Full Restore

Most people fail to realize how painful a complete system restore is until they're faced with the undeniable fact that their system is about to crash and burn and they have no current backup available. Don't wait until that catastrophic day arrives and leaves you scrambling to backup your precious data while praying it's not too late.

Create a backup your most important files at least once a week by using any of the methods outlined in Backup Your PC – You’ll be thankful you did.

If your computer has reached the point of no return and your only solution is a factory restore, there are a few things you can do beforehand to make the process as painless as possible.

Find any Driver CDs that arrived with your PC when you purchased it and keep them handy (you will probably need them). If you don't have the CDs available, go to the website of your PC maker (Dell, HP, etc) and find any driver downloads available for your PC model. Download and burn them onto CD/DVD so that they will be available should you need them.

Backup your most important files (My Documents folder, email, etc). I prefer to be safe rather than sorry so I backup my system three different ways before a “clean install”. I use Acronis True Image to create an image, then I use the Windows Settings and Transfer Wizard to backup all my settings and important files. Additionally I burn onto DVD my important folders and settings. For burning DVDs and CDs I use a fantastic freeware program called CDBurnerXP.

The following are some things you might want to backup:

  • My Documents folder. Note: My Pictures and My Music are both located in your My Documents folder. If you have photos or music not located in your My Documents folder back those up as well.
  • Outlook Express folder (located in C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{VERY LONG NUMBER}\Microsoft\).
  • Outlook Express settings, including Accounts and Rules.
  • Internet Explorer Security settings (if you have adjusted them), Favorites, Trusted Sites and Restricted Sites.
  • Many programs save their configuration settings to your User Profile (located in C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME\Local Settings\Application Data\). Backup any folders for programs which you have modified settings.
  • Any other important folders that you have created.

Although I prefer to do my backups manually, there a many who prefer not to tinker with the registry and Windows Explorer. The following freeware programs backup Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and Firebird settings:

Keep track of what you are doing. I make a list of the folders/settings I need to backup and cross them out as they are completed.

Once you have everything backed up, you can begin the Full Restore process by following the instructions provided by your PC manufacturer. A complete factory restore usually entails booting-up with a specific Restore CD (also provided by your PC manufacturer) or running a special program via your Start Menu. Check the documentation that came with your PC or visit it's website and print or save the instructions for reference.

Restoring a PC will always involve time and effort but it no longer has to be a daunting task.