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Review: Five Recovery Apps Bring Your PC Back From The Dead

"Bare-metal recovery" is a term used by system administrators to describe the process of wiping a computer clean and restoring it to life from a total system backup. Sometimes it's the only way to get things running again, especially if you don't have the time to reinstall Windows the conventional way.

Restoring from a full-system backup has a lot of other advantages over a traditional reinstall: You don't have to reinstall applications, restore user data or accounts, or perform tricky end-runs around the system to do things like recover protected data. Everything comes back in one fell swoop.

Five Recovery Apps

•  Introduction

•  Acronis True Image

•  Image for Windows

•  Norton Save And Restore

•  Paragon Drive Backup

•  R-Drive Image

•  Conclusion

•  Full Backup Gotchas

Bare-metal recovery is also one of the biggest features missing from Windows itself. There's no native way to make a system-wide backup and then restore it in one step if things go wrong. Granted, Windows has some nice incremental recovery options (System Restore comes to mind), and a decent file-and-directory backup tool, but no built-in way to restore everything at once. Sure, Microsoft has promised a full system-recovery function in Windows Vista, but upgrading to Vista is still a long way off for many people -- and for some it's not an option at all. What can we do now about the problem?

To that end, a number of third-party software makers have stepped in and provided software solutions of their own. In this round-up, I review five of them -- from Symantec's latest revision of Norton Ghost (now Norton Backup and Restore) to the light but useful Image for Windows. All of these applications have the basic ability to back up and restore an entire system disk without needing to boot to Windows, and can restore to and from a variety of backup media -- usually attached hard drives or CD/DVD-Rs.

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