Clarify Technical Services - Tip #4

Creating laptop style auto-recovery discs for desktop computers.

Applies to: All x86 pc's and all operating systems
Last updated: Saturday November 12, 2005


Often once a pc has been installed from scratch, it doesn't take long for the end user to get things a bit messed up. Wouldn't it be nice if we could give them a CD or DVD disk that they could put into the optical drive and boot from that would automatically put the system back to the same state it was in when we gave it back to them? Laptop computers have been doing this since the beginning and major system builders such as IBM, Dell, HP, and Compaq are also doing this for desktop pc's. The most common way to do this is using Symantec's Norton Ghost. This program is easily available for about $80.00 at most major retailers and is a sound investment. Norton Ghost will create an image file of the system which can later be used to restore the system. The magic in automating this procedure is in the scripts and batch files used to create a bootable CD/DVD containing the image files. I have created an image file of a bootable diskette which can be used to create a bootable CD/DVD just for this purpose. You can download this from my site and use the info and files contained in the .zip file to help do this yourself.

This system has been tested with all operating systems from DOS to WinXP Professional, as well as FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS file systems. It will also work with raw unpartitioned and unformatted IDE hard drives.

If you require a more in depth explanation of the process, or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I this process does not serve your needs or specific requirements, a custom procedure can be written for you to accommodate network rollouts, external devices, as well as custom configurations.

Download the file here -


  1. Create an image file of the computer using Norton Ghost being sure to save the file as image.gho. This can be done to another hard drive, to a mapped network drive, or an external drive. You can also take the hard drive out of the machine and install it as a secondary drive in another machine and create the ghost image that way. It is ok to allow spanning if required, just configure Ghost to auto name the span image files. They will be image001.ghs, image002.ghs, etc. Make sue the span files are small enough to fit the optical media you intend to use. I recommend 650 meg for CD’s. Make sure you perform an integrity check on the image files to make sure they are valid.
  2. Create a bootable CD/DVD using either the GhostRecovery.img file as your bootable source or use Rawwritewin.exe to create a bootable floppy diskette to use as the source. Make sure Ghost.exe and the image.gho files are on the CD. If all image files and ghost.exe can fit on a single CD or DVD that will work as well. Be sure to verify data when burning the disk.


    Roxio can use the .img file as it's bootable source, however Nero requires a diskette.

  3. Test the recovery disk on the system for which it was made. I will often temporarily swap the hard drive with another raw drive for this step. This will accurately simulate replacing a failed hard drive. Make sure you thoroughly test the recovered system.