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Q&A

Can a Windows 7 installation be restored by simply restoring all its files?

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I'm looking for a reliable and easy backup and restore system for the OS on a Windows 7 laptop (more details below).

If I were to boot it to an external drive and back up all the files on the hard disc, could I later restore the same files (preserving the directory structure) and be sure that Windows would boot from the restored files?

I believe it should work in theory, but I don't want to fall foul of some copy-protection mechanism or other quirk. For instance, if the operating system is somehow affected by one file's physical location on the disc, it might work fine one time but fail when it's needed.

Background
The copy of Win 7 is licenced but there is no install DVD. It is a clean install, recently performed by a local computer shop. I'm only looking to back up the OS and minimal settings.

My preferred option is to boot a live Linux distribution from an external drive and include a simple script that restores the original boot sector and partition table and returns the main partition to its pre-backup state. Then it would be almost a point-and-click reinstall for the user.

One (possibly more reliable) alternative would be to use dd to copy the entire disc and restore it the same way, which I have tried but it takes a long time. It also takes a lot of space, even if compressed. Hence I'm considering backing up only the files and being prepared to recreate and format the partition if needed.

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No, at least not in a straightforward and simple manner (1 comment)

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