One of the first things you should do is make a recovery drive (usb key, usually).
...I like the idea of a spare HDD...
Thanks a Million!
Hope the suggestion helps your PC setup. The way I've looked at it is that for most of us, the PC has become a necessity in our daily routines. Since HDD's ("spinners") have become affordable for most budgets, I prefer to have 1 for cloning and another for my "test" HDD. I'll occasionally test my full-HDD Images and do a "restore", mainly to verify the complete "recovery" methodology so that I'll know it works in the event of encountering a failed HDD or a malicious infection that I don't want to spend time in seeking out online assistance in cleaning the affected HDD. I'd rather be able to recover locally by maintaining a full-HDD backup activity on a periodic basis.
I can also use one of the HDD's as additional storage space if needed, video files, etc.
So you periodically make a hd backup image? What software do you use?
I usually clone every 2 weeks although that will vary from time to time. I'll Image (full HDD) less frequently since that process takes a lot longer on my PC.
I've used these 3 cloning / imaging tools:
- Acronis (2011 paid software)
- Macrium Reflect (free ver)
- Clonezilla (freeware)
I mostly use Acronis since that takes the least amount of time (about 35 minutes) for cloning with my PC.
I have the other 2 tools basically as a backup option in case I encounter an unforeseen issue with Acronis.
Since I've started cloning periodically (and Imaging occasionally), all Target HDD's (after cloning) except for 1 time, have resulted in bootable verified spare HDD's. When I first tried to clone with Macrium, my Target HDD didn't boot. The reason was, I was following a YouTube tutorial that was using the "drag and drop" partition method, which did result in a complete copy of my partitions but didn't clone the MBR. When I tried it the 2nd time, all worked ok. It was just a matter of where to "click" in the Macrium user setup dialog screen.
I like Macrium's user gui interface, it's a user-friendly dialog (my opinion).
Clonezilla is a great freeware cloning and imaging tool but (my opinion) it's geared toward the more experienced user. I've cloned a couple of times with it and all worked ok but, as with Macrium, the cloning duration takes longer than with Acronis so I just stay with Acronis for most of my 2-week clonings.
Clonezilla is a good one to have handy on a CD or Flash Drive since you can use it without installing the tool onto the HDD.
The main 2 things I'd suggest regarding cloning or imaging is:
- Use the bootable media, CD or USB stick, to clone or image. It's not necessary with some cloning & imaging software (you can clone or image within Windows, etc) but when booting up into RAM on the media, you're testing and verifying the complete "rescue" scenario, if you need to recover without a working OS or have malicious content on your everyday HDD and prefer to wipe the affected HDD vs running various cleanup tools to sanitize the HDD. There are numerous malware / virus experts that recommend this anyway, since that's one way to virtually guarantee* that you'll have a clean HDD ready to return to service.
* There are rarer instances where a complete HDD overwrite may be required but, as yet, in the 2 times that I've replaced my Source HDD due to malicious content, I've only had to delete the partitions on the infected HDD and re-cloned to it. That has resulted in a clean bootable spare HDD.
- Test the Target HDD or restored image to verify a working bootable complete copied HDD on the shelf ready to use if needed.
Imaging: I don't verify all of my full-HDD images due to (on my PC setup) time constraints but I test enough of them to verify a recoverable image in the event it's needed.
Cloning vs Imaging: Both formats have their advantages, in my opinion. I prefer cloning for my periodic 2-week HDD backup plan since I have a couple of spare HDD's and, for me, they're a lot faster recovery method vs restoring a full-HDD image.
Imaging is great for storing multiple PC's (or multiple images) onto 1 external storage device. I have an external HDD where I have stored a couple of full-HDD images for my Desktop, Laptop, and my Mom's Desktop PC.
The storage HDD remains disconnected (except during image processing, due to possible encryption-malware, ie "Cryptolocker", etc.
Imaging is also advantageous for storing "chain" backups, incremental or differential. I don't use these methods at present since I'm mainly using Macrium Free version to Image and the free version doesn't include chain (scheduled) imaging.
I'm definitely a HDD backup geek but after one time a few years ago, where I got hit with one of those malicious intrusions that was blocking my browser access, bogus popup's telling me "You're infected with massive intrusions.... click 'here' to fix your PC" , I made a vow .... "Never again" .
For me, there's several reasons to maintain the complete HDD backup, and they're all good reasons.