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An image backup can serve as a great checkpoint to restore to in the event of failure, and can even help avoid needing to reformat and reinstall.
As you keep saying we should do backups of our system so I found an easy Disk Imaging System which I use to make full backups of my system.
The idea I had was to do a reinstall of my system using the manufacturers installation disk then download all my programs , clean off as much junk as possible and then make a disk image of what should be as clean a system as possible.
After say six months I was planning to reformat the disk and put the backup on. I would then bring everything up to date and make another image for use in six months time. A bit like spring cleaning.
My question is how will this work regarding my security programs which update once or twice a day? When I put a six month old backup back on will my anti virus and anti malware programs update correctly or will they be missing updates from months previously?
First, I like your idea. The basic idea is an approach I endorse, though I don't know if I'd do it every six months.
In fact, it's an idea I strongly recommend for people that have purchased machines with Windows preinstalled, and did not receive original installation media.
I'll review the technique, and then also address your question: what to do about updates that happen after the initial image is taken.
The technique boils down to this: once you get your new machine set up in some "pristine" state, you take a full image backup. If you ever have a situation where you would need to "reformat and reinstall", you instead simply restore this image and have everything exactly as it was at the time the image was taken.
As I mentioned above, if you get a machine with Windows pre-installed I strongly recommend you do this as soon as you possibly can. If you did not get installation media to be able to reinstall Windows from scratch, having that initial image to go back to may be your only salvation should something someday go wrong.
And even if you do have that installation media, restoring an already configured image is typically a lot less work than reinstalling Windows and every application from scratch.
I actually recommend two images initially:
The pristine machine as you received it, or after the initial Windows install.
The machine after you've installed all your applications, and taken all the updates for Windows and those applications that happen to be available.
The latter one is probably the one you'll use, but the first is an additional safety net.
Note that in all cases I've not said anything about your data. Ideally, you'll take these images before actually using your machine, and before any of your data is on it. Think of these as "new machine" images - before you've had a chance to do anything.
That implies two things: first, this approach is not a replacement for regular backups, you still need to backup frequently to backup the data on your machine. If anything it's a replacement only for the process of "reformatting and reinstalling" after a disaster hits. And second, when the time comes to restore to one of these images, you'll need to take additional steps to recover your data from those more frequent backups.
Now, you've taken this one step further by planning to restore to this image every six months or so, so as to eradicate any software rot and return your system to a clean state.
But that implies that once restored that machine will be six months behind in updates for the operating system, all applications, and anti-malware definitions.č
First: I'd make sure to be behind a hardware firewall like an inexpensive NAT router for this. If you're running a software firewall it, too, would be 6 months out of data after the restore, and thus potentially unprotected against more recent threats.
Then I'd run Windows Update immediately so as to get all the operating system updates that happened since the machine was imaged.
Next, while all your anti-malware software will typically update their databases automatically, that may take up to 24 hours or so. I'd actually fire up each tool and force an update right away.
I'd then visit all the applications I cared about to either force them to automatically check for updates, or instruct them to do to with whatever options are available.
Finally, once everything was updated, I'd take a new image before restoring my data or using the system further. This image would be the one I'd use the next time I did this six months from now so as to then start in a slightly more updated state.
I'd also not discard the prior images. In particular, the very first image of the pristine "as it arrived" system, as well as at least the first after having installed and updated all applications. If, somehow, something were wrong with one of the intermediate images - perhaps a piece of malware was inadvertently allowed to be installed - you've always got that initial known clean checkpoint to go back to.
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