Backup, Wipe, and Make it Look Like It Never Happened?

I consider myself to be pretty good with IT stuff. I've always dabbled with computers and I've built a few gaming PC's for myself and others. I want to start a small IT business as a side job going to peoples homes and diagnosing, consulting, and repairing their PC's. However, my question will make me loose all credibility as someone who knows anything about computers. How can I backup a drive, remove a virus, wipe the drive, and reinstall the backup to make it look like nothing was ever done? I've reformatted dozens of HDD's in the past but I was recently talking to a guy at geek squad who told me that they usually wipe customer's HDD's, install the backup and it looks like nothing was ever changed. Background pictures, programs, icons, etc. are all in the same place as before the customer brought it in. How is that possible?
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  1. This doesn't sound possible. If the virus deletes some of your photos or music and one of your next saves overwrites that file, there will be no way for a small IT shop to get that back. You can scrub a virus and restore any system files and drivers needed, but any deleted files that got over written will most likely be irreplacable. This is one reason backups are so important.
  2. But what if nothing was erased? If no pictures, music, movies, etc were erased - how can you make a backup thats virus free, wipe the drive, and install the backup all while making the PC look like nothing ever happened? Usually when I wipe a drive I'm starting from scratch with a fresh install of windows. This guy is claiming that after they wipe the drive, they can make all the programs, pictures, preferences, and files be back to where they were before as if nothing ever happened. So if I brought my PC to them with 15 games, utorrent, dvd software, and my motorcycle as my background- they could wipe the drive and give my pc back with my 15 games, utorrent, dvd software, and motorcycle background to me as if it was untouched. How can they do that if they don't have the installation disks for my software or know what/where my directories and hidden files are?
  3. Best answer
    I would ask them as I don't see this as being possible. even with no deleted files you would need to backup all registry files, program files, data,... basically a comlete image or clone of the drive. As you stated, this would backup any virus files as well. I've managed to scrub some serious viruses from my system, but usually had to either restore some system files from the windows install CD or reinstall a few programs. Generally if I think the infection is that bad, I install from scratch.

    These days, I just do weekly backups as I can afford to lose a weeks worth of data and it's faster than installing from scratch.
  4. Thanks for your help. I didn't think it was possible either.

    On a related note, if I have a customers computer and it needs to be wiped - how do I reinstall windows without a windows install CD? A lot of PCs from big box stores don't come with the windows installation disk. Would you keep burned copies of the different versions of windows and use the installation code from the sticker that's on the back of the PC to have a "legitimate" copy of windows?
  5. I didn't say it's impossible, just that I find it highly unlikely.

    You can get a bootable ISO of windows (Vista and up, not sure about XP) on a USB drive, but you will need a valid license/COA from the user's PC.
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