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It's wise to be prepared to use your backups to fully reinstall your machine in the event of a hard drive failure.

I use Windows XP media center edition, SP3 and have some 18 applications I use regularly. I did not receive original install discs with the PC. I take complete backups regularly, but I'm afraid that if I lose my hard disk, I won't be able to use those backups. I'm really very happy with XP. I don't want to change. What should I do or is there anything I can do to be able to recover from a hardware failure like a disk crash?

In this excerpt from Answercast #12, I address the common situation of having no installation discs for a computer and recommend a complete system image as a safety precaution.

The importance of backups

So, good for you for having backups!

What I don't know (and I'm a little concerned based on your statements) is exactly how much you're backing up. If you've been doing true system backups from day one, then those system backups should be able to restore your entire machine.

Full system backups

Let's assume that you're not doing system backups; let's assume you've been backing up only your data:

  • Thus, your operating system, the boot information, all your installed programs have not been backed up.

My recommendation is that you should immediately take a full system image backup of this hardware. This will substitute for installation media in the sense that if your hard disk dies (which is the scenario you're concerned about and rightly so), you can then restore the PC to that disk image on a new hard disk.

You will then be exactly where you were: installed programs and Windows and everything as of the time you took that backup in the first place.

Managing full system backups

If that's the kind of backup you've already been doing, then I think you're probably in great shape.

Keep the oldest one you can so that you can go back as far in time as possible, if you need to. But for the most part, regular backups, regular system image backups are the way to go and I would suggest that you start doing that as soon as you can.

Article C5261 - April 26, 2012 « »

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.

Not what you needed?

April 27, 2012 9:34 AM

Leo, I’m using Acronis True Image 11 Home, purchased on a CD. Using an updated build downloaded from Acronis, I’ve been able to restore full system images (XP SP3) with no problem. However, if my hard drive failed, what steps would I take to go about restoring an image on a new hard drive since I wouldn’t have the Windows operating system from which to work (I don’t have the Windows installation disk either)? And although I do have the Acronis installation disk, that disc has the original build, which had given me problems in restoring images. (I do have a copy of the Acronis updated build file on a CD.) Thanks…

As part of Acronis you should have the ability to create what's called a "Rescue Disc". Make that disc before you need it. Then when you need to restore as you describe you would boot from that disk and be able to run Acronis to perform the restore.
May 1, 2012 6:34 AM

Hi Leo,~Using M'S Wind XP Prof Version 2002 + S'vce P'k>3~Intel(R)-Pentium(R)4 CPU~-3.20GHz~3.21GHz. 1.00GBofRAM~My Query>After Scan Using SeaTools Long Generic Results>FAILED>st316011sa-Firmware Revision>3.04~~PASS>>st310014a~ Firmware Rev>3.09~~Do These Results Assist You In Solving My Ongoing Woes With Start-Ups + Black Screens + Blue Screens & "Frosting Effect Of Displayed Items Like Icons Pix Etc ( If Not Can You Advise What Other Data I Could Extract For You Please )~Regards , DDDes.{23:34 H'rs~02-05-2012}.

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