Backing up data and creating a system image using Windows XP

Introduction

This is going to sound strange on a website
dedicated to Linux but this article has absolutely nothing whatsoever to
do with Linux.
This article
shows Windows XP users how and where to copy off essential files and
folders and also how to create a system image of their Windows drive.
The
reason I am writing a guide for Windows XP is part of the wider
series of articles showing how easy it is for Windows XP users to
download Linux, create a Linux DVD and then install Linux. 

Backing up important files

Windows comes with it’s own
backup tools but I am not going to discuss using them because this
article is all about copying off important files so that when you get
around to installing Linux you can then copy them back again into your
Linux partition.
Whether you
intend to install Linux or not it is a good idea to follow this guide
because you will find solutions to keeping your important data safe
including documents, photos, videos and music.

What you will need

  • A computer running Windows XP
  • Blank DVDs
  • A USB drive
  • An external hard drive
The amount of data you own will determine your backup
strategy. For instance if you have a few hundred photos that take up 300
MB of space then you can save them on a single blank CD.
If you have high resolution photos that take up 3.5 GB then you will need a blank DVD.
Music can easily take up many gigabytes of data and so for that you might consider a USB drive or multiple DVDs.
Finally videos take up the most room and for storing full length movies an external hard drive might be the order of the day.
Now
it may be the case that you will use a mixture of backup devices and so
you might store photos on DVDs and Videos on an external drive. 
Where can you get the media required to backup your files:
Blank DVDs are sold pretty
much everywhere. As you can see by the Amazon link above you can get 50
for £8.96. A blank DVD can hold 4.8 Gigabytes of data and can obviously
store a full length film. 50 blank DVDs can therefore store 50 full
length movies.
A
word of warning when it comes to buying blank DVDs. Cheap isn’t
necessarily good. You will find that despite what they told us in the
1980s about CDs, they do degrade in performance and they do scratch and
the cheaper ones seem to degrade more quickly.

USB
drives come in various different sizes and are again sold pretty much
everywhere, from your local supermarket to electronic stores.
I
have USB drives that hold just 1 Gigabyte of data and there are USB
drives for sale that contain 256 Gigabytes of data. Out of interest an 8
Gigabyte USB drive in the UK is sold in supermarkets for about £8.
A
USB drive is great for copying folders of data from one place to
another. If you intend to copy data off so that you can install Linux
and then copy it back again then a USB drive might be just the thing you
need.
If
you have a large amount of data then trying to store this information
on DVDs or USB drives is going to be time consuming, frustrating and a
bit hit and miss because sooner or later you are going to end up with a
duff DVD.
An external hard drive stores much more data and can hold many terabytes of data.
Finally if you are lucky enough to live in an area with high speed broadband you might consider using a backup service such as Dropbox. For £9.99 a month you can get 100 gigabytes of data.
In this article I am going to show how to use each of these devices and then I will show how to create a system image.

Copying files to a DVD

I previously released an article showing how to install Linux on a DVD using Windows XP.
Within that article I highlighted a piece of software called CDBurnerXP
and it is this piece of software that I will use to show how to create a
DVD containing photos and music.
If
you haven’t already done so get a copy of CDBurnerXP and install it
onto your computer. If you are unsure how to do this read the how to install Linux on a DVD using Windows XP article.
If
you chose the default options when you installed CDBurnerXP then you
will have an icon on your desktop. If this is the case double click the
icon to open CDBurnerXP. If you haven’t got an icon on the desktop,
press the start button and start typing “CDBurnerXP” into the search
box. The “CDBurnerXP” icon should appear. Double click this icon to
start the application.
There are a number of options available. 
For
instance if you want to create a DVD full of songs to play in your car
you would choose the Audio disc option and copy music files to the disk.
(Although depending on your car stereo they might need to be converted
into the correct format first).
Similarly a Video DVD can be created to play full length movies.
The “Data Disc” option lets you copy a mixture of files to a DVD.
Insert a blank DVD into your DVD drive and make sure that “Data Disc” is highlighted. Press “OK”.
The
screen that appears is basically split in two. The top two half of the
screen shows the files on your computer (and other devices). The bottom
half shows the files that will be copied to the disc.
To
copy files to the disc simply navigate through the folders on your
computer and drag them to where it says “Drag and drop files here”. You
can also click the “Add” button to add files and folders.
As
you add files you will see the “Remaining Size” figure come down. When
you have added all your files or the remaining space is too small you
are ready to burn the disc.
Now
all you have to do is press the “Burn” button on the toolbar. Note that
if you would like duplicate copies you can change the number of copies
option.
The next screen shows a few more settings that are available.
You shouldn’t really mess around with the burn speed but you will want to amend the burn options. 
The
“Allow making changes to the disc later” will allow you to add more
files later on if you find more files but beware that discs left open
will not work on all DVD players.
The “Prevent further changes to the disc” is the preferred option and makes the disc readable on all DVD players. 
The “Simulate burning process option” will emulate what would have happened if you had copied the files to a DVD. 
I recommend always choosing the “Prevent further changes to the disc” option.
The
“After Completion” settings let you verify that the files have been
copied to the disc correctly, eject the disk and shutdown the computer.
I think you should forget about the shutdown computer option but the other 2 are worth checking.
Press “Burn disc” to begin the file copy.
The files will now be copied to the disk and you will have a safe copy of the files and folders you copied to the disk.
To
make sure it worked it is worth placing the DVD into either another
computer or back in the same computer to see if you can find the files.

Copying files to a USB or External Hard Drive

The process for copying files to a USB drive or to an external hard drive are the same.
To
start you will need to open  two “Windows Explorer” windows. This can
be done by pressing the start button and searching for “Explorer”. The
other way is to press the Windows key and “E” at the same time. 
Repeat the process so that you have 2 “Windows Explorer” windows open and drag them so they are side by side.
Hopefully
if you have been your computer for a while you will be fairly familiar
with Windows Explorer but if not here is a quick overview.
In
the top left corner there is a folder called “My Documents”. Most people save
their documents, music, images and videos under the default location.
There
are also various drive letters. The “C” drive is generally your hard
drive, D is a disk drive and every other letter is an external drive
such as USB or external hard drive.
To
copy files from your hard drive to an external drive click on your
username in one of the explorer windows and in the other explorer window
click on the drive letter that is for your external hard drive.
All
you have to do to copy the folders from the hard drive to the USB drive
or external hard drive is drag them from one window to the other.

Storing files online using Dropbox

The executable will download automatically. When the download has finished double click on the executable to open it.
The Dropbox setup screen will be displayed. Click “Install”.
The files will be installed as necessary and now whenever your computer starts Dropbox will be available in the system tray.
The
first screen is the login screen. Now obviously the first time you use
Dropbox you won’t have an account. To remedy this click the “Sign up”
link in the bottom left corner.
Signing up is just a case of entering your name, email address and a password. When you have done that click “Sign Up”.
When you have finished a “Congratulation” message will appear. Click the “Open my Dropbox folder”. 
Copy
files to Dropbox is now as simple as copying to an external drive. Find
the folder in one Explorer window called Dropbox and in another
Explorer window drag the files you want to send up to the web into that
folder.

Create a system image and recovery media

A system image takes a snapshot in time of a disk partition (or an entire disk). Recovery media is used to recover Windows.

For this tutorial the tool that will be used to create a system image and recovery media is called “Macrium Reflect”.

Click here to download Macrium Reflect.

When you visit the CNET download site to download Macrium, click the “Download Now” button under the title of the software.
The file you downloaded from CNet is just an installer itself. When you run it you will be presented with the above screen.
Select “Free” for the free/trial software option and click “Download”.
The
download is around 180 megabytes. When you have finished downloading
the software you will be presented with the screen above. Click “Next”.
When you see the welcome message click “Next”.
Click the radio button that accepts the license agreement and click “Next”.
Click “Next” to get past the license key screen.
The
next screen is the registration screen. If you feel like registering
the software enter your name and email address but I personally
recommend clicking the “No” radio button and selecting “Next”.
Almost
there. If you want to choose different options from the default click
on the “Reflect” option and then check the items you wish to install.
Click “Next” to get past the custom setup screen
Finally you are ready to install the software. Click “Install”.
After a minute or so your software will have completely installing and you can simply click “Finish”.
To open Macrium Reflect double click on the icon that has been created on the desktop.
There are a number of options available including the options to clone and create disk images.
To
create a disk image select the drive you wish to take an image of on
the “Create a backup” tab and select the “Image this disk” link
underneath the disk.
You
will now be asked to select a destination where the disk image will be
created. You cannot choose a location on the disk that you wish to
create an image of because you will be affecting that disk. 
Your
choice of location will depend on what you have available to you.
Ideally you will back up to an external hard drive or a USB drive. If
you have either of these available to you click on the three dots next
to folder and navigate to the relevant device.
If you only have DVDs available to you click on CD/DVD burner and insert the first blank DVD into the drive.
Click “Next”  to continue.
The
process will now start to create the disk image. If you are backing up
to DVD and the image is larger than 4.8 Gigabytes you will be asked to
switch disks when the first disk is full (and for every subsequent
disk).
To create recovery media select the “Other Tasks” menu option and then select “Create Rescue Media”.
There
are two types of recovery media to select from. As you are using
Windows I would recommend choosing the “Windows PE 3.1” option. Click
“Next” to continue.
On
the next screen you can choose the environment (32 bit or 64 bit) and
you can choose which Windows Image File to use. I recommend accepting
the defaults and clicking “Next”.
Finally
you are asked what kind of bootable media you wish to create. You can
choose to create a bootable USB drive or a bootable DVD.
Make sure you have inserted either a blank DVD or a blank USB drive.
Click the relevant device option and then click “Finish”. 

Summary

That is it. You should now be all backed up. Wait though. Did you check that your media was created properly?
If
you have created DVDs, USBs or External Hard Drives full of data insert
them into their relevant drives and make sure that you can read the
files on them. Try playing some of the videos or looking at the images.
If you have a corrupt DVD or a dodgy USB drive then all of this will
have been in vain.
The same can
be said of recovery media and the system image. Insert your recovery
media into the relevant drive and then reboot your computer. Make sure
you can boot into the recovery mode and make sure your disk image is
available.
In the next article I will show how to defragment your hard drive and shrink your Windows partition ready for installing Linux.

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