I was in your position about a year ago and did numerous tests of various programs out there, and finally settled on Macrium Reflect
free edition. I set it up by using an extra 250gig hard drive installed in my box and dedicating it exclusively to image backups. I keep at least 4 backups and backup weekly. I have found it to be fast and a well laid out interface. With the first use it will urge you to create an emergency restore disk, so be sure to do it. One really nice thing is that if you enter your backup drive and click on any of the images saved there, MR will create a virtual partition with that image with your whole C: drive in Explore structure; you can drag and drop any program or data file onto your desktop and there it is from 4 months ago. So you are saving all your data files that are immediately accessible anytime as well as your entire drive if you want to totally reimage, with each image you make. Really nice.
The thing about backup utilities is that they all create a backup with no problem; many people don't test beyond that. The acid test is to re-image your drive in an emergency, that is where many fail miserably. For example, I purchased Acronis Trueimage 11 (in the past) and it made wonderful backups. The first time I had a major system crash with a corrupted partition and tried to re-image it wouldn't read its own images. Two days I sat in front of my computer trying to get Trueimage to work. I finally went to the Acronis website and found lots of others with the same problem, and no word from Acronis. They hid under the bed. And I have had that problem with other backup utilities also.
Whatever you decide to do, always dedicate a separate hard drive, either external or installed internally, for your backups. Never put your backups on the same HD that contains your operating system. If that drive fails mechanically you are up a creek without a paddle.