A while ago I started messing around with Partimage.
Partimage is a simple to use piece of backup software which takes a snapshot of a partition and saves it as a file.
The hard disk on the machine I use has a straightforward set of partitions –
Partition 1 contains the Windows Restore files that came installed on the machine.
Partition 2 contains the boot sector.
Partition 3 contains Windows 7.
Partition 4 is an extended partition and contains the Linux install with Swap, Root and Home in their separate partitions.
Naturally to benefit from Partimage you will need an external drive, either networked or USB drive. I would also highly recommend Ultimate Boot CD (which contains Partimage) for the event that a partition becomes corrupted and the machine becomes unbootable.
When I started experimenting with Partimage, I created backups of the first three in the list above with a view to combining 2 and 3 as one partition and doing a standard Windows install. I abandoned that as there were too many specific drivers required for the machine and it was a lot simpler to leave things as they were. I rarely use Windows anyway.
A few weeks ago I had a problem with this machine – "No Operating System found". I tried all the usual tricks but nothing worked. Then I remembered my experimental backup, so I ran Ultimate Boot CD and reinstated the boot partition from my USB drive. The restore itself took a matter of seconds and the machine was fixed.
This morning, the same problem occurred – "No Operating System found". I knew what to do this time and was up and running in a minute or two.
It just goes to show the value of backups.
They are the difference between a working PC and an expensive brick!