How should I back-up the data before a windows re-install? Omitted files when copying C drive


I wonder how to make sure I backed up all files before whiping out C and re-install Windows (factory reset).

I have taken best of care to copy my documents, photos etc. to an external drive. However there is no way I can exclude the possibility that there may be somewhere some files I may need. For example, right after I thought I was done, I found a folder on C where some game had put the saved game files. So I might have lost these if I had not seen them because they were in an unsual location on the drive.

One obvious option seems to be to simply copy the whole system drive (and any other partitions). However, when I do so by ctrl+c and +v (copy and paste), Windows copies far less data volume (in GB) than is on the drive. It seems it systematically omits some files. Maybe these are unimportant system files, but I am not sure.

Hence my question: how should I backup my data before factory reset to make sure I got everything (beyond those things I can easily copy manually)?

Edit in response to @JourneymanGeek: I found this Technet link where the author states it is very problematic to launch a vhd on the same system it images. If that is true a disk image does not seem to be a good solution after all.

Best Answer

  • Just image the whole drive - it'll backup everything, and most decent imaging software should let you do some flavour of compression. You can then mount the drive directly and get files off.

    There's a lot of different options but disk2vhd seems like the 'simplest' option since modern versions of windows support VHD natively. The image would take the space taken up by the contents of the drive and you can grab files off it at leisure. I don't think there's any compression option but the ease of mounting makes up for it.

    Likewise, most decent backup software would let you mount a backup. I've used macrium reflect free for this, but acronis or any other common backup software that does images would let you do this too.