A quick, clean solution with advantages for future work

The improvement in System Restore in Windows 7 is the ability for almost all versions to take a "snap shot" of those pieces necessary to do a full restore without having to shut down and run a standalone utility. This not only opened the door for better recovery within Windows, it opened the door to third party utilities that can do even more and do it faster and easier.

<div>I do not work for any of these companies (in fact, I do not work. I've been disabled since 2003) so my comments are based solely on my knowledge and experience.

One of the tools I discovered is Macrium Reflect whose free version does everything you NEED to do. CNET has reviewed it and gave it high ratings. I am not a wealthy person, but I longed for SSD performance. My budget meant that would have to max out at 80GB so I installed windows so my "Users" and "Program Data" (a hidden folder) are on a separate drive. So is a lot of other data. With Windows recovery I am limited to making "a backup of everything required to restore your system" which includes a ton of stuff that isn't required to restore your system. There are some things in your AppData folder that might bite you, but they rarely bite hard. Meanwhile you end up dedicating a large amount of storage to data that isn't changing. With the free version of Reflect I can back up any partition I choose (the paid version gives you control to folder level). This means that my backups are images (reflections) of Windows, programs and the other essential software and settings to run the computer. In the event of a full recovery, my data does not get stepped on so you won't wonder why you didn't backup your Outlook files. There are many advantages to putting "Users" on a different partition, even if its the same spinning platter.

<div>I keep a little log in the same folder as my reflections of things I install, uninstall, update, whatever. Every few months when my machine is dragging due to Windows leftovers and lost pieces, I restore my system reflection and do the installs and updates again. Then I make a new system reflection. I keep three generations and archive my first "clean install" backup forever. Each generation moves from one storage medium to another so I don't get blindsided by an internal or external drive failure. Every time I've this little restore I've wondered why I didn't do it sooner. We adjust to inefficiency as it occurs and aren't really sure how fast our computer really was before BSODs and frozen system became de rigueur. I have a "clean install" without the problem of registering my application

software or activating Windows all over again. My system recovery is only about 50 GB.</div>
The free version allows you to build rescue media with whatever environment you choose, but I think the easiest is WAIK (windows standard). It also supports GPT partitions so as you become more comfortable with it, you can take it with you to Windows 8.