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10/27/06 Can I make a desktop restore CD/DVD like HP or Dell does?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 26, 2006 5:31 AM PDT

Hello, my hobby job is building computers. I have always wanted to know how I can make a restore CD or DVD so that all I have to do to restore a computer is to place this CD or DVD into the optical drive and, presto, just like HP or eMachines, I can restore a unit and reregister with Microsoft. If this is possible, please give me step-by-step instructions, and if it's not possible, what could I do that would come close? Thanks!

Submitted by: Mervin M.



We all know that we should back up our systems, but even the most experienced techies rarely take the same care of their personal systems as they would of their employers' systems. The question of doing backups is more complicated than it first appears. The answers vary by what you are backing up and for what purpose. Do you need disaster recovery or just protection from hardware failures? I recommend taking backups so that you are protected from disaster. Then you are also protected from lesser failures. For this, you want backups on removable media that you store away from your machine.

Then, is it the bootable system or your personal data? Having had to rebuild systems, I recommend keeping data in a separate partition from the bootable drive. Then you can back up or restore either without affecting the other. But you want backups for both.

Over the years, I have used various programs to make backups on diskettes, tape, CD's, DVD's and image copies to a separate drive.

First there is backing up the bootable system. I have tried various programs from the built in Microsoft backup and Stomp as well as others but find Acronis True Image to be the best. Acronis True Image can create a highly compressed image of the boot drive on another partition or on DVD. There is a simple menu option to create a bootble CD or DVD. No complicated operations of setting up boot images are required. Backing up the bootable system to another partition or drive is excellent security before installing software updates but is not sufficient protection from viruses or physical damage. To protect against these, it is necessary to create the backup image on DVD's. Then take the DVD's to some other location than where the machine is located. Acronis even gives the option to include a bootable copy of Acronis on the DVD. There are other similar programs but Arconis is the one that I know works in all situations. ALWAYS use the option of any backup program to verify the backup. It takes time but gives the assurance that you will be able to restore from it if necessary. It is heartbreaking to go to restore your corrupted system from the backup that you carefully made only to have the program tell you the backup copy is unusable.

To restore the system it is necessary to use the bootable DVD. You need to be sure that you have set your BIOS to select the optical drive (DVD) before the boot hard drive. You can check this setting by pressing the 'Del' key at the beginning of the boot process to enter the BIOS configuration utility. Where the 'boot sequence' is located varies greatly by manufacturer but is often in a topic label 'system'. It will usually offer a list of three devices. Each device offers a scroll method to select one of the possible bootable devices in your machine. Before changing anything, note the identification of your current boot hard drive. Then set the optical drive (DVD) in the first position and the boot hard drive in the second. Do not be surprised if it is already set this way. Most manufacturers have some system recovery option on a bootable DVD, so they set up the machine to look there first.

Once the options are set, place the bootable DVD in the drive and exit the BIOS menu saving the changes. After that it is just a matter of following the prompts of the Acronis program.

Backing up your data is a different question. If you have documents, photos, and MP3's, it is reasonable to just burn them in groups to DVD's. I have tried using the system backup programs but these do not offer easy inspection of the backup contents. Plus the output of backup programs is proprietary and may not even be readable by a later release of the same program. I have folders that I back up rarely because there is little or no change from month to month. When burning a copy of folders to a data DVD, any machine can read the data.

Use RW type DVD's if you plan to do regular backups. When using DVD's, always maintain two backup sets. If something has happened to your files since the last backup, you may only learn of it as you try to take the next backup. If you are writing over the only backup set that you have when you learn that your data is corrupted, then you have nothing.

If you are working with videos or other very large files, there is only one option for backing up your data, buy an external drive. speed varies by the connectors on your system. External SATA is the fastest home option but is rare and expensive. After that Firewire is frequently available on systems designed for multimedia. USB has come a long way with USB 2.1 and is certainly adequate for doing backups. Often these drives come with backup software. But this is not needed if you are backing up only data. You just copy & paste between two windows of Windows Explorer.

Using the USB drive approach, the safest path would be to have two units big enough to hold your essential data and rotate between them. Then you could keep one in another location to have disaster protection. If you only get one, make sure it is large enough to hold two copies of the data, setting up two top level directories to which you copy your folders. You always want to be sure that you have a usable new backup copy before removing the old one.

A final option exists if you have a home network. You can buy a dedicated network file server box. If you are doing video, you want to work on the local hard drive and use the network drive as the backup copy. These units are fast enough that they can be used as the play library for other machines. The network is just not fast enough for the authoring and transcoding work. Just like a USB drive, moving data is just a copy & paste operation with Windows Explorer.

Submitted by: Will H.
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Honorable mentions
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 26, 2006 5:31 AM PDT

One of the ways to restore a machine to a previous state from a "recover" or "initial factory load" DVD is to use Symantec's Norton Ghost. This program will make a bootable recovery DVD. Our giant Fortune 100 company uses Norton Ghost DVD image disks for all it's employee's laptops when they are issued, and if the tech-desk folks can't fix a serious problem that comes up during the life of the computer, then it's always possible to restore the laptop back to it's initial company standard issue state, with all the validated and licensed programs that came with it. For the day to day data, DVD incremental backups are the key, so you don't lose months (or years) worth of documents and email if a Ghost recovery is the only solution. Norton Ghost can be used for those incremental backups as well, or any good CD/DVD recording software like Roxio or Nero. Norton Ghost seems the way to go, and has been evaluated by a large technology team at our company and others. Norton Ghost can be purchased as a stand-alone program or is available in Symantec's 'System Works' suite of utilities for PC maintenance and performance.

For my day to day backups, I prefer using CasperXP from Future Systems, backing up directly to an external USB drive. This makes a bootable image of my hard drive and only takes a few minutes a day to complete the incremental backup. If I should have a disaster with my laptop or home PC's internal HD, then I have several choices to recover completely. 1). I can just remove the hard drive physically from the USB case and install it into my laptop and boot back up...fully functional again from the time I made the last incremental update. 2). I can use the company provided Ghost Recovery DVD and restore my laptop to "out of the box" configuration and then plug the USB hard drive that my CasperXP backup is on and copy the data files from it back to my laptop. I like using CasperXP due to the fact that it provides a daily (or more often) backup of my entire drive and I don't have to close Windows and boot off of a recovery CD to start my backup process. It will even run in the background at the Windows level while I'm working with other programs and applications. If my hard drive fails, I'm back up and running in a few minutes instead of hours or days. Also, having a portable laptop brings with it the opportunity for it to get stolen much easier than a home or office PC. Using an external USB drive with a bootable image of my laptop keeps the two separated so that if the laptop walks then I've only lost the hardware and can still recover from the theft easily. My Windows log-in is password protected on the laptop and I even have the hard drive boot password protected as well. So the best a thief can do is reformat the drive and start over clean once he has it. That way no company or personal data is at risk for identity theft or loss of company competitive data.

Lastly, one other layer of security and recovery I use is Norton GoBack. Again, this can be purchased "stand-alone" or found included with Symantec's 'Norton System Works'. It's great for those other immediate threats that might make it through the firewall or virus software, but mostly from me loading unruly software programs that aren?t written well or don't play nice on my machine. It gives me quick and easy recovery from those mistakes. It has saved me hours of frustration a number of times. I've had GoBack on my PC's since the original developer released it years ago and then sold it to Roxio a few versions later. Then Symantec grabbed it from Roxio. I swear by it, and it provides a much better recovery than setting restore points in Windows XP manually, only to find that they are no longer there when you need them - perhaps only a few minutes or hours after you created them.

BTW, I have no stake in Symantec, but have just been using their products for years (since Window 3.0) and they are tried and true.


Submitted by: Ed M.



Mervin, this can be easy or complex, depending on how far you want to go. In fact you can use the exact same tools and software that some of the manufacturers use.

The easy but somewhat limited way to do this is simply to make an ?image? of your system disk drive (you can also make images of data drives).

There are three widely used programs that do this:

-PowerQuest Drive Image (no longer sold, see below)
-Norton (Symantec) Ghost
-Acronis True Image

All three programs are basically similar in what they do, with differences in details. Drive Image was a companion program to Partition Magic, both offered by PowerQuest. PowerQuest was bought by Symantec (publisher of the ?Norton? products) and its technology was incorporated into Ghost (which is actually used by a number of the major PC manufacturers). I don?t think that Drive Image is still sold separately, but copies of it can still be found (I think that the last PowerQuest version was 7.03).

Regardless of which product you use, the bottom line is that you run it and it produces an ?Image File? of the subject hard drive partition, which must be stored on a drive (partition) other than the partition being backed up. Late versions of all 3 programs also have the ability to write the image file directly to a CD or DVD, or to store the image file on another computer over a network. All 3 programs can use compression, so that on average the image file may be about half the size of the drive being ?imaged?. Since the file may still be tens of gigabytes even with compression, all 3 programs have the ability to break the image file up into ?pieces? that will fit on a CD or DVD (regardless of whether the image file is written to optical media directly or stored initially on a hard drive). And all three programs can store only space actually used, so that the image of an 80 gigabyte partition that has 70 gigabytes free is, with compression, about 5 gigabytes in size.

There are, however, some differences in the programs:

-Drive image does not directly make a bootable CD or DVD. To restore, you have to boot from the Drive Image CD itself (which can, however, be copied). Then, once Drive Image is running, you insert the media containing the image file. With a bit of ?hacking?, a knowledgeable user could perhaps make a single media with both the program and the image file, but it?s not the way that the program was intended to work.

-The retail copy of Ghost requires that a licensed copy of Ghost, which uses product activation, be part of the restored image. In other words, you are going to have to buy a separate copy of Ghost for each machine to be restored with Ghost. If you don?t do this, the restored image is ?time bombed? and will stop working after a ?trial period?.

The only other comment is that sometimes, for reasons that I have been unable to identify, a Windows XP partition restored to a different hard drive than that on which it was made won?t work without a ?repair install?. Windows ?knows? what drive it exists on (at the drive serial number level), and it sometimes balks at being moved to a different drive. But only sometimes. I?ve been unable to figure out why this is an issue in some instances and not others.

These products can also be used with data drives other than the drive containing the Windows operating system. In addition, they include some type of ?Image Explorer? that lets you access an image file so that you can explore it and extract individual files and folders. Consequently, these programs can be used for general purpose data backup as well as for imaging a system disk.

Understand that an image of an installed Windows system won?t work on a machine that is different from the one on which it was made ... the registry, drivers, etc. will be all wrong. Also, even different identical machines (different computers made of the same hardware components) may require reactivation, and you can?t use the same copy of Windows (e.g. the same product key) on multiple machines.

There are strategies and techniques that manufacturers use in which the image that is created and restored to the hard drive (by Ghost or TrueImage, for example) is the image of a Windows system that is not yet completely installed. In this scenario, the final installation, including final hardware detection (allows for different components), entry of the product key and product activation, is done after the image is restored when the system is first booted by the final customer. Using this technique, the image can also be customized to include any number of software products in addition to Windows (non-Microsoft products as well). For example, such an image might include Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Quicken, anti-virus software and Adobe Acrobat.

A complete discussion of all of these techniques is far beyond the scope of a short column like this. However, the primary tool used to do this and to customize the ?OOBE? (out-of-box-experience) is called the ?Windows OPK?, which is short for ?Windows OEM Pre-installation Kit?. Related to this are some Windows tools that are used for unattended mass installations, including a utility called ?SYSPREP? and the use of ?answer files? (?Unattend.txt?).

The Windows OPK comes on a CD that is included with ?bulk multi-packs? of Windows XP as used by computer manufacturers (known as ?OEMs?). These multi-packs of Windows are available from Microsoft?s authorized distributors in quantities of as few as 3 copies of Windows XP (Home, Pro or Media Center). OEMs (individuals and firms that build computers) can end up with dozens or hundreds of these that they don?t need, and consequently they can be found on E-Bay (I will leave the legalities of this to the lawyers). SYSPREP and some other tools for unattended mass installations of Windows actually come with normal copies of Windows (they are hidden in a cabinet file called which contains mass deployment tools), but most individual computer users don?t know about them or use them.

If you want to use these tools and techniques, you will have to read up on them. The best references for these are the textbooks that prepare people for the Microsoft Windows XP certification exams (in particular, textbooks preparing people for Microsoft exam 70-270). Use of the OPK, should you go that route, is complex, but a web search will produce lots of references to help you (including some tutorials on Microsoft?s web site). If you want to, you can make ?Mervin?s Computers? as professional as HP or Dell, but getting to that point will take some study and some effort.

I hope that this answers your question.

Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, Ohio
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Other advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 26, 2006 5:32 AM PDT


Well the answer is YES. You can make a restore CD of your system. The trick however is not in the extraction of files onto this ?restore CD? it is the effort it will take for you to set up the configuration of your specific system, hardware, settings. You will need to gather a list of software programs installed on your system that you wish to clone along with any specific hardware needs that you may require for full functionality. You see, what you are trying to do is create a clone of the way you like your system set up now with your specific hardware and software needs. It will take a lot of thought and time to put all of this together and then you will need to learn how to create Operating System Install CD?s. There are many tutorials and examples of how to set up your CD Directory structure so the information will extract during setup ?Unattended?. Also you will need some intermediate knowledge of Batch file creation and processing. There are also many great online tutorials on this subject as well. In Short? I wish I could just give you the magic key to this question but there are too many specific variables involved for a personal restore CD.

Submitted by: Jeff P. of Anthem, Arizona



"Ghost" is the most fool proof and easy to use product I have found to clone systems from hard disc to other media so that you can re-build a system easily. If you build computers, you can use DVD or CD media, but I wouldn't bother since you will have to deed multiple CDs or DVDs for a system of any size which is slow and you need to keep an eye on things. Using a slave hard disk is much the easiest and fastest way to clone a system although you can do it over a direct cable or network link with the latest versions of Ghost.

I recommend buying Ghost and taking the hardware route. In this case you do hard disk to hard disc using a master and a slave drive. As long as you get the disc jumpers right (many have drive jumper markings) it's a piece of cake. Connect a master original and a slave jumpered IDE drive to a dual socket ribbon cable, boot the PC and fire up ghost from a floppy disk or bootable CD. The master can then be cloned to the slave as long as the slave is as big or bigger than the master. The process normally takes about 30 minutes for a typical system these days and you don?t need to hang around whilst its doing the copy. You don?t even need to re-format the slave. When the job is complete, you disconnect both drives, re-jumper the slave as a master, and reconnect it to the PC to test it without the original. The PC should auto reconfigure the new drive arrangement and boot from the clone. You can make this easier for multiple clones if you install a removable drive tray chassis in the master PC. The only real caution here is to be careful not boot a PC with two master jumpered drives at the same time by mistake or your original master drive will no longer boot up until you repair its boot sector with suitable software.

Submitted by: Jonathan C.



The solution to one step restoration of my OS (and files) that I have been using successfully for years is to buy a disk imaging program such as Norton Ghost and have it save the image of my boot Hard Drive to another hard disk.

The advantage to this method over a "restore disk" is that you can set up your own restore schedule with the most recent changes to your OS and files. I have tried both the MS "restore" method and proprietary restore routines provided by some hardware OEMs.

I have never had a restore failure with the disk image technique. I have frequently had a full restore failure with the others.

TIP: Whenever I buy a new computer with an OEM modified OS installed, I first copy an image of that onto my backup hard disk. I maintain that image file throughout the life of that computer. That way I never have to do a reinstall from the accompanying system disks should I want to do a fresh "start over" install.

Why do I do that? Over the life of any computer, my original system files eventually accumulate artifacts from various pieces of software that have been removed, upgraded, etc.
At some point, a fresh install produces considerable improvement in system performance.

Why not just use the restore disks? I also include several of standard software programs that I always use, and it saves the time of reloading them.

Submitted by: Bob M.



Microsoft offers significant automation tools for administrators. It is referred to is MS-lingo as an 'unattended install.' The basic form of this is to create an 'Unattended.msi' file in the root of the install CD. This file can contain all of the relevant settings, including time/date, product key, etc.

The simplest and fastest way to build an unattended windows installer CD is with the tool n-lite.

This program allows you to create a CD, onto which you can slipstream drivers, service packs, and hot-fixes, add or remove standard windows components, set/unset windows features, and automagically call other installers after windows is installed.

For the other installers, you will likely want to customize their behavior. For applications using the Windows Installer (most) the program FLEXnet AdminStudio is used to customize windows installers to your needs. Macrovision bought InstallShield, so 'FLEXnet' is the new designation for the InstallShield products we have known for so many years.

InstallShield is shipped with MS VisualStudio, and an understanding of it's installer configuration files is essential and useful information for any custom, unattended, or automated deployment. I think that 'Windows Installer' is essentially a licensed installshield product, though MS seems mum on that.

Submitted by: Mack A.



Use Acronis True Image to produce a boot CD. Have two partitions or two hard disks. Put the operating system on one and everything else on the other. Use Acronis to produce a compressed "image" of the operating system partition. Store the image on the other partition. If the image file is limited to 4 GB, you will get an image as a group of files instead of one large file. These will now fit onto DVD.

To restore the operating system, boot from the Acronis boot CD. Restore the image files from the DVD.

Submitted by: A. J. T.



What you would need to do is use Ghost to create a image of the drive in question. Now in order to get it to extract automatically, I would recommend a Windows PE based system. This system will allow you to put in a few Recovery/Repair/Diagnose utilities too.

Making a PE CD is pretty simple, you need to download BartPE from:

After this all you need to do is follow instructions, or you could find a free, simple command line utility like "dd", and get that to restore your drive.

dd is a linux prog, ported to windows, dl it here:

The best part is that, it will write approx 6GB of data, onto my laptops 5400 RPM HDD within 15-20 Mins. Also, it writes and reads in RAW format, meaning no information whatsoever is lost.

Ghost +PE - Complex and costly, but offers compression
DD - Free, Simple but no compression

Submitted by: Nitant S.



You can do exactly that with a Linux LiveCD setup. There's a 'mklivecd new.iso' function in Linux that makes an ISO including installed apps, settings, user modes, so on. It's automatic, and runs from a 1-liner - at prompt, as root (Admin permissions) just type "mklivecd new.iso", sans quotes, and wait 15-35 minutes, depending on CPU abilities, and RAM. This gives you an ISO you can write to DVD (DVD-RW works well, too).

That disk will then boot after changing boot-sequence in BIOS. You have the options to format "/" system (bit like C:-drive) only, or re-do all partitions, /home, so on. Data in /home, if not formatted, might be okay, but you should back it up first, anyway. You then have an exact copy of your O/S as it was when the mklivecd was created. This is also okay to remake a Linux system on a Windows/Linux dual-boot box, it won't harm Windows. You can also use a Linux bootable LiveCD, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, etc, to repair Windows installs. Those are free - Knoppix has a LiveCD Linux tooldisk that has special contents for Windows repairs, that doesn't cost much for what it does.


Submitted by: David D.
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Agree but this does NOT answer the question.

The question was - How do I make a recovery CD like Dell etc. NOT ''How do I do a Backup''.

This is what I do but it is also using Acronis and it is a ''Backup'' and is very easy unless you have programming skills to make an automated install program.
Install windows as normal with all utilities you normally use. Install Acronis ''TruImage'' and make a boot disc (CD required) then either uninstall Acronis or leave it (might be useful). Using Acronis ''TruImage'' create a Backup on a CD if it will go on one but you might need more than one or a DVD is you have a DVD writer and your version of TruImage supports DVD. You could, if you have another Hdd installed put this Back-up on that also.
This will give you a restore CD/DVD back to the original install of Windows. What it won't do is to reinstall all the other junk (Office, Norton, PAintShop pro etc).
One other thing to remember is that Back-ups only work on machines with the same size OS partition and with same MAKE CPU. You cannot run an AMD machine backu on an INTEL based machine and viz a viz becasue of the HAL layer - this is where the hardware info is stored.
Now when you want to restore your computer to it's bare configuration simply boot from the Acronis CD and select the back-up and where it is to go. If you make a REAL back-up of the system with all the bells and whistles - make sure that "my documents" is on another Hdd or partition - and it's on another partition or external Hdd then you can put it back to as it was last week, yesterday, last month etc.
Effectively the OEM restore CD is simply a super comperssed image of your OS drive with an auto run boot feature at the front.

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Restore Disk
by scootertrashtx / October 26, 2006 11:25 PM PDT

Okay fellas,
ANY bootable back up disk will work, some are better than others but all mentioned here are good...
Let's not get overly technical about this. It's really no big deal with licensing, assuming that each computer you're making a disk for has it's own legal copy of Windows. I recommend including the original licensed copy of Windows along with your restore disk if you're building PCs for personal profit.(Just to avoid any legal hassels later)
Simply install all of the software you want to include in your PC package, do the updates, and follow any one of these suggestions listed above. I use Norton Ghost but the Acronis True Image sounds pretty cool (though I've never used it but I assure you that after reading all of the responses about it, I'll give it a test drive)
The whole 'secret' is making this disk bootable. Follow the directions for the program of your choice, burn the back up (or restore) to CD or DVD and there you go!
Once again, I highly recommend having a seperate, legal, licensed copy of the OS for each computer you build AND include it with the whole package. Using a 'bulk licensed' OS for building multiple computers to sell for personal profit is NOT a good idea, as they are intended for corporate use whithin the same facility, NOT for individual distribution or resale.
That's about all there is to it:

Build the computer.

Install the OS and ALL software you want to include in the bundle.

Use a seperate, licensed copy of Windows for each computer and include this disk with your computer package.

Use the program of your choice to make a 'bootable' back up of the drive and burn it to CD or DVD.

Toss everything (the original OS disk, the restore disk, and the PC) in a box and call it a finished project!

Hope this helps to simplify the matter...

Later Y'all!

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Uhhhmmmm No it's not!
by dakz2006 / October 27, 2006 2:21 AM PDT

The Manufactures CD OEM or whatever you want to call it is a little more then a compressed image of your drive, that would mean that the manufacture would have to burn a CD for every model they carry, and not allow for any add ons or only the Anti-virus software that came with it, plus then why would they print on the face of the CD "For use in a Brand X Computer only Do Not make illegal copies of this Disc" Hmmm could it be that it would work in other computers as well.
The answer was and still is you have to make a bootable disc, with a batch file that will go to the directory and reinstall all the OEM software. Or take the easy way out and just go to eBay and buy the disc. But the question was can you make a disc like the OEM CD the answer is still yes! No need to over think this, any one that has used an OEM restore CD can see the batch file execute. Every time you see the DOS prompt and it is executing an instruction your watching the batch file go through it's list, most of them start off with re-formatting the hard drive then reinstalling windows then the OEM software for the manufacture, and then the other software that goes on the system.

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Question About Hard Drive Failure
by cmahlow / October 27, 2006 6:35 AM PDT

Assuming you've built a computer and backed it up with Acronis or some other disk imaging product.

If at some time later time the boot drive dies, can you replace it with a newer bigger drive and recover your system? Or do you have to use the same size drive?

I guess I'm confused about what's recorded on the original hard drive boot sector regarding hard drive geometry vs the new bigger drive's geometry.

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Restore to bigger Hard Drive...
by scootertrashtx / October 27, 2006 8:18 AM PDT

IF you're using the same computer and simply replaced the HD, you can in fact use the restore disk to configure the new drive.
With Norton Ghost, it'll ask you if you want to make the partition the same size as the old disk or if you want to expand it to fill the existing space... I have actually done this on the very computer I'm using now.
With some other restore disks, it will simply make a partition the same size as the old disk. The remaining space can be used if configured with Partition Magic or other like software. With Partition Magic, you can merge the partitions to a single drive if you like. This can also be done by using the 'fdisk' command through Windows but gets rather complicated...

*The Restore disk is ONLY for the system configuration it was made on, or one EXACTLY like it.
There ARE programs you can use to make a 'universal restore' as mentioned in other postings here. (see 'Hardware independency')

Most restore disks are system critical and cannot be used on different configurations.(Even the disks supplied by Dell and others) IF you are building or have computers that are exactly the same, (same model, same build, same specs) the restore disk MAY work.

I am NOT a computer expert. Everything I mention in any post is form my own experiance. If I say it works, that means it works on MY computer. (I'm still using it) I have taken classes and done extensive research on everything I post. The true test is trial and error on my own systems. As with ANY post on an open forum, ALWAYS take the advice with caution. Most of the computers I fix as a hobby come to me because 'so-and-so said to do this'. Often times it's harder to 'un fix' the computer than solving the original problem would have been.
ALWAYS back EVERYTHING up before making ANY changes.

Hope I've been helpful...

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Larger Hard Drive
by pegesus33 / October 27, 2006 11:40 AM PDT

I had a 60GB hard drive which was making noises which some said might mean a hard drive failure. I purchased a 200 GB hard drive and put it in one of my hard drive external closures and using Acronis program copied my entire hard drive onto the external one. A few days after I did this my hard drive did fail. So I removed it from my computer and put the 200GB hard drive in changing the setting on hard drive to make it the master. It works just fine and have had no problems with it. I replaced the hard drive that had been in my external case back to its original and it too works just fine. So I have had no problems in restoring the entire drive on the new one.

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Making a System Restore DVD or set of numbered CDs

Yes, you can.

When Microsoft did their truncated version of Unix, they omitted to programme the Operating System to set up a series of separate partitions automatically, so that the user's data files would always remain safe if the OS failed - providing the electronics of the Hard Disk itself didn't seize up !

So those of us who are System Administrators and have responsibility for troubleshooting, have to reinstate them as follows:

1. OS partition - 15 GB should suffice.
2. D:\SWAPFILE or PAGING_FILE Partition - max. 2 GB
3. E:\DATA partition
4. F:\APPLICATIONS which you have added subsequently to the OS, eg. browsing accelerators, spyware removers, etc. etc.

Now buy a copy of ACRONIS Disk Director Suite & one of their True Image Workstation 9.1. Install both with full options. DDS has a Bootable Rescue Media Builder link on your START>Programs>ACRONIS Menus.

This will do exactly what you need ! But do this first:

Copy your data & additional applications onto a Flash Drive or 2nd Hard drive ( eg. via USB ICY Box ).

Then set up your logical drives as above.
Copy your data back as above.

Now, resize your drives as above ( only the OS drive must be a primary partition )- the other logical drives can subtend from an extended partition

Do not fail to make weekly backups of your data via True Image.

Never look back !

Les K

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How to set up XP for your 4 partition system
by gorner / October 31, 2006 10:04 PM PST

Your reply was very helpful, and I want to use your 4 partition system. However, as a novice I am not sure how to set up Windows XP Pro so that it places the Swapfile/Paging file on partition D and "My Documents" on partition E. Would be very grateful for any advice on this.

Chris Gorner

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Use Windows Vista RC1

Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 has a backup image builder integrated into it. Either you can burn CDs/DVDs, or, I prefer to repartition my hard drive and use a ~15-20GB partition (Vista is a bigger OS, and it depends on what you want on this restore image). However, it does not create a "pure" .iso or anything, it kinda puts a Windows spin onto things. I havnt tried installing from a "Vista restore image"... it may only modify an existing Vista install. Just keep in mind, Vista is probably not the best option as of now, some Vista x64 drivers don't appear to be stable, and it is probably best to wait for a final release... but it is something to look forward to in the future I suppose...

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Very good response.
by bsnapper / October 26, 2006 9:45 PM PDT

Excellent reply and advice for backing up both system and personal information. I've been looking at Acronis recently and you convinced me to give it a try.

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Geezzz you missed on that one!
by dakz2006 / October 26, 2006 9:45 PM PDT

How did you miss the question? The word Backup never appeared in the question? Anyone that has been around computers for more then a day knows that backup is even a menu item under all versions of Windows all the way back to Windows 95.
The Question was the guy wants to make a system restore CD/DVD like HP-Dell and other manufactures. The answer is Yes and there is a lot of software that can help you, depending on what you want to do, to reinstall your software that you have on your machine outside of the Normal Windows install you will either need to write a good batch file or look into some of the other software titles such as BARTs PE, etc.
Next be aware that you could really fast run into licensing problems With not only Microsoft (hehehe I mistyped Microsoft when I looked up it really said microshaft) but any other software that is on the disc! The problems with backups is that a lot of people are copying spyware and new viruses to a disc and end up with the same problems that caused them to restore a system. Don't get me wrong backing up is like the 3rd commandment to owning a computer, right after thou shalt not covet thy neighbors porn, Thou shalt not have an Apple in thy home! Anyhow keep in mind that to create these Discs you will need copies of all the install software to copy to a disc and you could go through a lot of Discs in a hurry, once Windows Vista comes out, the size of it and the applications that are going to go with it, well I think the days of the CD-ROM disc are numbered! Use a UDF file system like you would on Windows Vista and write the batch file and your set!

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by bobbyross / October 26, 2006 10:33 PM PDT

Great post! Almost everytime I read the question of the week the winning question ALWAYS is way to overkill in what really needs to be done or asked by the questioner. Its like people line up to show everyone else how tech savvy they are. Give it a rest people, answer the question!!

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Nice answer, Will
by cachupin / October 26, 2006 9:49 PM PDT

I want to compliment you on the complete and informative rundown on backup strategies you gave. It's true, it's a lot more involved than one might think at first glance. I particularly agree with you on not using proprietry backup programs for regular data files - that can be a real hassle when you want to migrate to another machine, etc.

One other thing: I have successfuly used Norton Ghost to backup and completely restore an entire machine (Windows XP). If you do it right, CD #1 is bootable and you don't need anything pre-installed on your hard drive to execute the restore. (My image had several large applications included and was actually 13 disks - it all ran smoothly.) I'm sure other products work well, too. But I mention this because this was not a test - I had truly corrupted my registry and other things to the point where I really needed an image - and it worked! Really saved my shorts!

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Restore cd
by steve.coult / October 28, 2006 1:57 AM PDT
In reply to: Nice answer, Will

Hi i have been following this topic and would like to ask how do you get norton ghost to make a bootable cd and then put the image on the same cd please

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Well that is a long winded answer that doesn't answer the q

You can create those partitions and discs using such programs as Norton Ghost, Symantec Drive Image. Its not overly complicated and if you are used to being a system builder already most of the tools that you need are already in place for you to accomplish the job quickly.
There are other programs that will allow you to make the restore discs as well as the hidden restore partitions on the hard drive like HP does (the F10/F11 restore function) such as Acronis TrueImage.

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XML Image for XP/2003 freeware
by goodpack / October 26, 2006 11:07 PM PDT

I have successfully imaged many XP and Server2003 systems using this handy little XML image creator. Since its XML the data is not in a proprietary format. You can use task scheduler to created timed or off hour backups. The image files can also be compressed to save space.

Its freeware so you have to be ready to support it yourself, however I think you?ll find it pretty easy to use.

The downside is it?s not bootable. The website has instructions and a plug-in for bootPE which is bootable cd creator which is also free. Tech savvy folk can also add their network card drivers to bootPE so you can store the xml images on network shares, boot to the PE disk and restore the hard drive.

Lots of other good tools described in this thread?thanks for sharing, for those of you who are mad that the thread didn?t stay on task and talk about only images?please relax its how we learn.

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Yes, you can make the CD you want-easily


It is easy. It just takes the knowledge. But like a previous answer, you need to be aware of licensing.

Now the good news. It is easy to make the CD and the instructions are on Microsoft's site and the CD you create will produce a load that PASSES MUSTER WITH THE GENUINE ADVANTAGE VALIDATION ROUTINE.

Go to Microsoft support and search on Remote Installation Services (RIS). There are a lot of articles to go through. The "secret" is in there.

I don't want to put the tweak in a public forum however because I do not know how the fine folks as Microsoft will respond. See if Lee will forward your info to me or vice versa so I can give you the particulars. This was my senior research project for my computer science degree.

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Lotta good that was
by cesareDH / October 27, 2006 4:09 AM PDT

We're not doing research for a degree, we're looking for an answer. If you have the answer, I'm sure MS wouldn't mind if you put it in this forum seeing as they've made it public anyway.
You say we can make the CD 'EASILY"; how?

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I agree
by jclevel1 / October 27, 2006 6:14 AM PDT
In reply to: Lotta good that was

I absolutely agree with the previous response to this post. I normally don't rant on these types of forums, but I must say that it is very unimpressive to post that you did this as a research project if it was something that is "easy" to do. Are you bragging that your work did not really justify the degree that you received. By the way, I am not just ranting. I actually did post what I think is the real answer that 'Mervin M.' was looking for.

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The real answer
by PromptCritical / October 28, 2006 3:27 PM PDT
In reply to: I agree

Rant? No, it sounds like you are skirting the level of flaming. No, I am not bragging that the work was easy. Microsoft is cryptic at best in its answers. The project was to actually get RIS to work with full documentation that anyone could follow since the MCSE books, if followed word for word, RIS would not deploy or function.

We also deployed the project in a real time environment and successfully reloaded 112 computers with a fresh load in 16 minutes, all simultaneously. So, yes, my degree is deserved.

From the original stated question, Mervin did not want to have to use third party software to clone machines. He wanted a CD to put into a machine and install the OS. This answer does that, not yours.

The reason the answer did not give all the answers is that to understand how to build the CD fully, it takes a lot of knowledge to build the answer file (for a CD winnt.sif). It is extensive.

Utilizing a build in this manner you can take full control of the installed OS and put in all defaults, example, the default home page. That way when Microsoft sends out the next mandatory security update (a couple of weeks ago) it will not nuke your custom settings and reset your homepage or Microsoft.

Here are some links to start learning how to build the CD:

See Section: Installing Clients By Using Remote Installation

And pay attention to this-

NOTE: This step can be avoided by specifying the product key in the .sif file. You have successfully configured and installed a remote operating system by using RIS. Refer to the following section for additional information about configuration options.

Next go here:

Here is the key: You must have a volume license number for the answer file. Legally to make your own install CD it must be your number. However, all computer manufacturers have their volume license number in their CD's. That little label that is affixed to the case of these computers is what gives you the license to do this.

If you do not have a license of your own this is illegal. If you legally utilize a volume license number, it will pass muster with the Genuine Validation Tool.

Also note: Any created CD/RIS installations cannot cross service packs.

Now, this, I believe, is the answer Mervin was looking for.

Again, this procedure must follow copyright and licensing laws.

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This may be the missing links?
by roadstr01 / October 27, 2006 1:10 PM PDT

Sound like his ''secret'' is sysprep, which I read somewhere else in this discussion.


Note The Sysprep.exe utility is located on the Windows XP distribution CD-ROM in the Support\Tools folder in the file

While I've never used it, it sounds very much like what the question is asking for. Perhaps someone with knowledge using this can chime in.

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Extract file from CAB file?
by cesareDH / October 27, 2006 2:24 PM PDT

How does one extract a specific file out of a CAB file?

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Extracting file from cab
by scootertrashtx / October 28, 2006 1:22 AM PDT
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So will extract.
by PromptCritical / October 28, 2006 3:10 PM PDT

Extract.exe will also extract from CABs. It is on the Windows CD and will run in a command line. But a windows utility will do it much faster.

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Which Windows utility?
by cesareDH / October 28, 2006 7:21 PM PDT
In reply to: So will extract.

Will do it faster? and where is that utility located?

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This utility
by PromptCritical / October 29, 2006 1:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Which Windows utility?
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Yes you can make a Restore Cd/DVD.
by hhjones43 / October 26, 2006 10:36 PM PDT

There are many ways of doing what you are asking, I assume you are not asking "How to backup" the system but "How to restore" the system to it's original build state. This is a very complicated process and requires scripting, and knowledge of the hardware that this "Build" will work on. I have done this, the command you really want to know about is "SYSPREP", look it up on Microsoft's site there is a lot of info about this. Some tips, not all software will function from a syspreped image (That's why some software installs the first time you use it on HP, eMachines, Dell ect...). I hope this helps. Good luck Happy

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Two partitions, one for data,
by clamoreaux / October 26, 2006 11:06 PM PDT

Sounds like a good idea. I had that on my old computer. And on the ones before that. But when I tried to create a D: partition on my C: drive of my new computer, the Partitiom Magic program apparently became a disk mangler and I can no longer reboot my computer, even in safe mode.

My email to PM (Symantec) tech service remains unanswered after a week.

The PM notes said to make a backup before applying the program. I tried to do that, but the BU file would be 12 gig and my Win XP backup program stopped after backing up only a 4 gig file. Apparently, FAT32 will not allow files larger than 4 gig.

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