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How to backup and restore your netbook

Duplicate your OS, updates, apps, documents, the lot

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Having a small-capacity solid-state drive in your netbook may be limitation but it has one advantage: it's easy to back up. We don't mean copying a few files over to a safe place, but duplicating the entire drive, operating system and all, ready to drop it all back on if the worst comes to the worst.

PCs often come with recovery disks that you can use to place a fresh copy of the OS and pre-loaded apps back onto a freshly formatted drive. With some free, open source tools, you make one of your own, for your netbook. It'll work whether you use Linux or Windows XP, and whether your machine has a hard disk or a solid-state drive.

Asus' old Eee girl

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We use PING - which stands for Partition Image Not Ghost, a reference to Norton Ghost, a commercial disk duplication app - but it requires an external CD drive to boot from. So we've also included details of a second tool, which you can install on a USB Flash drive.

PING comes from WindowsDream here. Make sure you download the "community edition", which is the free version. It's a 22MB .iso file you burn to CD or DVD. Connect your optical drive to your netbook, put the disc and and start up the computer. You'll need to access the machine's boot menu, if it has one - ESC on an Eee PC; F12 on an Acer Aspire One, for instance - or enter the Bios setup screen and make sure your optical drive is at the top of the list of devices the computer can start up from.

PING loads up through a small Linux kernel. When it's ready, it'll tell you to press Enter to start. The screens that follow guide you through either backing up or restoring your system, but the process isn't perhaps as clear as it might be, so we'll walk you through it. PING also lets you back up to a network store, which we won't cover here, but isn't so very different from archiving your netbook on a USB hard drive or Flash stick.

PING

After an introduction screen, PING asks you what it should do when the backup process is complete: restart, shutdown or go to the command line. Use the arrow keys to highlight the reboot option and hit Enter. You'll next be asked whether you'll be backing up over the network or locally - select the 'Local disk/partition' entry and hit Enter.

PING

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