Making a system image
I have done this twice before, but did not write about it. Windows Backup provides an option to make a system image of the C: drive, and optionally of other drives. This system image is the simplest and safest way I have found to restore my system after a catastrophic drive crash. I have done it once before, and it worked well. My regular backups do preserve the data, but rebuilding from scratch is a big project even if the source material is available.
To do this, you bring up the Backup program and click on the left side..."Create a System Image." I put these images on drive U: and right now, there is an image I created 3/21/2012. There should be room for another snapshot, but there is a warning that old system images might be overwritten. That is ok, because what is there now is pretty old, but I wonder why it does that when these is room left. Maybe it needs contiguous space.
Creating a new disk from the image can be done using a bootable system recovery disk, which I have in my physical DVD files.