What's the quickest way to get up and running following a catastrophe?
Returning your computer to a precatastrophe state involves replacing the machine's operating system and boot information as well as its other data. Some backup programs, such as those from Dantz and Stomp, create boot discs so that you can then restore your most recent backup. But we found two options that were less tedious.
Make an image of your drive: The easiest and speediest way to recover from a data disaster is to restore your system with a drive image created by a program such as Acronis's $50 True Image 7, or Symantec's $70 Norton Ghost 9, due out soon. Image files contain everything in a single convenient package: boot information, the operating system, and all of your programs, settings, and data. The catch: You must image an entire drive.
Once you have a disc image, the recovery process is simple: Boot with the rescue floppy, CD, or DVD created by the imaging program; restore the image; and reboot.
Create a bootable drive. CMS Product's $79 BounceBack Professional 5.5 software can create a bootable backup on a hard drive, so you can skip over restoring a backup. In the event of a meltdown, you just plug the drive in and start your PC--but only if your system's BIOS supports booting from USB or FireWire devices.
Tip: Create an image file after you've installed Windows and your core applications; this makes recovery a snap.