Please excuse the length!
For me, I use imaging software to create pristine images of my "C" drive during the build process, then use "ZIP" files for my regular backups. I also create a mirror of specific folders on an external hard drive
During the build process, I create images at specific points during the build:
* Just after W8 was installed, with no changes.
* Just the "C" partition.
* Just after W8 was installed, with no changes.
* The whole drive (all partitions - other than "C" are blank).
* Minor settings
* Basic settings I want for windows, etc.
* A few programs, LIKE:
*** My PC Build program.
*** Favorite Text Editor.
* Firewall and Antivirus programs.
* PDF Creation software and printers.
* All windows updates.
* Office 2007 and updates.
* All apps.
* Development environment.
* Thunderbird (used as RSS reader).
So let's say that something goes wrong. I then use the imaging software to apply "T09_W8_DEV_ENV_FF", and then restore my files from my last backup.
Say I want to change browsers completely, I then use the imaging software to apply "T08_W8_DEV_ENV", install the new browser, and Thunderbird, reimage it, then restore my files.
Just uninstalling and installing software isn't acceptable to me. You don't know what things are really left behind. Earlier this year, I performed some tests, when I installed Windows 8. What I did was:
1. I dumped the registry.
2. Created a file list before I installed a program.
3. Installed the program.
4. Ran it (but made no changes to the config).
5. Dumped the registry.
6. Created a file list.
7. Uninstalled the program.
8. Dumped the registry.
9. Created a file list.
10. Compared the registry dumps and file listings. There were files and registry entries still there, that should have been removed (I'm not talking about "temp" files.
11. Reset my computer with the fresh, pristine image, and repeated the test with 5 other programs (do the same a total of 5 more times).
12. The results were the same in each case. Some were downloaded programs, some were commercial programs (boxed).
13. I've done the above since Windows XP, and the results were always the same; there were things left behind that shouldn't have been.
PLEASE, DON'T GET ME WRONG! There's nothing wrong imaging the current drive, even when it is in it's normal operational state. However having a pristine image is also a smart move. Let's say you don't make any, or minimal changes to your computer, and something happens. Also say that you weren't aware of it, and a problem was saved in your last image. You're just going to keep putting the same problem in place again and again!
However, if you had an image from your last build, and there were minimal, or no changes, then you backup your files, apply the image, restore your files, and you're in business (you'd still have to run Windows updates, Office updates, etc).
On this computer I have (Windows 8), to apply the factory image (depending on my options), it took me about 1.5 to 2.0 hours. Then I had to install my programs, configure my computer, and restore my files. Windows updates alone would take up to around 5-6 hours or so (because of my connection speed).
But using the method above, it takes about 30 minutes to restore the image from the imaging software I use, and about another hour to restore all my files (my last backup was around 18GB), and maybe 15 minutes to run Windows and Office updates. All total:
1. 30 minutes to restore.
2. 15 minutes to run updates, which my that time the Antivirus program as also been updated.
3. Let my computer restore my files by itself.
So, my system can be restored and basically usable in 45 minutes, with all updates in place. Then while my files are being restored (I always restore the browser settings, bookmarks, etc first), I then can browse the Internet, etc, while the file restore completes.
During the build process, I will not go out to the Internet, on the computer I'm building, unless it is absolutely necessary, until I'm done. If I have to, I use my desktop computer, download the files there, then transfer them over via my home network, after they've been scanned for viruses, etc. In this way, I know the programs are virus free. I also run defrag software at the end of each step above, but before I image the computer.
Since the build process can take a bit, if I'm waiting for my main computer to do something (e.g. download updates), I use the desktop to browse the Internet, type letters, etc. When I'm done, I then copy the files from the desktop, to my main computer, if necessary
I have no doubts, that some people might not want to take the additional steps that I do, and that's fine. But I thought I'd mention it, because of some of the posts I've seen in this forum. I figured, it might give others another option.
Have a great day, and if you're in the Midwest to eastern US, stay dry, and hope you weren't affected, or affected much, by the storms.