Definition of Ghosting:
Ghosting, also referred to as Imaging, is the process of backing up the whole system drive(s) to an external disk. That is the OS drive and also possibly the Recovery drive. It is different from Backups in the sense that it does not only save the data files, but also all the system settings, installed programs and actually everything that is on the system. It should be done periodically (e.g., once a week). In case of problems with the system (e.g., a virus infection or the replacement of the hard disk) it enables you to recover the system from the ghost image – the last one or any earlier one if available. For that you also need a recovery CD. This CD boots from the optical drive (because your system is inoperable or non-existent in case of a disk replacement). For that you need to change the boot sequence in the BIOS to allow booting from the optical drive in lieu of the system disk partition. Ghosting programs that you buy as a boxed version, come with this recovery disk. The ones you download from the web, require that you burn the CD yourself.
There are basically 3 scenarios on how you can approach the subject:
1. The easy way
Buy yourself a Maxtor One Touch disk like this one ( http://www.newegg.com/product/.....C8Junction"). It contains all the Ghosting and file backup software, plus the recovery CD and it is really very easy to use. They also have a 250GB 2.5 inch model that I bought on black Friday for $50 and a 3.5 inch model with 640GBs that I saw on sale around Christmas 08 for $89. Once you set it up, and there are only 2 parameters to define, you can run it from a switch on the disk and don’t even have to load the program. My wife uses it on her systems and loves it. The other advantage is, their program also works with Seagate disks (Maxtor is part of the Seagate Company). So if you have a friend that has a Maxtor, you can load the program from there onto your system and run it with your Seagate disk (if you have one).
2. The cheapest way
There are a few programs on the web that do ghosting and are free. Macrium is one of them ( http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.asp ) Another one, but more complicated, is Clonezilla ( http://www.clonezilla.org/ ). The disadvantage of those is that you have to do some work (e.g., burn your own recovery disk).
3. The traditional way
There are a whole number of commercial programs out there that cost between $40 to $70. Norton Ghost and Acronis are the most prominent. I use Norton Ghost and it does a pretty good job. Here you have to make sure that you get a boxed version because that comes with the recovery CD – don’t download it from the web. Burning the CD can be a nightmare. A comparison of what’s on the market you can find here ( http://data-backup-software-re.....views.com/ )