"To clarify, neither option would give me a "plug and play" in the event of a hard drive failure?"
No. You would first have to run the restore process with whatever program created the backup or the image before you could boot into that copy of Windows.
"An image is a "snapshot" of the whole drive at the time of the procedure and restoring it would result in putting everything back in place exactly as it was at that time?"
Yes, after restoring, everything would be exactly as it was when the image was created.
"A full back up accomplishes the same thing except it gives me an option to select files to restore which coule be some or all files?"
You would still be able to select only certain files or folders from an image if that's all you need to do, provided you are able to run Windows, because Drive Image has a Windows feature called "Image Explorer" which allows you to do this. An ordinary backup program does not allow this as far as I know, so creating an image is the best option all round.
If you want to be able to restore an image with all your programs and settings intact, then you simply need to create an image AFTER all your programs are installed and your settings are in place. Of course, you need to be aware that such an image file will be considerably larger than one which is simply an image of a fresh, minimum Windows install with no other programs present.
"Does Windows automatically back up periodically or is this a procedure that I need to initiate?"
You need to perform backups regularly yourself if using the built-in Windows Backup, but you can download backup utilities which can be scheduled to perform backups automatically at specified times (provided you leave the PC running, of course). Just google "Automated Backup" to find these utilities. Windows only runs automatic backups of the Registry, and System Restore points are automatic too, but that won't back up anything except Windows system files.
Edited by pip22, 23 December 2006 - 04:03 PM.