I recently hard a hard drive failure on my PC and replaced it with a new
one. I reinstalled Windows XP and had a back up with a program called Genie
Backup Manager Home 7.0 which advertised it backed up programs. When I
reinstalled my back up to my surprise it did not reinstall most of the programs
that I had downloaded off the net or from CDs. I found out later it only
restored certain programs and not downloaded ones.
My question is are there any software programs that I can get to back up my
PC and restore it to the original condition with all my working downloaded
programs? I was told an image backup might do it but a few people told me it
would not restore my downloaded and CD-installed programs and would probably
not put my computer back exactly the way it was except for certain things. Is
this true and if it is are there any other programs available that will do
But there are two caveats: you have to configure your backup program
properly, and you must keep your backups up to date.
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Since you mentioned them, let’s look at disk imaging tools first. The best
way to think of disk images is simply that they take a snapshot of your entire
hard disk. If you save that snapshot, you can restore your hard disk to the
exact state is was in when the snapshot was taken.
But think about that carefully for a moment: the exact state is was
That means that any changes you made, any programs you installed, any files
you modified after you created that disk image will not be there when
you restore to the disk image.
Personally, I don’t find disk imaging tools effective for routine backups.
To be used as backups properly, disk images would take a lot of time and
Traditional backup software starts out in some ways like disk imaging
software. It begins by taking a complete snapshot of whatever it is you tell it
to back up.
And therein lies one of many differences.
Unlike disk images, which capture everything on your hard disk,
traditional backup programs can be configured to only backup certain portions
of your hard disk. If you don’t tell it to back up, for example, your “Program
Files” folder then you won’t get its contents back should you need to restore
from your backup.
My first guess is that could be what you experienced.
It varies from backup program to backup program, but you must configure it
such that it’s backing up everything you expect it to. The simplest is, of
course, to tell it to backup your entire hard drive. That’s not always
practical or desirable, since that can take up a lot of space or backup media.
That’s why it’s a decision you’ll need to make to fit your needs and
It’s certainly quite possible that some backup programs default to ignoring
the “Program Files” folder on the assumption that if needed anything therein
can be restored by reinstalling the software. What’s more important might be
the “My Documents” folder where all of your data and documents are stored by
If that’s not what you expect, then you need to configure the backup program
My second guess is that you may not have kept your backup up-to-date.
Backups are something that you must do periodically. Depending on how much
you use your computer, it could be as often as once a day, or as infrequent as
once a month. The important thing to realize is that in the worst case
scenario, any changes made or any software installed since the last backup
was performed could be lost if you need to restore.
“Incremental” backup is a process that once again most all backup programs
support. Rather than backing up everything anew, an incremental backup just
builds on the backups that have happened before by saving only added and
changed files. That means that the daily, weekly or monthly backup you need to
do should typically be much quicker, and require less media, than that initial
But do them you must. If you perform a backup and think you’re done, you
risk losing everything that you’ve installed or done on your machine after the
backup was performed.
Some backup programs automate this process so that you rarely have to think
about it. But again, much like choosing how much of your hard disk needs to be
backed up, it’s something you need to be aware of, configure, and then
periodically check in on to make sure that it’s working.
I currently don’t have a specific backup program recommendation as I have an
excruciatingly custom backup solution I’ve written for myself. I hear good
things about Retrospect, but I have
not used it. As I said in an earlier article What backup program
should I use?, “The best program … is whatever one you’ll actually