I am often called on by friends to work on their PC’s and I recently did an overhaul of a friends Dell Dimension E510.  They were running Windows XP on it but asked for the Windows 7 Release Candidate to learn the system since they had ordered the Windows 7 upgrade for delivery on 22 Oct 09.

I brought the PC home and cleaned out the internals and commenced to install Windows 7.  The install went very smooth and the system was up and running in less than an hour. I did recommend to them that they upgrade their RAM from 1GB and add 2GB more to give Windows 7 some additional RAM to work with.  I was also hearing a very strange noise from the SATA hard drive in the system that sounded very much like the precursor to a possible drive failure so I recommended a hard drive upgrade as well to be on the safe side.

Now I left the system set up at their place while waiting on the upgrades to arrive from Amazon and I used the Windows 7 Backup and Restore applet to configure a daily backup of their system to an external Western Digital hard drive I had set up for them some months earlier. This would ensure their data was protected each day just in case of a hard drive failure of any sort.

A few days later I received the new memory and hard drive and went over to install the new stuff.  The first thing I did – was a backup of the entire hard drive – including an image backup which Windows 7 Backup will do for you.  Note: Always play it safe and backup before you do major stuff on your PC.

Make sure you also create the Restore CD/DVD when prompted so you can restore your backups by booting from that CD/DVD just in case the system is not working.

Once the backup was done I shut down the system and installed the memory, removed the old hard drive (80GB)  and installed the 320GB hard drive upgrade. So at this point we had a system that had no OS on its 320GB hard drive  and 3GB of RAM.  I put in the Restore CD that I had previously created and booted up the system.  Once it was up and running I was able to select the image I had backed up earlier on the external hard drive and instruct the restoral of that image to the new hard drive.  It took about 15 minutes or so for that to happen and then I rebooted the system (with the Restore CD/DVD out of the disc tray). 

The system booted up as expected however the image was only restored to a partition that was the same exact size of the old hard drive.  The remainder of the hard drive was unallocated.  I simply used the Disk Management Console to expand the restored partition and reclaim that space as part of the main C drive.  This would also indicate to me that you could not restore an image file to a hard drive that was smaller than the one it came from (i.e. restore an 80GB image to a 40GB drive – even if it was only 20GB worth of data/programs).

With that done the system was up and running exactly like it was before this all started except it had more memory and hard drive space.

The fact that Windows 7’s Backup and Restore applet allowed me to simply restore the hard drive image saved a couple of hours that would have been used to restore data and install programs as well as updating the system.

In fact, this process reminded me a lot of how my Windows Home Server handles image restoral for my machines.  You can use the windows 7 Backup and Restore functionality and give yourself a piece of mind that your data is safe at all times. It is very intuitive to use and data can be saved to an internal hard drive, a network location, an external hard drive, USB flash drive,  or a writeable CD/DVD.  Just make sure you use what meets your needs as far as storage ability goes.

Here are some screenshots from the Windows 7 Backup and Restore applet just to show you some of the settings/actions: