What is the best backup and restore solution for testing out software?

John Ward July 16, 2011

I like to visit MakeUseOf and install a lot of recommended software on my Windows system. I don’t have a good solution implemented to backup before the install and restore after playing around with the software.

What does everyone recommend? A true backup and restore, a go-back type of application, or a virtual sandbox application?

  1. Bruce Epper
    July 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

    If you are using Windows 7, you can create a multi-boot system by using the VHD boot capability built into Win7.  On my system, I keep clean, completely up-to-date VHD files for both 32-bit and 64-bit Win7 systems as well as 2 more VHD files that have debugging tools installed that I use as a base system for testing software.  By doing this, all I need to do is copy the 32-bit or 64-bit clean testing VHD file to a new VHD file and use BCDEdit to add another entry in my boot menu for the new test environment.  The advantage of doing this over using a virtual environment is that it directly utilizes the system hardware instead of an abstraction layer.  This is REQUIRED if you are testing anything that wants direct hardware access and will give you a more accurate test bed for anything that uses its own custom drivers.

  2. Mike
    July 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    At work I use a VirtualBox machine with a "clean snapshot" which I always keep up to date. Basically it's a clean Windows with all updates and the very basic things like the .NET Frameworks, Java, etc installed. 

    After the Windows, Update and Framework installation I created a snapshot (of the clean system) which I always revert back to after testing several tools and applications.

    Once a month or so I run Microsoft Update and then create a new "clean snapshot".

    At home I just use one of my spare computers. It's pretty much the same setup as with VirtualBox just on an actual hardware and instead of snapshots (which are only available in VMs) I created a Hard Disk image with Parted Magic.

    Of course I don't roll back to the "clean state" as often as I do with the Virtual Machine since restoring the image takes 15-20 minutes.


  3. Anonymous
    July 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Try Acronis true image or clone zilla to make a backup of clean windows then Install Virtual PC:

    Also you have to make the backup of virtual system since can also be corrupted:
    At the image level, perform backups periodically for Windows, At the file level, perform backups once a day.this will help you to Restore a VCB image of your virtual machine.

    When testing software best to track changement that they do in registry, try SYStracer


    Windows Virtual PC

    Once your VM is up and running, you should isolate it’s connection to your local area network

    To this in a Windows 7 VM:
    1.Click the network icon in the system tray and click Open Network and Sharing Center.
    2.In the left-hand menu, click Change adapter settings.
    3.Right click each network connection and click Disable.
    4.Verify the connection is disabled:
    5.Now open Internet Explorer and verify you truly have no internet connection by attempting to browse to any webpage: