well, good luck too you, hopefully this helps, better than spending money for no reason when there is free software that works just as well.

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Actually I use Ghost v. 2003; specifically at the suggestion of "Radified Forums"; in addition to providing some very good tips, they also have a very specific guide to the use of Ghost; something not readily available on the installation disk. This will also give you the details of why I opted to purchase v. 2003 vs. newer editions which are available.

I can tell you point blank, it is the only way to go. I had the misfortune of having to do a complete rebuild and I never want to do one again! To this extent I, 1) Ghost my operating/file partition to DVD every other month; 2) I create a Ghost image file on a second hard drive about every two weeks; and 3) on a third hard drive I clone(Ghost gain) that same partition about every 2-3 weeks and then by changing my boot drive sequence, I reboot using this third drive just to insure that I have an absolute tried and true ready to go drive if the primary fails.

One of the things that I don't do and that I have seen recommended on Radified Forums and in other places is to keep my Windows boot on a separate partition from the partition containing the entire operating system. Supposedly, this is good anti-hacker protection but it can also be a pain. specifically, I had to Ghost the boot partition, a meager 2-300mb to one CD and then Ghost the operating partition to yet another CD. In other words it took two CD's to recapture the drive in the event of failure. It was a pain and a waste of CD's, I didn't do this in my rebuild.

By the way, when last I visited "Radified", they also had some comments/reviews of programs similar to Ghost, like Acronis. as a further sideline, I bought my Ghost on-line for about $10 bucks, tax, title and delivered - best money I ever spent!

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Sorry for long.

I have to agree Ghost has got to be the best to use. I'm using Ghost 2003, and have used ghost products since "Norton" released it. The way I do my back ups is like this.

1. Install OS, Drivers, Service Packs, critical updates only. Then Backup

2. Install all my applications. Then Backup

3. Install Aplication Updates. Then Backup

I do all this before going on the net. Before I do a clean install which I will be backing up I download all the updates I need for that particular time. I also create a text file in the ROOT of the system drive "C:" with all information pertaining to that update/backup. Here's is one of mine.


Base install of XP. User accounts configured, drives mapped. Following Programs installed, DotNetV2.0, Media Player 10, DirectX 9C, MSXML, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0. All updates as of 11/9/2005 installed.


Following Programs installed.

Firefox V1.0.7, Java, Flash Player, Shockwave, AVG, Winzip, Diskeeper, R-Studio NTFS Recovery, T-Bird E-mail. Drive C; Has been scanned and defragged.


Office Resource installed, Internet Explorer set for Blank Page upon startup. AVG Virus dat files updated.


MS Office 2000 Installed with all updates as of 111705. NO OTHER CHANGES.


Open Office 1.1.4 Installed for all users. NO OTHER CHANGES.


Following Programs installed.

Irfanview, Adobe Reader 7.05, CCleaner, UPH Cleaner, Ulead V9.0, Ghost 2003, DVD Decrypter, DVD Shrink, Nero No Updates, Latest AVG Virus Definitions, Latest MS AntiSpyware Definitions, Power DVD,


Following Programs installed.

New Version MS AntiSpyware V1c installed. Nlite, Speedfan, DVD Profiler, Zero Asumption image recovery.


MS Monthly updates installed, Java updates installed, AVG Antivirus CORE and definitions updated.


MS Monthly updates installed, AVG Antivirus CORE and definitions updated, Rename Installed.


AVG Antivirus CORE and definitions updated, Winfax Pro 10.02 installed and configured. DotNET V2.0 Release installed. NLite RC5 installed. Disk keeper configured to run at 24 hour periods. starting @ 12:01 a.m.


MS Monthly updates installed, AVG Antivirus CORE and definitions updated


MS Monthly updates installed, AVG Antivirus CORE and definitions updated, Firefox updated to

I give the text file a date format such as this 031906A. The 6 digits represent the Month, Date, and year. The A I put in there as a Revision type reference. This way if I do 2 backups in one day due to installing something I have the flexibility of just adding a letter. Yeah it may be overkill but I don't have to look through a bunch of CD/DVD's to find what I need. I also backup to my file server so I have 2 copies of it. After a year I purge everything except the first and second backup. And if you use Nlite you can slipstream your Svc. Packs and Critical updates. I also reflash the hard drive before installing the monthly MS updates to be sure I don't have any CRAP on the drive when installing new updates. Then just re-ghost image.

Hope this helps.


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Since the majority of the imaging market is Symantec's (Ghost and DriveImage) they are the favored, and best understood. I too have been using Ghost since the early days @Norton and cannot sing it's praises enough.

When it comes down to changing HW, I'd go ahead and plan on a fresh build anyway and then Ghost the new build. A couple of tips for you. First, make an unattended install so a fresh build isn't that painful. The MSFN Guide is very helpful! Second, if you move your profile to the data partition, you won't loose your settings and such either.

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I use Acronis True Image. I really don't like Ghost all that much, and True Image is nice and easy to add to a Multi-boot CD. :)

I always make an image of my Windows install after I've got everything up and running. The only thing that you have to deal with is that all of your programs will probably be out of date.

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Sorry, Guys and Gals, Norton or even Symantec did NOT write Ghost!

It was written way back in the mid 90's by "Ghostsoft, Inc."

I was using their 30 day free trials back then, because their retail prices were totally out of reach.

That's probably why they went bankrupt and sold their most excellent product to Symantec.

I've been using Ghost 2003 now since I got it FREE on a SOHO mobo drivers CD.

Some other mobo mfgrs have offered it as well as a free bonus.

I like to think of it as being written by little grey guys from Andromeda or somesuch place, as it's "Out of This World" software. :thumbup

You can load the entire package on your HD and install it INTO Windows if you like, but that's not necessary.

Why load your HD down with more software when you can just run it right off of a boot floppy or CD?

All you really need is the "Ghost.exe" file on a bootable DOS disk.

Several years back, I prepared such a disk with a nice little colored menu, using Ansi.sys.

It works just as well for XP as it did (still does) for Windows 98 or ME. I've tweaked it some over the years but it's pretty much the way is was years ago.

With menu driven batch files on that boot disk, I can totally clean up my HD before I actually run Ghost to do the Backup Image, which by the way, I can save to any other partition on my computer or burn directly to CD's or a DVD. It does all this without any special drivers being loaded. It's really phenominal!

I can do a total backup of my C: drive and save it to my D: drive (all on my SATA HD) in just about four minutes. Burning to a DVD takes (of course) a bit longer. :lol:

A huge added feature is that if I boot up with my floppy in A:, Ghost will offer to put it on the DVD as a boot sector. That makes the DVD a Bootable Restore Disk. It's way better than anything you'd ever get from a computer manufacturer, because it represents YOUR computer and not just a factory setup.

A total sideline to making a Ghost backup with Ghost is that I can do an immediate Ghost restore for an effective DEFRAG better than any defrag program on the planet.

All folders and files are rewritten to the HD in Perfect order, just the way they were placed in the Ghost Image file during the Backup process. After doing that, my HD looks like this. mydrive.jpg

Ghost 2003 (full package) can be purchased from many Internet sources for as low as $6.95.

However you aquire it,,,,the bottom line is that once you get it, start using it and make friends with it, you'll never have to worry about loosing your stuff EVER again.

( I still have Ghost Images on CD going back four years)

Y'all have a great day now, Y'hear? (Happy Easter)

Andromeda43 ;)

Watch what you say about where to get software... - Zxian

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Thanks for that bit o' trivia! I started using Ghost about a year after Norton acquired it but couldn't remember who actually created it. Dropping the image file to your data drive is an excellent idea too! Image restores fly when it's just disk to disk.

Whether it's Ghost or Acronis or something else I think HyperHacker is looking in the right direction.

Edited by Mordac85
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I'll use a ghost program to restore my Windows XP image, that would save a lot of time just to reinstall and update everything. Better than to have to reinstall and update everything, of course.

One question, at my uni, you insert an image CD and it boots straight away and starts restoring the drive. But mine, the CD image isn't bootable and I have to boot up Norton Ghost and do it manually, does anybody know how to boot from the CD/DVD image directly without starting Norton Ghost?

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You need to add a line in your AUTOEXEC to call Ghost. I boot to the network, map a drive to my image share, wipe my target drive, clear the MBR and restore whatever image I want. To automate the restore you could use something like:

<path>\gdisk.exe 1 /del /all /sure
<path>\gdisk.exe 1 /mbr
<path>\ghost.exe -clone,mode=load,SRC=bakimg.gho,DST=1:1 -sure -rb

The switches are all in the Ghost manual. If your image spans to multiple files (*.ghs files) you only have to call the *.gho file in the SRC switch and Ghost will grab them (from the same directory) as needed.

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@ Thunderbolt 2864

Have you searched the forum for the answer? I think you'll find it in here somewhere.

I'll say one thing: if you let Ghost create the image directly onto CD/DVD using their "built-in" CD/DVD support, the Ghost image is bootable.

However, if you create a Ghost image onto a hard drive and then burn it onto a CD, then Ghost will not let you recover the image from CD because it was not made directly from the program. If you want to recover the image, you have to install the DOS CD-ROM drivers, then boot into Ghost and it shall work.

** Oh yeah, I use Norton Ghost 2003 for all the reasons mentioned above and the Radified guide. I don't like Ghost 9 and 10. One good feature of ghost 9 and 10 is the ability to create images from within windows, I can live without that.

Edited by spacesurfer
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