Hack 113: Hot Image Your PC for Instant Restoration
Over time and with heavy usage, your PC can become slow and unstable, bogged down with programs you don’t use and victim of system changes that make it behave in ways you never intended. If you’ve ever encountered the “blue screen of death” — that is, had your Windows PC crash entirely — you may know what a tedious job rebuilding your computer can be. Reinstalling the operating system and applications and restoring your documents can take time you don’t have.
However, if you saved a mirror image of your PC in a known, working state first, you could restore it from a crash or slowdown quickly and easily. Commercial software such as Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image take complete snapshots of your PC for insurance in case of a crash. Although these programs retail for between $50 and $70 each, a free program called DriveImage XML also acts as a virtual copy machine for your PC. DriveImage XML takes a snapshot of your entire computer’s hard drive; that is, Windows itself, its configuration, and your software and documents. You can use this snapshot to copy back individual files that have since been overwritten or deleted, or restore your entire computer to its past state. Here’s how.
NOTE Hack 105, “Undo System Configuration Changes,” describes how to use a built-in Windows utility to roll back changes you make to your computer over time. DriveImage XML is a more comprehensive hard-drive ...