Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

You don't need a new recovery disc after each backup you make. Same is true of those rescue discs you make when you first boot Windows.

When copying my PC system or making an image of that system on to another device such as an external hard drive, is it necessary to make a new system recovery disc every time? Or will one disc accomplish a recovery indefinitely?

In this excerpt from Answercast #95 I look at ways a rescue or recovery disc can be made and used to restore a computer.

New recovery disk after each backup

The short answer is no, you don't need to.

The longer answer however is a little bit more complicated than that because there is no standard definition of what it means to be a "recovery disc."

If it's one you made with Windows, no. You can make that once and you should be fine. That one is not something you would actually use if you ever recovered from your backup.

Backup program recovery disc

And that's where things get a little bit interesting. Normally, when you make a backup using backup software (like, say, Macrium Reflect or Acronis or any of a number of others) one of the things you need to do is create a recovery, or more properly, a "rescue disc."

It's that rescue disc that you would boot from in order to recover the backup image that you've made - and restore on to your machine.

You should only need to make that once per version of the backup software.

New disc on version upgrade

Now, I have to stress that because, for example, if you have a version of your backup software and you upgrade to the next version, you'll probably need to make a new recovery disc to make sure that you can recover the backups that were made with that newer version.

The good news is that, in reality, the recovery discs that you make with backup software can typically be made on any system.

Make a recovery disc any time

So if, for example, you decide you are just going to be making your backup images and then all of a sudden your system crashes and you find yourself without this recovery or rescue media disc - you can go to another PC, fire up the same backup software that you're using and create the rescue media for that backup software. You can then take that to your machine and boot from that to recover the backup image that you've created on your presumably repaired machine.

So, typically the answer is no, you really only need to do it once. You can do it at the last minute if you've got more than one PC. I generally recommend that people make that rescue disc sooner rather than later and keep it in safe place along with your backups but in general, there's lots of flexibility should the worst actually happen.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6319 - February 21, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
February 26, 2013 12:16 PM

"Rescue' says it all. When you're hanging off a cliff and you get thrown you brought the rope.

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