Acronis True Image is nice. If your PC has a WD (Western Digital) disk it's even free from http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119 (that's the 2009 version, I think). Otherwise you have to buy it: http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/ sells the 2013 edition for $39.99 at the moment. Might be worth the money.
Of course, if anything happens to the hardware, you have to repair that first before you can GO again. And remember that such an image can NOT be restored to a PC with, for example, another motherboard or another graphic card. It only works on the original PC.
I am a complete amateur. My family has two desktop pcs, and a netbook (specs follow). Most of the programs, applications, software etc. on these have come already installed, so we have no CDs to re-install them. I am looking for backup programs that will back up not only my data, photos, and files, but also all of the applications and software. (I have, what I assume, is an adequate malware suite, firewalls, etc.) . My purpose is to insure that, no matter what happens to my hardware, or software, I can reconstruct everything and GO.
Acer desktop, Windows 7 pro, 32bit, with SANDBOXIE.
HP desktop, windows 7 pro 64 bit.
Gatweway netbook, windows 7 starter.
Thanks for any and all help.