A) Why take the time and effort to create Image Backups:
The object is to protect your existing installation of Windows 8.1 and evaluate Windows 10 over the coming months:
Image Backup concepts:
All backups will be made from the Windows 8.1 environment and backup restoration / drive recovery will be made from a bootable recovery disk.
An Image Backup is the key to preserving your investment in Windows 8 or 8.1: Dual booting with a drive image backup and data backup strategy for Windows 8 / 8.1 will provide a layer of protection. The object is not to lose your Windows 8.1 operating system, applications and data files. To quickly recover should the installation of Windows 10 preview fail and to be able to easily remove Windows 10 if and when you so choose to do so. I’ll show you what you need to know in order to survive any catastrophes that may occur by providing a detailed look at backup strategies, recovery procedures and how to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview alongside Windows 8.1 to create a dual boot computer.
One such backup would be an image of the entire hard drive before you start preparing the drive prior to installing Windows 10. A number of computers with Windows 8 or 8.1 preinstalled include a recovery partition (which may or may not have a drive letter assigned) and may also have a Utility partition (not shown in the examples below) and a 100MB or larger System Partition located at the very front/beginning of the drive. The recovery/utility partitions can vary in size from one manufacture to another, as small as 10GB or as large as 50GB.
A complete backup of the entire drive (all partitions) is the recommended type of backup and is the type of backup I will be creating.
Another type of backup would be just the System and Windows 8.1 partition, usually called a “system backup” as it only includes the System and Windows 8 / 8.1 partition.
Yet another backup would only include the Windows 8.1 partition, more typically performed prior to when you install or remove software. You can also create a scheduled backup of the Windows 8.1 (C:) partition. An example would be to schedule a “Full” backup of the Windows partition every Monday (or any other day of the week) as the basis for creating “Incremental” backups (backups up only changed files on the C: partition) on Tuesday through Sunday at the time of day you select. Just remember to turn on your external USB prior to the scheduled time.
These 3 types of backups will allow you to revert to your pre Windows 10 drive configuration (single boot / Windows 8.1 or 8.0 only) should you choose to do so. Note: For the upcoming installation of Windows 10 I will be using EaseUS Todo backup free edition version 8.0 which has already been installed on my Windows 8.1 Solid State Drive (SSD), for those of you using other backup software the backup software should be installed in Windows 8 / 8.1 and the "Drive Image" created from the Windows 8.1 environment before you make any partition changes and or installing Windows 10.
Each of the Image Backup software applications listed below will backup and restore (restore when using their “Recovery DVD”) both your Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 partitions. The choice of which backup software is yours (Windows Backup and Restore is not recommended) however I suggest one of the following four products:
1. Acronis True Image 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (2014 / 15 supports Windows 7, 8 and 8.1) Install Acronis and then create a bootable Restore/Rescue Media CD before you start creating your first image backup: http://www.acronis.com/en-us/personal/pc-backup/ Note: Users who have Western Digital drive installed in their PC can use the free Acronis 2013 WD edition available on Western Digital’s download site.
1) First a baseline image backup of the entire Windows 8.1 drive will be created. 2) A second pre-Windows 10 baseline image backup of the entire drive will be created after you have shrunk the Windows 8.1 partition, which is required to create space for use when installing the Windows 10 preview. This second baseline will be used as a starting point prior to installing Windows 10. 3) Finally after Windows 10 is installed a backup of your dual boot PC’s drive will be created. You should consider creating separate scheduled image backups of just the Windows 8.1 partition on a daily basis. You can schedule a “Full” backup once per week with a daily “Incremental” or “Differential” backup.
Document backups: Obviously you will continue to use Windows 8.1 while evaluating Windows 10. This means you will day by day continuously add more data files (Documents, Photos, Music, Etc) when using Windows 8.1. Most image backup software include a “File and Folder” backup option which you can use to perform scheduled (daily option is recommended) backups of your documents.