A Quick Crash Course
We are interested in two types of backup for a reasonably good level of security. Firstly an image backup which allows the Windows 7 to be reinstalled in the case of a catastrophic failure of the computer. For example a failed hard disk. Secondly a backup of data and settings in case files are deleted or edited by accident. For a highly secure backup you should repeat this process on two external drives rotating the two drives and keeping the one not in use at a different location. This provides you with a fall-back if your house/office gets burnt down.
Windows 7 comes with a very functional backup and restore utility which allow backup to CD/DVD or external drive. It can create both an image backup and data and settings backup. The data and settings backup is incremental meaning that it keeps the various revisions of a file as it is changed
External Hard Drive System recovery Disk
Making an Image Backup
On the machine to back-up plug in the external drive Go to Control Panel / Backup and Restore and choose setup backup. Choose the destination for the backup. In my case the External Drive is mapped to drive F: You are now prompted for the files to backup. Select all the libraries ( this assumes that all you documents are in the library folders ) and this will incude you application data in the Additional Locations directory. Make sure that "Include a system image" is checked Select next to execute the backup. Once the backup has completed the files on the backup drive will look like this the first file is the data backup ( it will have your computer name ) and the image files are held in the WindowsImageBackup directory. One further step you can take is to now go back and disable the image backup option. This will speed up future backups. It will require you to remember to do a further image backup every now and then when you have made major changes to your system e.g installed new software , applied major service packs