Giving or receiving a PC as a Christmas present? Take an image of the drive first

Some quick advice for those of you about to open up new PCs bought for Christmas (for that matter, the advice is equally applicable whatever the occasion)… avoid the temptation to dive straight in and have a play. Instead, take an image of the hard drive as it arrived from the factory – yes, you can always use the manufacturer’s instructions to return the machine to a restored state but this can take a long time (as I found a few weeks back when I succumbed to temptation and had a play with my Lenovo Idea Pad S10e before imaging it!).

As I write this, I’m setting up a new Dell notebook for someone (an Inspiron 1525) and the first key I pressed (after the power button) was F2 to go into the BIOS. Here I changed a couple of settings (boot order and numlock key state), then booted again with F12 for the boot menu to use my device of choice (floppy disk drive, USB drive, or PXE network boot) to boot to my image capture software of choice (Symantec Ghost, Windows Deployment Service, you name your poison) and take an image of the entire drive (not a partition).

Following this, I can can configure the device as intended (remove the crapware, install some AV software, install an Office suite, etc.) and then take another image when I’m done.

Of course, for corporate deployments it’s normal to blow away the manufacturer’s image and install something more appropriate to the organisation’s requirements but, for home and small business users, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the factory-supplied build and this might just save you some time if you ever need to return to square one.

3 thoughts on “Giving or receiving a PC as a Christmas present? Take an image of the drive first


  1. Actually, I feel there is a need in larger corporations as well.

    In the company I work at, I’ve recently introduced the practice of making an image per model when the first one arrives.

    This has become part of our life cycle. That way, at the end of the corporate life cycle we can wipe the disk, reimage the machine, overwriting any left (encrypted) content of the hard disk with the original image, and send it home with an employee for personal use (with a legit Windows installation).


  2. Here here!

    just thought I’d share a quick story about returning to factory defaults

    When we sell HP PC’s we are always given the option to create boot discs with an image on. The PC’s also have a hidden partition with the default image on as well and you can fire up the restore process during the boot process

    We always create the discs though and/or take our own image. What happens if the drive fails?

    Anyway one of the PC’s in question was having some major problems so the decision was made to return it to factory defaults

    The engineer who went to site used the built-in, hidden partition method to get the system up and running

    Once the restore process was complete we had all sorts of problems getting it setup, we couldn’t even get office to load properly

    A week later we were back on site restoring from the discs we’d created and it’s been fine since

    The lesson we learnt was not to rely on an image we know nothing about!


  3. Sander and Andy – you make some good points – and I’m glad I’m not alone on this one.

    (Happy Christmas guys – and thanks for all your regular comments and links on this blog.)

    Cheers, Mark

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