I just bought all the parts to build a new computer and I'm putting them together right now. Next step is gonna be installing Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and I'd like to make a backup copy of that fresh install, in case something goes wrong in the future or maybe if I just wanna go back to a clean Windows installation after a while.
Currently I'm thinking of using the "Create a system image" option in the Backup and Restore category from the Control Panel, right after I finish the installing Windows. I've read that this tool creates a .VHD backup of the disk where Windows is installed but I have a couple of questions about using this method:
How big is gonna be the resulting backup? If I installed Windows in a 120GB partition is the backup system image gonna be 120GB in size or is just gonna be ~30GB-ish i.e. the size of Windows system files and folders?
If I restore that system image after using the system for a while is it gonna wipe clean the whole partition and reset it to the state it was when I made the image or is it just gonna bring back the files and folders from the backup and leave alone any other files I had put in the partition?
easeus todo backup is also free and will run from within windows. its very easy to use and you can choose your compression level and can also mount the image in windows to retrieve files without actually restoring it.
generally if you are restoring a partition image the entire partition is wiped. If I need to do this I usually make another image, restore the original image, then mount the new image if I need to retrieve a file I forgot about.
Right after installing Win 7, updates, drivers and basic software (antivirus, PDF reader, etc.) and making sure everything worked fine I made a system image using Win 7 tool, stored the image in a external HDD and it took a little less than 30 GB in space.
Due to lack of time I wasn't able to thoroughly check your recommendations but their are noted, I'm planning on installing a bunch of application and experiment a little with them, so I'm really gonna need something more flexible than Windows integrated tools. Clonezilla and Todo backup seem pretty solid recommendations, definitely gonna check them out in the future. Also I read some really good thing about Macrium, maybe I'll give it a try as well.