I sure hope you get an answer on this one. I'm looking into very similar questions. I've got a new Windows 7 computer as well as an older XP computer. Currently all of my data files are backed up using a cloud-based backup. This is fine, but I'm looking for quicker recovery of the whole system, not just my docs, pictures, mp3s, etc. I have a 2 TB external portable USB 3.0 drive as well as an older 1.5 TB external USB 2.0 drive. I'm looking for one program that will work with both. I've got a few ideas on some of your questions.
1. Yes, it will.
2. I've been looking at the following, but haven't decided yet:
- Acronis Backup and Recovery 11.5
- LapLink Disk Image
- Macrium Reflect Standard
- ShadowProtect Desktop 5
- TeraByte Image for Windows
4. Do you really need to do the backup before connecting to the internet? If you really want to do it before connecting you could download whatever backup/image software and put it on a thumb drive before your fresh install. You don't really have to run it from the thumb drive, you could install it and then create the backup. But, do you really want to do it that way? Wouldn't you want to run Windows Update before making the backup? I mean, why make a backup where as soon as you restore from it you have to do a massive Windows Update just to get rid of a bunch of vulnerabilities?
7. Some of the above programs indicate you can pick individual files off of the backup as well as restore the entire thing.
Hope there is some more feedback on this thread, I want to get a good backup system setup myself soon.
Here's a thread on the Windows Secrets lounge where a number of backup/imaging products were suggested: Time to replace my data drive; what software to move files around?