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File System Parameters
Doing a full backup of a disk volume will result in all of the files on the volume being backed up to the backup device that you choose. However, this only stores the files and whatever directory structures you use to store the files. It does not store the key file system information that controls the operation of your disks. Specifically I am referring to the master boot record, volume boot sector(s) and file allocation tables.
It is very useful to be able to preserve this information, however it is not accessible directly to conventional backup software. To backup this data, you need to use a utility that will capture this information and store it in a regular file. One utility that will allow you to capture this information is Image, which is part of Symantec's Norton Utilities suite. There are other programs that will work similarly.
Once created, the image file can sometimes be used later on if necessary to rebuild any damage to the disk. For example, sometimes boot sector viruses will remove partition tables or hide boot sectors, or wreak similar havoc with the file system structures on your disk. It is best to store the file both on the hard disk and also on an emergency boot disk. Having the information only on the hard disk sort of defeats the purpose since if the hard disk goes, the image data will not be accessible.