Actually, what needs to be protected is your
data- documents, photos, saved .exe files, music, videos, etc.
Stuff that you want to keep because, well, you want to.
Program Files constitute the data stored by Windows for installed
applications. Saving (copying) those will offer no benefit in making the programs work on a system (or hard drive) that does not have the proper Registry entries to allow the programs to run. This is why they need to be 'installed' in the first place, and why more and more of us are in favor of "stand-alone" programs.
"Documents and Settings" are another matter. Copying almost all of a user profile and pasting it into another (see Microsoft: http://support.micro...m/?kbid=811151)
can allow transfer of system settings to another user account. It may
work to copy those to a new account created on a new install of Windows, I have not read about it being attempted.
The rest of "Documents and Settings" pertains to other user accounts, the system's configuration and data stored for use by and with installed programs- Application Data. I suppose I can see some potential benefit to having a copy of that info, but I do not.
My practice is to keep all of my data on an external hard drive. I then copy the entire contents of that drive to another periodically, so that I have duplicates of all my data files elsewhere than my local hard drive (C:).
Further, I allow ERUNT to make a Registy Backup each day at first boot, and image my local drive with Acronis True Image for restoration in case of disaster.
I'm glad that you are beginning to see the wisdom of keeping important data on a partition that does not include Windows itself.
If more people would do that, far fewer would lose their photos and music than do now.
Yes, move all personal data files off the Windows partition. Preferably to an external hard drive or flash.
Get free ERUNT: http://www.larsheder...nline.de/erunt/
and put it to work for you today.
Then begin the process of deciding on a drive imaging application.
Yes, there are free ones available- see Gizmo Richards: http://www.techsuppo...ing-program.htm
Once you have a Drive Image application working for you, you can really
"Never Re-install Windows Again:" http://www.techsuppo...rd-drives-3.htm