Backing Up Win XP, in order to reformat

Posted: June 22, 2006 in How To

Lot's of Windows users frequently run into a slow operating system eventually, so we'll go over a "how-to" on how to backup your Winxp and save as much as you can. I'll try to stick with free software if possible, (or trial software) and see if we can get the same result. I will walk through these steps on my test laptop, and if I come across errors I will post, please do the same. 🙂

I have to note before hand, that by doing this , it WILL ask you to re-activate windows, so if your using a hacked, bittorented, borrowed umm a copy which you no longer have around, your going to need a new cd-key, which you can find online at buy on, ahem, your going to have to purchase another copy (yeah right) or find your original cd-key (located on the pamplet fold out that came in the box). You could always use a "borrowed" copy but "I don't recommend it".

1. Download trueimage trial located HERE

install it of course…

it says its only limitations are a 15 day trial, which works for us since we'll only need it for an hour or so.

2.Download VMware trial as well located HERE

Use a junk email account, and register, (these days you never know who they sell your email to), they send you a link with a key code.

download and install.

3. Fire up Trueimage and backup your whole hardrive that has your OS (if you don't know what OS stands for you shouldn't be doing this in the first place). Trueimage it will allow you to restore to a hardrive smaller than the original disk, which can come in handy. Backup the image to a external HDD, or internal HDD but seperate partition.

[Alternatively] You could partition your primary HDD, and slam your data into the partition, but this doesn't work in the same fashion, since were trying to backup applications in their working state as well. Thats a whole other topic though.

4. Startup VMware, and install to a directory on the external HDD, or the other partition where your data is located, basically any directory/drive than the one you are about to reformat. You are going to need to run it after youv'e wiped your C: drive, which is why we need it located somewhere else. KEEP THE CD-KEY and information handy, you will need it later on, so write it on a pad of paper, or print it out.
5. Create a virtual harddisk slightly larger than your C: drive, so that it can hold the contents of your C: drive. Always add a safety margin, usally 4gb should do. Tell VMWare to create the new virtual disk with the capacity you have deducted. You don't have to pre-allocate the space but it will make things a lot faster.

Now at this point, I haven't gone farther on my end, ( I just perform the backups "in case") but here's what should come next in your scenario…

Create a boot disk from VMware, should be under options, or Recovery. Or if this is not an option with the trial, start a recovery session from VMware, it may need to reboot. One the Recovery session has started, point it to the image you created earlier (the backup of your whole HDD), and restore the image to the VM.

Now this should take some time depending on the size of your HDD, and the amount of data being restored, so go eat, or play a game on another computer, or watch pr0n, I don't care…

When you come back from pr0n, eating, err whatever you were doing, you should be able to take the CD out and boot the VM from the restored C: drive. As long as you didn't encounter any errors, your system will come up in VMWare, and will bitch about your hardware not being present and having found new devices, blah blah blah. You can ignore these messages for now.

When you get into the virtualized XP installation, change the virtual computer's name, because you can't have two machines with the same Windows computer name on the same network. Right-click My Computer>Properties, and click the Change button on the Computer Name tab. Give it a new name, and "Ok" on the boxes. Do NOT reboot yet, even though you will be prompted. Go ahead and install VMware tools…(yes again) This will install the proper drivers for your virtual hardware. You will be prompted to reboot, and now it's ok to.

When the system comes back, adjust the screen resolution to your liking. Handle any of the hardware installation boxes that pop up (remember if you just backed up your entire HDD, your original drivers are still on there as well) So install all those as well. Now I have to add here in bold: GAMES will not backup properly but most likely were not doing all this because of a game, were doing this for safety and to preserve reinstallation of apps like photoshop, or I dunno your custom database templates, whatever.

6(?) Now go ahead and reinstall Winxp the normal way, just be sure to leave alone the drive you slammed all your data to, otherwise you'll end up deleting all the shit you jsut saved. Once your back into Windows, install all drivers and all that good stuff, open the VM you created in the previous step, and boot it. If it works, everything's great. If things did not work out, you can still boot your physical computer from your backup software recovery CD and restore the backup you've created earlier. At this point, networking should be up and running between the new system you've just installed and your old XP installation in VMWare. Everything should be working now, give it a spin, if you have any issues let me know.


  1. Very amazing site! I wish I could do something as nice as you did…mary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s