"Prefer hardware" If by hardware you mean cd/dvd/hdd etc. then you need an image program like Acronis True Image, Ghost or similar, Acronis my choice.
If you have Windows 7 it has a built in image backup.
Once you have your pc set up the way you want and activated, create an image of the drive to an external hdd or dvd.
DVD is more permament, as hdd can break down, I don't recomend using a second partition, if the drive fails so does your backup.
Using Acronis you can make an image to dvd for security and using second hard drive, you can setup an auto backup at a given interval, ie; daily, weekly or monthly to create incremental backups that will alllow you to reinstal to the last backup.http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/