I've just did a fresh, clean install of Vista with all my apps. I'd like to back up this hard drive so if anything ever goes wrong I'll be able to start right here and not re-install everything. What is the best way to do this? Make an image of the hard drive? The hard drive is 100G, but I'm only using 45G of it. I'd rather not make an 'exact copy' of all the blank space (which is what all the clone programs do), but would rather end up with a 45 or 50G image.. Self executable would be the best (plug up the hard drive, double click the self executable image, and it installs itself on your system drive).. Possible? or is there a better way?
For the sake of HDD longevity, it's best to write the image file to a second HDD -- to prevent thrashing of the read/write armature on the HDD that hosts the C: partition.
We always size XP's C: partition around 20-30GB, and allocate the remainder of that spindle to a data partition.
Then, we write our drive image files to all partitions on a second HDD; and, when that's done we copy the newly written image file back to the data partition on the primary HDD.
From direct experience with GHOST (formerly PowerQuest's DRIVE IMAGE software) the restore environment may not see every partition on your system, particularly if a partition is on a HDD that needs a custom device driver to access.
So, to be safe, we copy our latest drive image file to every discrete XP drive letter on our system.
HDDs have become so huge and so cheap, this policy is not a burden.