5. Configure your system.
Now we’re getting to the fun part. Aside from the backups, everything that we’ve done so far only needs to be done once. You only need to slipstream SP2 once. You only need to create the live CD once. Now it’s time to configure your operating system the way you want it. You have several choices here. You may like the operating system just the way it is right now. You may want to create a state in which you have only the major applications that you need. I chose to revert to a fresh install plus all the Windows updates and drivers that I need, tweaked just the way I like it. If you do not wish to go through a re-installation right now like I did, you should at least ensure that you are preserving a sane, healthy environment. Scan for viruses and spyware. Defrag. Remove any applications that you don’t want. Do all the little maintenance tasks that you wish. I leave it to you to discern what is best.
6. Create the “hot” image.
If you have not already done so, install DriveImage XML. As an alternative, you could boot from your new live CD and create the image from there, but note that this will probably take significantly longer than running directly within Windows booted from your hard drive. Using DriveImage XML is actually quite simple. Once launched, click “Backup” on the left side. Select the drive or partition that you want to image and then follow the included wizard. Choose a destination to save the image. This does not have to be saved to a different drive or partition, though you may find it more convenient to do so if you have one available. Though it slows the image creation process slightly, I suggest enabling the “compression” option, as this can reduce the size of the image as much as 40%. Only select the “Raw mode” option if you want to create an exact copy of everything on your drive, including all the empty space. With that option enabled, you will not be able to alter the size of partition to which you want to restore. Most people will not need this. “Split large files” means that each chunk of data will fit on a CD.
When you’re ready, start creating your image. This may take a long time, depending on how much data there is to archive. My freshly-installed system with all updates and drivers plus a few critical applications compressed to about 3 GB, and it took almost exactly thirteen minutes to complete. Not bad at all. [See full screenshot]
7. Archive the new image.
At this point, you should consider backing up your new image to some form of external media. This is an absolute necessity if you only have a single hard drive or partition. For my purposes, I used a single DVD-R. I labelled it “Fresh Install” and I can use it in conjuction with my BartPE live CD. An external hard drive would also work nicely for this, but make sure that it works with BartPE *before* you find yourself in a disaster-recovery scenario. Leaving the image on a second internal drive or partition should be ok as well, though I encourage you to eventually copy it to some form of external media.
Now that you have your backup, let’s talk about how to restore it.