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back up - a new strange novel experimentation

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Respected techs, geeks, nerds, and dear fellow friends,

In the past i have always taken a backup of my valuable data and content on my pc by invariably writing on to a cd be it R or RE.

However, the problem that always arose subsequently was that I always find it very time consuming when ever i have to format my hard disk or reload the operating system (i use windows xp) for various reasons (say too much spyware or virus intrusion, deletion by mistake say of system files etc etc).

But I was in the past never able to take say back up of windows xp or for that matter any other program which was installed on my computer.

Now before i proceed further to come to my problem / question on which ur valuable advice / suggestion is sought...I want to confirm that I understand the installation concept of programs properly...

First of all I am basically from field of finance and therefore have very very limited technical knowledge about internet computers and how it functions. I love internet and computers but as a total end user who is oblivious of what happens

Now to me installation of any program (say for example spybot search and destroy etc) means i download the SETUP box of that program from internet or a Cd and then double click (or run) that program to actually get it installed on my
computer to get it work. In some cases however the setup box is not available and we have to run from cd directly ( eg windows xp).

BUT i was wondering how do we take back up of say those programs which we have installed by double clicking but for which later on the corresponding setup box or cd is not available ???????????????????????????

I understand that if we have the original CD or say the setup box we can reinstall program innumerable times but what say if ur cd is misplaced after installation of program or say setup box gets deleted after installation of the program.

In that case how can i take a backup of such installed programs on my pc for which i have no setupbox or cd ???????????????????

I am asking this bcz of following reasons...

1. I have lost my windows xp original CD and fear what would happen if i ever have to format my hard disk or reinstall windows xp...

2. I have over last 3 years used many accounting software and financial softwares and although they are installed on my pc...their cd is misplaced or the setup box is not there...

3. Over the years i have worked in many organisations and had the privilege of having costly financial software programs being installed on my pc for work and would not want to lose them in future (and i have no CDs or setup boxes for them)...

4. If i wish to transfer all my data and installed programs to a new hard disk from my old hard disk which i am currently using and which sounds a lot...(and i fear it may crash some day)...

I know i have written a very very long story but I definitely appreciate ur time, effort and patience and would be really grateful if someone can throw some light as to how such issues are resolved and what is the easiest / best way to get
this around...

I know there are many knowledgeable and helping individuals on this forum and am sure someone will be kind enough to share his wisdom or experience....

Thanks again in advance...

Most sincerely,


sunandoghosh at rediffmail dot com


a. i use windows xp
b. i use nero for back up of my cd
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You're right, that was long...but well-explained worthy of a complete response, so I will do my best.

When you install a program on your computer, the setup routine places files in several locations--most in c:\program files\{progam name}, but some in c:\windows, some in c:\windows\system, some in c:\windows\system32, and possibly some in other locations in c:\documents and settings\{profile name}\application data and/or c:\documents and settings\{profile name}\local settings\application data.

But, the setup routine also writes files to a very important part of your computer called the registry--think of it as a database of everything on your computer.

Thus, it is incredibly difficult to "back up" a program, and it gets more so with each iteration of windows. Complicating factors include timestamps and a variety of copy protection schemes.

Complicating things further is the Windows Product Activation

As such, few software tools claim to be able to back up programs, and fewer still actually achieve positive results. One of the few that supposedly works well is PC Relocator, but even it notes it will only move MOST programs, and not all of them.

I have not used this program so I cannot vouch for it; a few programs I've used required they be installed BEFORE the programs, so they could record what the setup routine did. I do not see any mention of this for PC Relocator, so I am unsure of it's methodolgy.

Given your description--keep computer, change harddrive,-- there is another alternative and it is what I do in similar cases.

There are a variety of programs known as disk imaging programs, or "ghost" programs. Norton Ghost and Acronix True Image are two of the more popular ones.

This allows you to make a bit-by-bit, exact duplicate of your harddrive--more advanced features allow you to make a bit-by-bit copy, and then expand the disk volume to include the entire disk (or this can be done with a third party utility.

So, the process is to install the new drive next to the old drive, run the program, make the copy, remove the old drive. (basically--it's a little more complicated, or can be done make a disk image on a different media, remove old drive, then install new drive and restore to new drive.

Another alternative is to create a RAID and mirror your current disk to the new disk, and then use a third party utility to expand the volume at a later date.

Either way, it would be important that you do this before something goes wrong.
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