The value of a recent drive image
This afternoon I was doing some finagling in my Windows 8 registry, (minor stuff, really, but here there be demons) and managed to make Windows 8 unbootable. It made three valiant tries, then put up the screen telling me to get out my installation media, repair work needed.
But I didn't bother with that. I booted into my dual boot Windows 7, opened Image for Windows, and restored my OS image of 9/22/13 from my NAS. The actual image file restore took 6 minutes 51 seconds (I timed it). Going through the menu selecting which and where added maybe a minute to that, and the booting back and forth a couple more minutes.
After booting back into Windows 8, I had a Windows Defender Update and a Flash Player Update, which are going on in the background as I'm typing this. Bottom line is that from an unbootable Windows 8 I'm right back where I was in under ten minutes. If I weren't dual booting, I would have booted the Image for Windows USB boot drive and accomplished the same thing in about the same amount of time.
But what I'm getting at is that regardless of the cause of an unbootable Windows 8 (malware, file corruption, owner misfeasance:o or what-have-you), the cure can be quick and simple. Had it been a failed hard drive (and I've had a few) dealing with the hardware issue would have added significantly to the timeframe, but getting Windows up and running would still be quite painless.
If yours is a standard Windows installation (whether XP, 7, or 8) the image restore would probably take more time, but not nearly as long as doing a reformat/reinstall of Windows and your programs. Everyone has heard the expression, "Pay me now, or pay me later." "Later" is always more expensive.
I highly recommend (as do many others here) developing a drive imaging regimen and using it with regularity. It is well worth the effort.