You will also need a bootable CD, such as The Ultimate Bootable CD for Windows (UBCD4Win). This CD will help you repair the system – and, if that fails, it includes a plugin that will let you restore an image/clone created with DriveImage XML.
The combination of DriveImage XML and UBCD4win is rather complicated and you’d better avoid it, if you don’t feel confident when it comes to technical issues. Easeus Todo Backup and Macrium Reflect are easier to use and they will create themselves a bootable CD.
2 – Protecting your Personal Files
You can choose between many free tools that will help you backup your personal data, like SyncFolders, AceBackup or Karen’s Replicator. Microsoft native “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard” (which you can find by going to Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click Files and Settings Transfer Wizard), will help you backup crucial settings along with select files and folders. You can complement this with Magic Transfer, which works in a similar way.
When you need to format the disk and perform a fresh setup, just backup your personal data with the programs above (a backup that you must never avoid, whether you create an image of your system or not), and then use Macrium Reflect or any similar program to restore a previous, working, instance of your system, and avoid reinstalling Windows, service packs, applications, etc. Just boot from the CD-ROM and let your cloning application restore the image of your system disk.
To boot from the CD-ROM, you have to adjust BIOS settings, ordering your PC to use the CD-ROM as the first boot device. You can do this by pressing the DELETE button during the first seconds your PC is open, before it enters Windows.
First time I restored an image of the system disk, I was absolutely excited, in about half an hour I had my PC as it was 10 days back, without any problem at all. The loss of 10 days meant just a few minor adjustments and installations I had now to redo – pure nothing, compared with what I would have to do, if there was no image of the system disk, since I use over 200 applications, many of them really complex.