Backing up PC data to DVD: Questions on Norton Ghost vs. simpler burning programs (Nero, RecordNow, etc.) and methods - disk image etc

Hi all. I have a few semi-philosophical questions. Would love your recs on how to handle these things…

I’m looking to do two things with my PC for backup to DVD:

  • create a disk image for recovery-of-everything purposes if ever needed
  • also back up files (like from MyDocuments, and mail .pst files) to DVD occasionally
    (I have an external hard drive for backup, still would like to burn occasional backup DVDs.)

Do you find it more useful to just use a good DVD-burning program (which do you like most for this?), or go with something fuller-fledged like Norton Ghost? (I like being able to see what files got moved where, not some kind of vague restore point b.s. where I wouldn’t be able to actually see files as plainly as you can when you drag and drop to an external hard drive.)

Forget incremental backups and stuff like that for a moment. I just got Ghost 14 (free after rebate for me), have yet to do anything with it. The first thing I’d like to do is move to DVD the files that are on my FAT-32-formatted external hard drive. (So that I can then reformat the external hard drive to NTFS before I do any more backups to it.)

In tinkering with Norton Ghost 14, it’s not readily apparent whether it’s going to burn a DVD such that it will look like the files were just dragged-and-dropped, vs. some sort of restore point wizardry or something that maybe I’ll only be able to get into as long as I have Norton Ghost. Also, you’re supposed to be able to do a disk image with this software, but it’s not readily apparent exactly how to. (I can browse around for more info on that part though.)

My Vaio has all sorts of DVD burning programs - for video/audio but not data. (There was an entry for Sonic’s “RecordNow!” software but that either didn’t actually come with the computer or for whatever reason isn’t currently installed. (There is some companion SonicStage stuff and Sonic Mastering Studio though.)

Consider this:
Any regular burning program (I use Ashampoo Burning Studio 7) will copy ALL of the files that the DVD will hold in their original uncompressed form. This is the same IMO as drag-n-drop. I use this method to archive all of my critical data, pictures and other material of this sort. I also make a “backup” on CD’s when the amount of data is much smaller. Music (I have a lot) is stored this way as well as MP3’s.
The alternative that I am using for my HD Drives is Acronis True Image 8. That’s not a misprint-it has just what I want. The Disc Clone feature works for most flavors of Windows and has served me well in doing upgrades and full drive copies. They are actually exact as far as my experience has gone. Version 11 Home has this feature. I am not a fan of Norton for drive programs. In fact, I have been involved with Ghost in the past and migrated quickly to Acronis.

You can also take a serious look at several burning solutions that are truly FREE. They will do what is needed to copy your data. I will strongly urge you to read the licensing information for ALL of the software tht you have on your Vaio. Then-remove every trace of all of them. I have a strong dislike for both Roxio and Nero products due to their long standing demand that one use their application specific d-n-d add ons. This has been part the the reason that some folks have difficulty recovering their machines. The only function you lose is their drag-n-drop and you have that in XP anyway. I cannot comment on Vista.
My philosophy has always been the adage that Simple is Better. My archives are very important to me and my family. We have multiple drives and media that contain a rich history. I urge those out there that are saving their “roots” this way to be extremely careful to insure that whatever software they use-it is compatible and forward looking. A drive or disc that cannot be read is useless.

Thanks for taking time to respond - that was really helpful! I’ll look into this approach.

If you have a moment, I’d love a little elaboration on this. I’m not 100% clear on the concept. Would this have an impact if I’m using the simple burn-a-data-cd option on Nero vs. using their ‘make a backup disk’ option, which is not so much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get burn?

Thanks.

Maybe I’m repeating myself somewhat here–
I have not enjoyed my use of either product due to conflicts with their implementation of drag and drop in DLA and InCD. I used to use the Veritas product and that too was very specific as to being installed on the target machine. Thus I have decided that any approach that requires one to use something that might conflict is dangerous to one’s data.
The simplest solution in my view is to use a program that allows one to create a list of files or a full copy of a drive and let the program work its magic. Backup discs can be compressed archives and that too can be less than ideal. Thus, I have a spare hard drive that is a bootable copy of the primary one. HDDs are cheap and easy to swap out. Acronis True Image 8 has the “cloning” feature I need and it allows me to copy files back to the primary drive at will. This to me is a better strategy than a compressed archive.
This is my view of the current state of computing backup. Others will want to use anything from Floppys, Pen Drives and CD/DVD storage for ease of carrying data from one place to another. That is also understandable. However, that is not a bootable-recovery solution. I do use pen drives and CD’s to transport files from machine to machine, but never to fully resotre-that is what the cloned drive does in my case. BTW: This works without complaint on ALL of my machines. Finally, Ashampoo’s Burning Studio does virtually everything one needs for making uncompressed, readable on most every machine copies of files. This applies as well to the Koyotesoft Bburning program.
Hope this helps with your choice of solutions.

I have used Boot It NG to copy drives and/or drive partitions. It is not completely free (shareware). The downside of it is that it is also a boot manager, and installs on a small partition it makes on your drive. I have used it several times, and then removed it with no problems.

I was going to also recommend PartImage, but NTFS support is listed as experimental.

There is also Clonezilla. I have not used this, but it looks promising.

Check out this wiki on disk cloning. There are many free programs listed. There should be no reason to buy any software. Many programs are intended to be run as boot disks, this way the hard drives are not being used when you are trying to clone them.