Thanks guys. I may check out the http://easeus.com/
option that Luis mentioned. I've seen some reviews for it recently. My need is definitely for imaging software, and I do like the idea that I can mount the Easeus image without having to restore the image first (presumably to restore selected files?). I don't use a file server (yet). This is all on a single primary workstation with several physical drives and multiple partitions. Nothing is on the C: drive except Windows and application data for Email (Thunderbird) and my browser (Firefox). Ironically, those were the most painless to reinstall. LOVE those applications!
I have eight Seagate 7200 rpm Barracuda raw drives (1.5 terabytes each) which I can use in my ESATA Hard Drive dock just like they were cartridges. So I thought that I could either CLONE my drives or IMAGE them to the external hard drives in a rotation. One of them will be moved off the premises. Then if my primary drive ever fails again, I can simply switch to the clone or restore the image and all of my applications and O/S will be up and running instantly. You haven't lived til you tried to find all of the install files (or in a few cases, CDs) for more than 100 applications (assuming you can remember WHAT the applications were that you had installed). And then you have to apply all subsequent updates. A nightmare to be sure. It took more than an hour yesterday just to download the updates from Quickbooks that had been published since my install file.
Another issue is trying to REMEMBER what you have to reinstall. Things I use every day are no problem. But there are LOADS of utilities and other useful applications that I don't want to lose. David Blankenship suggested a very simple thing that I am now doing: I am doing a DIR of my C:\Programs folder and directing it to a file and saving that with my File by File backups. (I printed a copy as well.) This way, I have an easy list of all installed programs, with a few exceptions (like BR) which aren't actually "installed". This is a huge timesaver. Another thing I'm doing is saving the contents of my DESKTOP folder in another place so I can see what desktop shortcuts were on the desktop. I have always saved every single downloaded program (I don't buy much on CDs or DVDs anymore) into it's own folder inside of my downloads folder. I have a spreadsheet with my license codes for the software. These things are helping me reinstall my applications.
All "My documents" folders and user folders were backed up as well, so I really had all critical things backed up. But I have 100+gb of photos, and as much video that has to be restored from my backup. What I learned from this (and I hope some of YOU learn, if you haven't already) that it's not just the good backup that you need. No matter how many good File-by-File backups you have - local or offsite, if you don't have an image or a clone of your boot drive, then the process to get all of those applications and data files back online, can still effectively put you out of business for a while.
It's been a solid week that I've been reinstalling Windows, application programs and downloading my backups over the internet (splitting the job between two machines simultaneously). I still have another week to go before I can recover everything. A local image of my drive would have made this process painless and fast.
-- Susan, much smarter now...