I hope I don't mess this up, as I'm going to try to respond to both Shawn and Hoody in the same post.
Thank you to both of you for your speedy and easy to understand replies. Hoody: I actually spent several years working on a bespoke software helpdesk with Users who had no interest in how the software worked, they just wanted to get on with their job. But I always had techies on hand to deal with the difficult hardware and OS questions. I hope I've found some friendly new techies here as I do inevitably have a few more questions and would appreciate comments from you both...
Specific questions are in red to make sure they don't get lost in my narrative
I noted the comments from both of you on using System Images (more below on this) but I do also like the idea of having the ability to revert to factory state in case all else fails (or I decide to give a laptop away lol).
I read the tutorial on creating the USB recovery drive using Windows (Is this the same as a WinPE boot disc mentioned by Hoody?).
At one point in the tutorial it states:
Later in the tutorial it states:This is not the same as an OEM factory recovery USB flash drive that is used to do a factory recovery/restore of your preinstalled Windows 8.
These seem to contradict one another. If I copy the recovery partition when creating this USB does this mean I am in fact creating the equivalent of an OEM factory recovery USB as well as a bootable USB?If you have a store bought OEM computer that came with Windows 8 preinstalled, then you could also check the Copy contents from the recovery partition to the recovery drive box to be able to use the recovery USB flash drive to do a factory restore/recovery of Windows 8.
If they are the same thing then I am thinking of replacing my current Dell Backup & Recovery (DBR) created Reinstallation USBs with new ones created through Windows. One reason for this is that I have not yet created any factory restore media through Dell and would need additional USBs to do this, while it seems that creating a recovery USB through Windows could give me everything I need in a smaller package (the USBs are 16gb). But would I be missing anything if I did not also have the Dell USBs? And BTW the USBs are FAT32 while Windows uses NTFS. Does this matter?
Actually I'm not sure whether I have created any factory restore media or not. I know I haven't used this specific option in DBR but my Reinstallation USB (called SYSRECOVERY - why can't people stick to the same terminology???) has the following on it:
Folders: Boot, EFI, Preload, Recovery
Preload includes folder Part0001 with file called Base.wim
Recovery includes folder WinRE with file WinRE.wim
Files: Autorun, Bootmgr, Bootmgr.efi, Master, Media
So to me this looks like it contains some sort of Windows Images. But the Dell site talks about creating this USB AND a factory image, and I can't find out what the difference is. Forum posts seem to use several terms interchangeably which makes it difficult for me to understand if they are talking about the same thing or something different sometimes.
And I am assuming that I can still create a factory backup despite the laptops now bearing no resemblence to their original factory state?
(I hope I haven't sent either of you to sleep yet )
Moving on to System Images.
Using a Custom System Image if I want to refresh the OS is something I will think about. I have read the tutorial and think it should be fairly simple to use my latest Image in this way - just need some discipline to remember to do it! In the past I have found the idea of throwing the laptop out of a window refreshing, shame it wouldn't have the same effect though.
I do actually have Macrium Reflect free and did create a bootable DVD with this and tried to create a System Image (this was Plan A after I read about problems with both Dell and Windows options). The plan was to alternate my backups between 2 external hard drives but unfortunately the System Image failed, I think because one hard drive is FAT32. I do still like the idea of having an alternative to Windows so am considering buying 2 new hard drives purely for backups and trying Macrium again. The idea would be to create System Images using both Windows and Macrium. Not quite as over-kill as hoody but definitely getting there!
I am assuming that I only need 1 Macrium bootable DVD that will work on both laptops - is this correct?
And do you have any other comments or advice on my plans?